(Photo Credit: Violeta Vaqueiro/CAFwd)
Eighteen million Californians live in or near poverty. The California Economic Summit this year is aiming to develop a comprehensive policy agenda to expand the middle class. This year the Summit has invited 2018 gubernatorial election candidates to the 2017 Summit in San Diego so they can share their thoughts on the topic (2017 Summit Program). This is the first of what we hope will become a series.
We must rebuild the middle class by pursuing policies that support our manufacturing and new growth industries. We need to make investments in 21st century manufacturing and refocus our economic development dollars and strategies. Doing that requires more than just economic investments. It requires social investment. We will ensure that the federal government does not stifle California’s ability to create and retain good jobs by attacking our workforce. We will guarantee that California remains an attractive and welcoming place for people from all backgrounds. We must safeguard the rights of Californians so they can go to school, or work, or their place of worship—really, live their lives—without interference from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
We all know that California has one of the largest economies in the world. California’s position as one of the foremost innovators in the world is extremely attractive to expatriates and other people looking to come here. I also believe that our state’s proud culture of tolerance and acceptance of people of different backgrounds is a huge selling point. Our diversity is a massive competitive advantage and should be a point of pride.
The Trump administration poses an enormous threat to the growth and dynamism of California’s economy. For example, the administration has taken steps to delay and ultimately rescind an Obama administration rule allowing foreign entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. to start companies. The International Entrepreneur Rule was intended to give entrepreneurs who aren't eligible for other types of visas and who meet certain requirements to stay in the U.S. for two and a half years to get their companies off the ground. We should encourage talented people to come to this country and help solve our most pressing challenges in tech, healthcare, manufacturing, and so on.
Similarly, the administration intends to erode the H-1B high-skilled visa program. Many founders in the growing Silicon Valley are immigrants. If we turn them away, VCs will look for investment opportunities abroad. Our loss will be other countries’ gain. Canada, for instance, has launched a Global Skills Strategy visa program to make it easier for its companies to bring in foreign workers with specific tech or business skills. Believe it or not, the program allows firms to have a position pre-approved and get visas within two weeks, compared to the months-long ordeal many U.S. firms face.
As Governor, I will make California open to ideas, open to trade, and open to people so companies can grow and so California has an economy that works for everyone.
John Chiang is California State Treasurer and former State Controller.
Find more program and speaker information about the 2017 Summit happening November 2-3 on the Summit Registration page.