California Forward is committed to advancing policy intersections that create a more inclusive and sustainable California where all people can prosper. The Voices of Shared Prosperity series amplifies the stories of Californians who are committing their time and talent to solutions that embrace equity, environmental sustainability, and economic opportunity.
This year, we’re highlighting leaders who are making a difference in the Coachella Valley and Imperial Valley regions, leading up to the 2023 California Economic Summit taking place in Indian Wells on October 11-13.
Growing up in the Coachella Valley, Agustin Arreola has experienced both the challenges and opportunities facing young adults in the region.
“Education and economic opportunity have always hit home just because of my background growing up in low income and poverty,” Arreola said. “It really kind of molded my view of what are the limitations that I had.”
Today, Arreola is working to improve economic opportunities in the Coachella Valley through his work as an external affairs manager for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and through the Coachella Valley Young Professionals Network (“The Network”), an organization he co-founded for area young professionals.
His passion to not only stay in the region, but help others thrive stems from a tragic car accident involving his family and resulting in his father’s death. “I really saw my community mobilize to support my family,” he recalled. “And then throughout high school, college I had all these mentors who at different points in life would offer me advice that led me to the path that I’m on today.”
Upon graduation from Desert Mirage High School, Arreola studied political science at the University of California, Los Angeles. He had just started a fellowship at the University of California, Riverside when he was hired at Lift to Rise, a regional organization that works on housing stability and economic mobility and is part of CA FWD’s California Stewardship Network. At Lift to Rise, Arreola worked on one of the country’s first rental assistance programs implemented in the wake of the pandemic.
He joined OPR last year as external affairs manager. “My role is, ‘Let’s observe; let’s go out to the community, what can we uplift, what can we elevate,’” explained Arreola. “How do we make sure that our folks are aware of the different resources that the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research have in terms of grants and funding.”
Although his territory covers the entire state, he is based in the Coachella Valley. He is currently working on two key projects at OPR, supporting the Strategic Growth Catalyst Conference, an upcoming event on climate resilience.
Through his experience with local mentors, leaving the region for college and returning eventually, he realized that being a young professional in the Coachella Valley could be challenging for some.
“I was looking at this gap in the job market and a lot of it is because of the networks that we have,” Arreola said. “I think a lot of young people here in the Coachella Valley will leave the Coachella Valley, if there isn’t that opportunity for them or that they’re not exposed to those opportunities or have access to those opportunities. So we became kind of a desert.”
That’s when he founded The Network, which is incubated through OneFuture Coachella Valley. “I’m in a position now where the friendships that I have now really contribute to exposing other folks to those same opportunities. That’s another reason for The Network – how are we making sure that we’re creating safe spaces or spaces where folks can share and grow and learn from one another.”
He reflected on his experiences with those who guided him, saying, “That all stems from how lucky I have been to this day to have mentors who are always making sure that I’m being held accountable and just telling me about different opportunities.”
The Network holds networking mixers and social events to connect young professionals as well as informational sessions about young professionals working areas such as tech, small business and other areas.
“The [OneFuture Coachella Valley] CEO and the VP were saying this is coming full circle,” Arreola said. “Some of our alumni are creating this group to further push that idea of building networks to contribute to the economy and to retain talent.” He added the City of Coachella Valley is looking at creating a shared workspace center for young professionals. “That’s the population that’s doing the most hybrid work right now and if the City could offer a spot, where at the same time, you have other small businesses, vendors, community rooms, you have the open-shared business rooms, then you’re creating this additional community.”
In his professional and personal life, Arreola is putting his experience and expertise to strengthen his region as well as the entire state. And it’s working. “Right now I think the Coachella Valley is shifting and we’re able to retain more local talent,” said Arreola.
Agustin Arreola will attend the 2023 California Economic Summit on October 11-13 in Indian Wells as part of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, as well as a Coachella Valley leader. If you want to learn more about Arreola’s work and the efforts of other leaders in the region, register now for the Summit.