The California Economic Summit wrapped up its largest ever convening in Bakersfield today with commitments to build stronger communities, bridge economic divide and creating a sustainable, reliable and equitable energy evolution. California Governor Gavin Newsom also joined the plenary session to discuss regional priorities of the Kern County region and statewide recovery.
Building Stronger Communities
The morning’s first panel featured four successful Kern County women who discussed the importance diversity, equity and inclusion in creating stronger communities. The panelists shared their stories of growing up in Kern County as children of immigrants and/or farm workers, getting a college education and working in the region.
“Our goal has to keep that door open to make sure other communities come in and other folks come in and are able to succeed,” said Raji Brar, COO, Countryside Market and Restaurants.
“We hear so much about different perspective and viewpoints, but it’s so important to find common ground and my experience is that when you do find common group, it’s what pushes things forward,” added Norma Rojas-Mora, Communications and Community Relations at Bakersfield City College.
Corporate Commitments to California
A panel of corporate leaders discussed the commitments they are making to California to move the economy forward as well as the challenges they face.
“What we’ve done in making a commitment to the energy transition is we’re one of, if not the only, oil and gas producer that has set a 2045 net-zero goal,” said Mark (Mac) McFarland of California Resources Corporation. PG&E’s Patricia Poppe said her first commitment is to “make it right and make it safe,” which includes removing trees and shrubs from electrical power lines to prevent wildfires and decarbonizing electricity. Marc Blakeman of AT&T says the company is committed to make sure everyone is connected to high-speed fiber, while Jennifer Barrera of the California Chamber of Commerce said the business community will be part of the discussion for a solution and not say “no” when there is a challenge in front of them.
Inclusive Regional Partners
The $600 million California Economic Resiliency Fund (CERF) was the topic of conversation led by Tahra Goraya, president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership. California State Assemblymember Rudy Salas spoke about the CERF initiative and all the regional economic work that led up to it: “It’s about the mentality of saying, ‘Hey let’s come together and look at problems at a regional level.’”
Kern County Superintendent of Schools Mary Barlow agreed, “When we collectively determine what’s best for all of us, then we’re going to make progress.”
Housing and Home Ownership
It’s no secret that housing costs have prevented many from buying a home or even living near their workplace. California State Treasurer Fiona Ma spoke about the importance of the California Dream for All program that opens homeownership to many Californians who would otherwise not be able to afford a down payment. “We all know that down payment assistance is the hardest to save for and that’s what keeps people out of home ownership,” said Ma. California State Assemblymember Buffy Wicks spoke about legislation that tries to unlock commercial real estate for residential building. California State Senator Scott Weiner said the need for housing is vital, “Any society needs to have enough homes for the people who are there. Things do have to change for us to be sustainable as a state,” added Weiner.
California’s next generation of leaders took the Summit stage during a panel featuring members of the CA FWD Young Leaders Advisory Council (YLAC). They discussed the need for inter-generational conversations, re-defining leadership, their thoughts on inclusivity and asked for meaningful youth involvement, not performative. “I think there has to be a recognition that the generations operate differently in the workplace,” said YLAC member Ashley Morrison. “We have a shared goal and any passion, any irritation that you may feel from younger people, it’s really prioritized by us to see everybody do better.”
California and Regional Steward Awards
The California Economic Summit also recognized the work of three leaders who have and are making important contributions to moving California forward. The 2022 California Steward Leader Award was presented to Kate Gordon, Senior Advisor to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and formerly the director of the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and chair of the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC). The Regional Steward of the year was presented to Bill Allen, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, who will be retiring this year. The Young Leader Award is a new recognition this year and was presented to Michael Wiafe, who was in the first CA FWD Young Leaders Advisory Council cohort and now works with the Inland Empire Community Foundation as a Government and Community Relations Fellow.
On a bittersweet note, this is the last California Economic Summit to be led by CA FWD’s Susan Lovenburg, who has directed the Summit since its inception in 2012. She is the heart and soul of the Summit. We all wish Susan a wonderful retirement.
The final announcement at the 2022 California Economic Summit was that the location of next year’s convening will be within the Imperial and Coachella Valleys. Thank you, Bakersfield for hosting the 2022 Summit. See you next year!