The first California Economic Summit is less than a month away, and plans are firming up for the day-long event on May 11 at the Santa Clara Convention Center.
The Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy has been helping us get ready for the Summit. Their report, which is clearly written and free of wonk, reinforces the notion we have been driving home from day one: California is a collection of industries and regions.
It points out that from December 2009 to February 2012, the state has gained 370,000 payroll jobs. As a result, we’ve seen unemployment drop from 12.3% to 10.9%. While the rate is still high, it can be said, “we are starting to gain on it a bit”.
But state unemployment is just that, a top level figure. The New York Times syndicate wrote an interesting article recently that talked about how some areas of California are doing better than others, a further indication of the nature of our regional economies.
Two areas that have been hit hard across the state. The first is construction, which dropped 600,000 jobs when the recession hit (and the housing bubble burst). The second, and often overlooked category when discussing the statewide economy, is government jobs, of which there are 65,000 fewer than there were in December 2009.
As we have moved around the state, and there was a lot of moving around to host 14 regional economic forums up and down California, we learned there is some agreement on the things that need to happen in order to make all our regional economies do better.
1. We need to better prepare our workforce through education and training.
2. There is a need for creative ways to finance our infrastructure spending so that our roads, airports, rail, schools, water systems and other infrastructure elements are kept up to date.
3. The state which was once the home for innovation needs to think broadly about how to encourage innovators to think and act about ideas that can create jobs, change lives and improve our state.
4. And the state’s reputation of being a hard place to do business needs to be discussed. Aligning our regulatory environment to improve the efficiency of the process while making sure we protect what is important to us was also a consistent topic of discussion.
An estimated 500 Californians are expected to attend the May 11 event where the desire for job creation and improving our ability to compete in the global economy will be topics of the day.