Inland Empire’s Paul Granillo named Regional Steward of the Year

580 200 Ed Coghlan

Inland Empire Economic Partnership President Paul Granillo receives the 2018 California Regional Steward Leader Award from Valley Vision President Bill Mueller (Photo: Will Bucquoy/CA Fwd)

When he looks to the future—always optimistically—Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP) President Paul Granillo defines the task.

“We must address the economic stressors by increasing educational attainment, defend our region’s blue-collar jobs against the impact of automation and just make things better.”

Granillo, who will be named the California Economic Summit Regional Steward Leader of the Year later this month in Santa Rosa, has been closely identified with the Inland Empire ever since he was ordained a Catholic priest in 1997. He quickly rose through the ranks and became director of communications of the diocese that had 35 schools and 100 churches.

That work kept him in close contact with the business community and elected officials in the Inland Empire.

Soon after he left the priesthood, he was recruited to take over the struggling IEEP in 2010. The non-profit was $500,000 in debt, the region was feeling the effects of the Great Recession like few others and the future for the organization and the region, frankly, looked rather bleak.

“Paul led the IEEP back from the brink. He recruited a top-notch staff and secured additional funding from increased membership and meaningful program development,” said Brett Guge, executive vice president of California Steel Industries and IEEP board member. “He's the consummate gentleman and one of the best facilitators around.”

How did he do that?

“I knew the reputation of the organization needed to be recreated. It started with doing the little things, like connecting people in different economic sectors in the region, who by and large, didn’t know each other very well,” said Granillo.

One other thing gnawed at Granillo.

“It was a common view that decisions being made at the federal and state level that affected region were occurring and the Inland Empire’s voice wasn’t being heard.”

Granillo has changed that.

“Paul has become the face of the Inland Empire, representing the region in many venues from Los Angeles to Sacramento to Washington, D.C. and beyond, promoting healthy growth, workforce development and great jobs,” added Guge.

Granillo remembers how much he and other members of the California Stewardship Network liked the idea of the California Economic Summit proposed by California Forward nearly a decade ago—creating a regions-based approach to economic development in California. Granillo supported the Summit's approach to understanding what regions needed to grow their economies and reduce disparities, and then work with state agencies and leaders to support those regional priorities.

As the Summit evolved, Granillo wanted to bring the Summit—and its impressive group of private, public and civic officials—to the Inland Empire, which happened in 2015 in Ontario.

It was a huge success.

“Paul has been a remarkable and effective voice for the Inland Empire. He has championed his region's cause to expand its skilled workforce and to improve educational access and attainment,” said Jim Mayer president and CEO of CA Fwd. “This award is fitting because Paul models what effective regional steward leadership looks like.”

Granillo points to several accomplishments led by the IEEP including the Growing Inland Achievement Initiative, an effort to enhance cradle to career success, the California Community College Strong Workforce Program and its emphasis on Career Technical Education with the area’s 12 community colleges and the upcoming Latino Economic Summit in the Spring of 2019.

As he looks forward, the looming impact of what automation will do the many blue-collar jobs in the Inland Empire has Granillo’s attention and for good reason. By 2035, 65 percent of the region’s jobs will be affected by automation. He is also working with the Brookings Institute on the future of middle-class jobs in the region.

He looks to the future with characteristic optimism.

“Paul has an extraordinary ability to galvanize others. He does so in service of the better good and operates with humility, humor and optimism,” said Van Ton-Quinlivan, executive vice chancellor for workforce and digital futures for the California Community Colleges.

“Paul loves the region and the region loves him. We’re lucky to have him,” said Guge.

Granillo will be given the award on Friday, November 16 at the annual gathering of the California Economic Summit in Santa Rosa.


Ed Coghlan

All stories by: Ed Coghlan