(photo credit: Violet Vaqueiro)
The 2013 California Economic Summit was a big success. Nearly 500 people from regions around the state gathered to recommend actions to improve job creation in California and continue to restore the state’s economic competitiveness.
The summit — a collaboration of California Forward and the California Stewardship Network — attracted the geographic, economic and ethnic diversity that defines California.
Two full days provided many opportunities to engage with hundreds of business, government, nonprofit and civic leaders from across the state.
One reason the summit was so successful is that it recognized that California is not one economy, but a series of regional economies that are distinct from each other. Approximately 2,000 Californians from San Diego to the Oregon border met in 16 different regional forums earlier this year. Their recommendations were brought to the summit where discussions focused how to make real improvements to California’s regional economies.
Every region of the state has its own story to tell — from the world’s leadership in agriculture centered in the Central Valley to world leadership in technology in the Silicon Valley and alternative fuels in the Greater Los Angeles region — California is a leader.
Greater Los Angeles is a leader in many areas but is still suffering from unemployment rates that exceed state and national averages. To address this, Long Beach City College is working to align its workforce training programs to the local economy and key economic drivers like the combined Los Angeles/Long Beach ports. LBCC has won grants to expand programs that enhance supply chain logistics and to train returning Veterans to become truck drivers to name just two examples. LBCC also provides business development services to spur creations of more middle class jobs.
Other regions are also still struggling to overcome the impacts of the recession. In the Inland Empire, unemployment is the highest of any region in the nation — more than 1 million people are out of work and many are still reeling from the housing bubble. And yet, community leaders shared how they are trying to expand the region’s ability to store and ship goods. In the Central Valley, the issue of water eternally looms and new thinking is developing around how to navigate the intersection of technology and water in ways that create sustainable jobs.
California’s economy has rebounded impressively since the first summit was held 18 months ago in Santa Clara. But the recovery has been uneven and it won’t be complete until all regions are healthy again.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has been successfully pressing the case for more international investment in California. His Office of Business and Economic Development (Go-Biz) understands and emphasizes the importance of our regional economies. And as evident at the summit, regional leaders are energized and working in their own communities as well as with each other across California to create more and better jobs.
Our work to make sure that each region thrives and is prosperous is critical and must continue as everyone who attended the summit returns home. The future of California as a great place to work, live and play depends on it.
Eloy Ortiz Oakley is superintendent-president of the Long Beach Community College District and a member of the California Forward Leadership Council.