Lenny Mendonca To Lead California’s Economic Development Efforts

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CA Fwd Co-chair Lenny Mendonca addressing the 2018 California Economic Summit in Santa Rosa. (Photo: Will Bucquoy/CAFwd)

Governor-elect Gavin Newsom today appointed California Forward Co-chair Lenny Mendonca as Chief Economic and Business Advisor and Director of the Office of Business and Economic Development. Mendonca’s assignment is to re-engineer the State's approach to job creation and economic development to increase economic security and the restore the potential of the CA Dream for all Californians — CA Fwd's primary objective through the California Economic Summit.

Mendonca was elected to the CA Fwd Leadership Council in 2010 and has served as co-chair since 2012. In 2011, CA Fwd launched the first annual California Economic Summit in partnership with the California Stewardship Network. Mendonca chaired the Summit Steering Committee from 2011-2013 and has served as a member of the leadership team since. His consistent encouragement to the Summit network has been, “we are the leaders we’re waiting for.”

“We have all experienced Lenny's capacity to diagnose problems — in policy and politics — and catalyze creative solutions,” said Pete Weber, Mendonca’s fellow co-chair at CA Fwd. “We have seen him lean into conflicts and disarm the disagreeable. We have come to trust his judgment, his insight and his wisdom, which is a primary reason why we have persisted and made tangible progress. And most importantly, we understand and are inspired by Lenny's sincere compassion for everyone and his selfless motivation to improve the human condition.”

As the governor’s senior business advisor, Mendonca will work to align multiple agencies and programs, and to drive private investments into economic development activities with the potential to reduce poverty and income inequality and increase the state’s overall economic competitiveness and resiliency.

CA Fwd and the California Economic Summit look forward to partnering with the Newsom administration's explicit effort to advance triple-bottom-line prosperity — simultaneously growing the economy, improving environmental quality and increasing opportunity for all. 

CA Fwd is confident that the cross-sector civic partnership will play an integral role in shaping policy that will support and respond to innovation within California's diverse communities and regions.

“The entire CA Fwd team expresses deep admiration and gratitude for all that Lenny has contributed to the work of CA Fwd and the California Economic Summit,” said CA Fwd CEO Jim Mayer. “We feel even deeper admiration and gratitude for the challenge that he has accepted on behalf of all Californians.”


The 2019 California Economic Summit will be held in Fresno on November 7-8, marking the eighth annual gathering of private, public and civic leaders from across California’s diverse regions. The Summit’s bipartisan network of business, equity, environmental and civic organizations is unique in championing solutions that meet the triple bottom line.

The 2019 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity, — which was released this week and reflects the input of more than 500 participants at the 2018 Summit in Santa Rosa — combines the best thinking and strategies from across the state for bringing about change that can make the CA Dream a reality for more Californians:

  • An updated strategy to Elevate CA that invests in early childhood education and builds a smarter safety net to help millions of California move out of poverty
  • The Summit's One Million Challenges — targeted initiatives to expand the state’s skilled workforce, lower housing costs, create more livable wage jobs, and invest in sustainable water infrastructure
  • Cross-cutting initiatives for encouraging rural economic development, promoting resiliency, and helping more communities tap the potential of new federally-designated Opportunity Zones
  • The “CA Dream Index,” a new scorecard to track progress on all these fronts


CA Fwd is a bipartisan governance reform organization that catalyzes political, fiscal and performance-oriented reforms that produce cost-effective public services and responsive and accountable government – prerequisites to restoring the CA Dream of shared and sustainable prosperity.


John Guenther

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