Paul Granillo: Economic growth in the Inland Empire

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Riverside, CA (Photo Credit: Paul/detroitstylz/Flickr)

Originally published in The Press-Enterprise.

The Inland Empire might be just another spot on the map to a lot of people in California, and it is considered not much more than “those cities east of Los Angeles” to many, many others.

We have an opportunity to change that thinking, radically, less than 12 months from now when the third annual California Economic Summit is held in Ontario.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties will have probably their best chance ever to make a statement about how the region’s 4.3 million people are facing challenging economic issues and want to be leaders in finding the solutions.

For way too long, the mindset of many Californians is that the state is about the major cities near the coast. That is where the majority of the state’s population lives, and the image of those cities resonates in people’s thinking across the country. Mention California to someone living in another state and that person thinks of Malibu or Silicon Valley, not Corona or Fontana.

The economic summit, on Nov. 12 and 13, 2015, is our chance to let people know that we, and people in the Central Valley, Imperial County and other inland locations, are here and do matter. It is our opportunity to shine.

There is no doubt that the Inland Empire is made up of many spectacular, distinct elements. Within our two counties, we have mountain views, elegant vineyards, desert landscapes and countless other attractions.

But we also have just two days to plant the word that our entire area is largely made up of working people, and most of us are still coping, in one form or another, with the worst economic downturn in the last 80 years.

We have a much better view of the Great Recession than almost everyone in coastal California. A unified presentation for the rest of the state will drive home our resilience and determination to build a better life for everyone here.

The California Economic Summit assembles leaders from across the state, and its goal is to underscore how critical it is to enable every corner of the state to thrive.

These two days next November are part of a plan to advance what is being called a “triple bottom line”: A prosperous economy, a sustainable environment and equity among all communities. Through all of that, an agenda that takes all regions of California into account is created.

The summit is a collaboration of California Forward and the California Stewardship Network, two major groups that lead the way in the search for smart decisions to solve some of the state’s real problems. The previous two summits were held in Los Angeles and in Santa Clara.

In the last two years, the summit has identified seven policy initiatives designed to improve the state’s economy, including advancing manufacturing, developing a trained workforce and updating California’s infrastructure.

All of these economic drivers are very important to the Inland Empire. By coming together when the state’s key leaders convene in Ontario next November, that is a case I know we can make.

Paul Granillo is the co-chair of the Steering Committee of the California Economic Summit and president and CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership.


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