Regional Economic Sustainability Becomes Critical as California Faces Unprecedented Crisis

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South East Los Angeles (Photo: Alfred Twu/Flickr)

As the impact of COVID-19 accelerates an economic downturn, the importance of building sustainable economies resilient to extraordinary hardships is more important than ever.

On Tuesday, the UCLA Anderson Forecast economists revised an earlier forecast to show that the U.S. economy has already entered a recession, ending one of the longest periods of economic expansion we’ve seen. This forecast predicts an even more severe toll on California.

This is compounded by the fact that not all California regions have experienced economic prosperity and downturns in the same way, with some in both rural and underserved urban areas being left behind. Take into account that as of January 2020, East Los Angeles had an estimated 7.4% unemployment rate, compared to 3.9% statewide, and nearly 1 in 4 families live make less than $35,000 per year.

While we do not yet fully understand the scope of the COVID-19 impact, a regional approach to economic rebuilding and sustainability will be critical as we recover.

“California’s regions are best equipped to identify solutions that meet their local needs, while taking into account their distinct assets and opportunities,” said Micah Weinberg, CEO of California Forward (CA Fwd). “A regional approach to economic development is one of the best pathways towards creating sustainable economies that provide an opportunity for all people in a community to prosper.”

In 2020, CA Fwd will lead the Regions Rise Together Initiative, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), to identify needs and opportunities in distinct regions that can lift communities up and can be taken to scale across the state.

This regional-based economic approach has long been supported by the California Economic Summit, and CA Fwd’s vast network of public, private and civic leaders. The Summit’s work played a key role in the development and introduction of AB 3205 by Assemblymember Rudy Salas representing the 32nd District.

AB 3205 establishes the Regions Rise Grant Program in GO-Biz and creates a pathway for local government, private businesses, nonprofits and philanthropy to work together in the development of inclusive strategies for economic development across regions. The goal is to improve coordination among local agencies and key stakeholders while informing the state’s policies, priorities and actions for creating inclusive economic growth.

The grant program will be competitive and will set out criteria on what is defined as a “region” in a way that allows partners to work towards solving shared regional issues. To stimulate sustainability and collaboration with philanthropy, applicants will be required to include a private match.

To learn more about AB 3205 please reference this fact sheet.

Now more than ever, we need to work together to ensure our communities are prepared to weather what’s ahead.


John Guenther

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