New report shares progress on California Economic Summit’s 2016 goals

610 200 Justin Ewers

It has been six months since the California Economic Summit launched its three One Million Challenges after the 2015 Summit in Ontario—outlining a plan in the Roadmap to Shared Prosperity for producing, over the next decade, one million more skilled workers, one million more homes, and one million more acre-feet of water each year.

With only five months before the next Summit—on December 13-14 in Sacramento—Summit leaders are taking stock of progress and fine-tuning strategies for achieving these ambitious goals.

In a new Progress Tracker update, the Summit offers step-by-step descriptions of how the largest coalition of public, private, and civic leaders committed to sustainable growth in California has mobilized to take on some of the state’s biggest challenges.

One Million More Skilled Workers

The Summit has made its greatest strides in working to close the so-called “skills gap” by better connecting regional workforce training systems with each other—and with evolving labor market needs. The 2016-17 state budget finalized in June includes all three of the Summit’s top goals for the year—a new $200 million Strong Workforce Program for promoting career technical education, an ongoing $48 million investment in the Career Technical Education Pathways Program, and $50 million for the Awards for Innovation in Higher Education.

The Summit worked closely with partners from the 2015 Strong Workforce Task Force and business groups including the REAL Coalition and the California Hospitals Association to ensure that the Strong Workforce Program, in particular, will encourage collaboration among community colleges, increase efficiency in spending, and improve responsiveness to regional labor markets.

The next step for the Summit is to support implementation of this new program. “It's gratifying to know that the Governor and Legislature heard California employers when they said California must improve its pipeline of skilled workers and degrees,” said Alma Salazar, vice president of education and workforce development at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and co-lead of the California Economic Summit Workforce Action Team. “It is imperative now that in each region of California we get various institutions working together to achieve a cradle-to-career emphasis in developing our workforce.”

One Million More Homes

With housing supply continuing to fall far below demand—driving home prices and rents beyond what millions of Californians can afford—the Summit’s 2016 Roadmap also outlines a multi-year plan for reducing the cost and increasing the supply of all types of housing near transit and jobs. 

The Summit convened a diverse group of housing stakeholders in April to pursue an “all of the above” strategy for taking on this crisis—emphasizing the need to expand resources for affordable housing while also finding ways to accelerate development of market-rate housing, as well. One month after the Summit housing meeting—and a few weeks after the Summit urged the Legislature in an open letter to do more about the housing crisis—the governor unveiled a dramatic new proposal for streamlining the local housing approval process for multi-family housing projects.

With negotiations continuing through August over the governor’s plan, Summit teams are exploring additional long-term solutions, developing fiscal incentives that can accelerate housing approvals in many cities, highlighting regulatory changes that can lower the cost of development, and working with a McKinsey Global Institute team to quantify the number of units a range of housing policy options could produce. The McKinsey study will be published in September, and the Summit plans to finalize and present its own housing proposals at the December Summit before a legislative push in 2017.

One Million More Acre-Feet of Water

With the drought lingering in many parts of California, the Summit outlined plans in the Roadmap to tap its coalition’s strengths by advancing next-generation efforts to manage water at the regional or watershed scale—promoting efforts to capture stormwater, replenish groundwater, reduce flooding, and improve water quality so every region can meet more of its own water needs.

While California’s statewide water plan acknowledges the potential of this approach, the state still lacks the governance and finance systems to support these types of investments. The Summit has worked this year to step into the breach by building on its recent successes in expanding regional resource planning tools and creating new local financing options that make it easier for local agencies to pay for—and integrate—their water projects.

The Summit is in discussions with several regions interested in serving as pilots for an enhanced approach to water governance and financing. The Summit is also exploring ways to align this effort with corporate water sustainability initiatives. After advising the Department of Water Resources earlier this year on ways it could do more to break down the siloes that prevent effective regional water management, a Summit team is also planning a convening in the fall with water district managers and local planners to highlight opportunities for bridging the divide between land use and resource management.

“Drought or no drought, California is running a water deficit that we are leaving to future generations,” said Jay Ziegler, director of external affairs and policy at The Nature Conservancy. “We need all of the creativity of groups like the Summit to change that.”

(Photo Credits: Drew Coffman/SounderBruce/FolsomNatural on Flickr)


Justin Ewers

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