Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, California had already formulated and advanced a regional approach to strengthening the economy and creating greater social and economic equity for people of all backgrounds, in all geographic areas.
According to experts convened during the recent Regions Recover Together virtual event, those same strategies are even more relevant and important for supporting local businesses and leveraging state and federal funding opportunities in the wake of the pandemic crisis and subsequent recession.
“Every single business has felt the impact of the coronavirus,” explained Chelsea Irvine, community resources manager at 3CORE, the economic development district serving Butte, Glenn and Tehama counties in California. “COVID-19 knows no boundaries. Now is really the time to start thinking about how we can utilize the dollars from our federal and state government and make a bigger impact and work together and collaborate.”
Irvine moderated an informative panel discussion during an online workshop, “Maximizing Regional Impact of Federal and State Funding.” The workshop was one of five breakout sessions presented as part of the virtual event hosted by California Forward, the California Stewardship Network, and the California Economic Summit network of partners on June 23. Summaries, information, and recordings of the plenary session and five workshops can be found here.
Panelist Egon Terplan, senior advisor for economic development and transportation at the California Strategic Growth Council, described the evolution of Regions Rise Together, launched by the state in partnership with California Forward and others last year.
“It was an attempt to think about California as a set of regions in a way that we had not done as much in recent years,” Terplan said. “We wanted to understand the state’s economy and its distinctiveness. We did that knowing all of the inequities and challenges facing the region.”
“Now in the current moment,” he said, “we recognize that the economic recovery must also be regional. The impacts were regional. The economies are distinctly regional. And today, the conversation is reflective of that.”
Terplan described several state programs designed to lift up the distinct regional communities and economies of the state, including dollars flowing from greenhouse gas reduction funds generated through cap and trade-related funding.
“The state is putting dollars on the ground in communities,” Terplan said. Among those efforts: sustainable lands conservation and affordable housing programs.
Embedded in these programs are key principles aimed at “high road economic development,” Terplan said, including just transitions, inclusive processes, and an integrated approach to economic recovery that addresses multiple challenges, including high quality jobs, land use considerations, transportation solutions, and climate resiliency.
During the workshop, Malinda Matson, economic development representative for Northern and Coastal California at the federal Economic Development Administration, explained funding opportunities at the federal level. She explained that Congress allocated $1.467 billion in CARES Act funding, half of which was allocated for non-competitive efforts, and half of which is currently available for competitive grants. State and local governments, nonprofits working in conjunction with local government, higher education institutions, and Native American tribal governments are eligible.
The federal grants will fund a variety of activities, ranging from revolving loan funds to entrepreneurial and technical support to construction of critical infrastructure. As Matson’s presentation pointed out, eligible projects “must have a positive impact on the economy and outcomes need to be expressed in anticipated job creation or retention, private investment leveraging, number of businesses supported, etc.”
The work, Matson said, “is about creating that ecosystem that allows businesses to grow and flourish.”
To find more of our stories on the Regions Recover Together virtual event, click here.