6th Annual State of the Region

Creating Economic, Social and Environmental Resilience

Wednesday, December 2, 2020 | Virtual Event

When our region’s community, business, and civic leaders come together at an MBEP event, good things happen. Our 6th Annual State of the Region featured an action-packed line-up, covering a range of topics relevant to our region, from getting an effective COVID-19 vaccine to wildfire mitigation, to investing locally in our economic recovery, and more. 350+ leaders from across the tri-county region and beyond joined us virtually and were inspired by bold ideas about how we can rebound from our multiple current crises to create a more inclusive and vibrant economy for all. 

Thank you to all of you who participated! Our goal is to produce informative and engaging events that tackle the most important issues facing the Monterey Bay region. We’re glad you joined us and hope to see you at our 7th Annual Economic Summit on May 6, 2021. This event will be a virtual event. Save the date!

Opening Folklorico Dance with Ramon Silva

“Dancing is creating a sculpture that is visible only for a moment.”
~ Erol Ozan

Welcome from Kate Roberts

This year’s sixth annual State of the Region opened with Ramon Silva Ruelas, founder and director of Folklorico Group, and a short video of one of their performances followed by welcoming remarks from MBEP President and CEO Kate Roberts. Even in crises, there’s opportunity. “Suffice it to say, when you have to be specific about which crisis you’re referring to, you know there have been far too many in one year,” said Roberts.

Since its inception, MBEP has taken on some of the region’s most pressing challenges, and in a year of unprecedented challenges, its efforts to focusing attention, ideas, and discussion on regional recovery. The region’s challenges are daunting: 2020 brought climate-induced wildfires that destroyed thousands of homes, surging COVID-19 cases, and record unemployment numbers that disproportionately impact Latinos. Supply chains have been disrupted, food banks are struggling under staggering demand, small

businesses have shuttered, and the loss of sales and TOT taxes are crippling local jurisdictions. And the Digital Divide remains all too wide, with too many students unable to participate in distance learning because of inadequate access to the internet. Addressing racial inequities and the issue of climate change — which MBEP recognized as a strategic priority last year — are essential in those conversations.

“The economic slowdown from COVID has been a disruption that can help us shape new norms,” said Roberts. “We have the opportunity in front of us to prioritize sustainable recovery measures that benefit people, the economy, and the planet.”

This year’s State of the Region is a chance to explore how to create the right recipe for recovery for our region, to acknowledge heroic and important work that has been happening, said Roberts, and to be inspired with new knowledge and ideas.

In February 2020, MBEP launched an inclusive economic development initiative that seeks to achieve inclusivity and prosperity for all residents in the Salinas Valley. Supported by California Forward and the James Irvine Foundation, “Regions Rise Together: Salinas” aims to synchronize and leverage existing regional efforts, enable and support communities through the co-creation of investment plans, and ultimately demonstrate that the region is both investment ready and investment-worthy.

MBEP has also worked to bring CHERP Locally Grown Power, a nonprofit solar panel assembly factory with an innovative technology and deployment model, to the region. The opportunity addresses economic stimulus and job creation while mitigating carbon emissions, said Roberts. Stay tuned for more in the coming months.
Read about the important work MBEP has accomplished in the areas of Housing, Climate Change, Workforce Development, and Broadband Access in our latest Impact Report.

Click here to view the presentation slides.

Bruce Katz
The New Localism and Pandemics: How the COVID-19 crisis has simultaneously heightened the need for the national, and revealed the power of the local

Bruce Katz is the Founding Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University in Philadelphia and is the co-author of The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism. Previously he served as inaugural Centennial Scholar at Brookings Institution and as vice president and director of Brooking’s Metropolitan Policy Program for 20 years. He is a member of the RSA City Growth Commission in the United Kingdom and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Katz previously served as chief of staff to the secretary of Housing and Urban Development and staff director of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs. Katz co-led the Obama administration’s housing and urban transition team. He is co-author of The Metropolitan Revolution and The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism, editor or co-editor of several books on urban and metropolitan issues, and a frequent media commentator.

Bruce Katz Bio

Bruce Katz is the Founding Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab at Drexel University in Philadelphia and is the co-author of The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism. Previously he served as inaugural Centennial Scholar at Brookings Institution and as vice president and director of Brooking’s Metropolitan Policy Program for 20 years. He is a member of the RSA City Growth Commission in the United Kingdom and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Katz previously served as chief of staff to the secretary of Housing and Urban Development and staff director of the Senate Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs. Katz co-led the Obama administration’s housing and urban transition team. He is co-author of The Metropolitan Revolution and The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism, editor or co-editor of several books on urban and metropolitan issues, and a frequent media commentator.

Tom Steyer
How California is Building an Equitable,
Resilient Economic Recovery

Steyer, who co-chaired Gov. Newsom’s Business and Jobs Recovery Task Force, is a former Democratic presidential candidate who has left a successful investing business to devote himself to progressive causes. From registering voters to fighting climate change, Steyer is working for racial justice and serving as co-chair to then-vice president Joe Biden’s Climate Engagement Advisory Council pushing for inclusive and sustainable growth in a time of unprecedented crisis in California

“This is an unprecedented time and it calls for real leadership from every sector, from people across the state, across the county, for people to come together to figure out how to respond to these crises. That is exactly what California Forward is about, that is exactly what the governor’s Business and Jobs Recovery Task Force was about.”


That report, completed late last month, includes more than 50 recommendations to the governor. Guiding those recommendations is the tenet that getting the virus under control is essential to a strong economic recovery. “Health and safety have to come first,” said Steyer, “and the strongest recovery can occur only when the virus is under control.”

In addition, the pandemic has only exacerbated racial and economic injustice across the state, as black and brown communities, disproportionately represented in essential industries, are also disproportionate job losses and viral contractions. The pandemic has already changed the economic landscape in far-reaching ways. “What we’ve seen in California this year is an explosion of the virtual world, in a positive way,” said Steyer. “People’s willingness to order things online, people’s willingness to do telehealth, people’s need to go to school online has exploded. And that means California, the state, California the economy, is the leader of the virtual world. So in a good way, that means we’ve had a lot more tax dollars than we’d originally expected given the slowdown, given the high unemployment.”

Among the immediate policy goals outlined in the report are closing the Digital Divide to not only ensure essential access to education, but also telehealth, training, job opportunities, said Steyer, and making sure people are getting fed at a time when huge numbers of California residents are turning to food banks for survival. Long-term recommendations include embracing sustainability and equity as part of the rebuilding process, he said. Electric vehicles — already the state’s second-leading export — represent the kind of entrepreneurial, leading-edge industry the private sector needs to embrace.

View the full report.

Tom Steyer Bio

Tom Steyer left his successful investing business to give his own money, time, and energy to fighting for progressive causes. He soon became one of the country’s leading forces in registering more young voters and voters of color, fighting climate change, working for racial justice, and helping secure better lives for all Americans. From founding voter mobilization organization NextGen America, to spearheading impeachment with Need to Impeach, Tom has led a number of people-first, grassroots campaigns that have repeatedly defeated powerful special interests. Tom has mobilized grassroots efforts to beat big oil to win clean air laws, force big tobacco to pay its share of healthcare costs, and close a billion-dollar corporate tax loophole to fund public schools. Most recently, Tom was a former Democratic presidential candidate and now serves as co-chair for Governor Newsom’s Business and Jobs Recovery Task Force. He Co-chaired Vice President Biden’s Climate Engagement Advisory Council to help mobilize climate voters.

Raúl Rodríguez, Ph.D.
Hartnell Center Video Tour

Introducing a Local Area Video Tour of its Agricultural Business and Technology Institute, Hartnell College Interim Superintendent/President Raúl Rodríguez, Ph.D., shared how the institution has created a state-of-the-art vocational program that prepares students for some of the most relevant, in-demand careers in the regional economy.
Located on a 100-acre site, the institute offers a combination of certificate and associate degree programs in AgriBusiness, Ag Production, Food Safety, Welding, Ag Industrial Technology, Diesel Technology, and most recently, mechatronics.

The success of Hartnell’s Agricultural Business and Technology Institute dates back to its decision to form an ag steering committee 15 years ago. An advisory committee of technicians and front-line supervisors from local industries “bring their knowledge to our programs and help them to stay current with what’s going on,” said Rodriguez. “Really,the reward of all this is that we have our students get trained in the knowledge that they need to be successful in the workplace. … but when they get these jobs in local industry, that’s really the reward that we’re all looking for, why this center is doing vital work for our community.”

Dr. Rebecca DuBois
Getting to a COVID-19 Vaccine and Beyond

Dr. Rebecca DuBois, Associate Professor of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz, offered attendees a fascinating glimpse into how vaccines work, why the Coronavirus is considered “bad news wrapped in protein” and an overview of various Coronavirus vaccine candidates currently under development and testing.

DuBois, whose lab is at the forefront of vaccine research, is dedicated to understanding the molecular mechanisms of childhood viruses, particularly human astrovirus, human respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza virus.

In addition to vaccines being made with existing technologies such as inactivated virus and live-attenuated virus, the race to create a vaccine for COVID-19 has seen the development of two entirely new vaccine platforms: mRNA and DNA, which use encoding antigen.

In every single case, the goal is the same – to get our bodies to produce antibodies that recognize and block coronavirus infection.

Part of the reason a vaccine is taking so long, says DuBois, is that we have no established or licensed platform to make a coronavirus vaccine, so we really have to manufacture and test multiple platforms in parallel, and vaccines must undergo extensive safety testing. For comparison, in 2019, an H1N1 flu vaccine was approved after just five months.

Clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines started in April, large-scale clinical trials are in progress or being planned for five COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, and two companies —Pfizer and Moderna — are awaiting FDA approval.

If they are approved, an estimated 20 million people could receive vaccinations in the next month or two, and 70 million vaccine doses could be distributed monthly in 2021. By summer, says DuBois, most of us are likely to have been vaccinated.
And the silver lining is that the technology allowing for the rapid creation of mRNA vaccines bodes well for the development of future vaccines against flu viruses and epidemics.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” says DuBois.“

Explore Dr. Dubois’s slide presentation here.

Dr. Rebecca DuBois Bio

Dr. Rebecca DuBois is an Associate Professor of Biomolecular Engineering at UC Santa Cruz. Her lab uses protein engineering to investigate human viruses and to develop new vaccines. Before joining UC Santa Cruz, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France and at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. She received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry at UC San Diego and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Martha Guzman
Broadband Access for All

If there’s one thing COVID has made clear, it’s that broadband access for all is less a lofty goal for California than an essential utility, and the pandemic has exposed just how far that state has yet to go to achieve it.

In a Lightning Round talk, California Public Utilities Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves spoke on just how much work has yet to be done.

According to self-reported numbers by the region’s internet service providers, attainment goals for fixed broadband adoption rates, defined as the percentage of consumer fixed broadband access connections over the total households offered broadband internet access service, were just 56.5 percent statewide in December 2019. By comparison, adoption rates in Santa Cruz County stood at 55.3 percent, San Benito County at 45.6 percent, and Monterey County at just 42.6 percent.

Those numbers fall far short of the state’s recommended threshold of 100 megabits per second, said Guzman Aceves, and huge pockets of the region continue to be underserved even at lower speeds.

To move forward, the state will need to embrace opportunities for change through bold public-private partnerships, infrastructure improvements, and a reshaped vision of internet as a basic utility regulated as such so that service providers can no longer exclude geographical regions through redlining.

Martha Guzman Bio

Martha Guzman Aceves was appointed Commissioner at the CPUC by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on Dec. 28, 2016. She has focused on issues related to fuel switching, broadband access, water affordability, access to distributed solar and various other energy and telecommunications issues. Guzman Aceves earned a Master of Science degree in agricultural and resource economics from the University of California, Davis, and a Bachelor of Science in International Economics from Georgetown University.

Fireside Chat with Senator Anna Caballero
Housing: Where Do We Go from Here?

In a Fireside Chat on housing, Sen. Anna Caballero focused on the need to stem mass evictions to avoid further impacts to public health and to the economy.

In response to some of the hardships created by the COVID crisis, Caballero and other state lawmakers co-authored COVID-19 tenant and landlord protection legislation, which prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent. Assembly Bill 3088, signed into law by Gov. Newsom on Aug. 31, also extended anti-foreclosure protections in the Homeowner Bill of Rights to small landlords.

“What we’re trying to do is not end up with people living in their cars,” said Caballero. The more people that are homeless makes it harder to control the pandemic, she said, and the more people that are sick, the greater the impact on the economy and the impact on business reopenings.

With those legal protections set to expire at the end of February, Caballero said an emergency bill is critical to avoid a wave of evictions in subsequent months.

While the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act or the HEROES Act remains stalled, Caballero said that federal support is critically needed.

“The federal assistance would be tremendously important because we could ensure that we could continue to provide resources and support for the many, many nonprofits that continue to provide food, meals, housing, and those kinds of things. There’s just no question that people are really hurting and there’s a need to do more, and having the federal government as a partner would make a tremendous difference.”

Senator Anna Caballero Bio

The voters of Senate District 12 elected Anna M. Caballero in November 2018 to the California Senate, which includes all of Merced and San Benito Counties, the Salinas Valley, and portions of Fresno, Madera, and Stanislaus Counties.

Senator Caballero began her career by providing legal services to farmworkers and founded a non-profit to reduce gang violence. She served as a City Councilmember and Mayor of Salinas, and as a State Assemblymember. She was the first woman to be Mayor of Salinas. In 2011, she joined Governor Brown’s cabinet as Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. Senator Caballero focuses her policy goals on water, economic development, poverty, and housing. She tirelessly fights for rural California, pursuing policies to improve the lives of families, farmers, workers, seniors, and children.

Val Lopez
Chairman of the Amah Mutsun

Val shares traditional knowledge and results of research about how Native people used fire to steward landscapes.

Jessica Morse
Creating Forest Resilience

The California Gold Rush and the politics behind forest service policies pushed by Teddy Roosevelt set into play forest management shifts that have played a huge role in the devastating wildfires that impacted California this year.

That’s because they helped steer a course away from the approach used by native tribes for millennia — that of a fire-adapted ecology, where low-impact fires naturally strengthen and renew forests — to an approach focused on fire suppression. That approach, according to Jessica Morse, Deputy Secretary for forest resources management for the California Natural Resources Agency, has led to a century of intense fuel buildup and devastating impacts on watersheds, native species, and more. Coupled with climate change, those policies have led to overly stressed forest ecologies and increasing devastating wildfire seasons.

In a keynote address on “Forest Resiliency and Working Landscapes” at MBEP’s sixth annual State of the Region, Morse detailed the economic and ecological benefits that are possible with a renewed approach to forest restoration, both in job development opportunities and improved climate resiliency.

Jessica Morse Bio

Jessica Morse is the Deputy Secretary for Forest Resources Management at the California Natural Resources Agency. In her role, she is working to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration and emergency fuel breaks throughout California.

Prior to joining the Newsom administration, Jessica spent nearly ten years in National Security working for the Defense Department, State Department, and the US Agency for International Development. Her assignments included a year and a half in Baghdad, Iraq, as well as India, Myanmar, and US Pacific Command in Hawaii.

Throughout her career, she designed and executed innovative strategies across agencies and governments, including a strategy using renewable energy technology transfer as the catalyst for improving US defense engagement with India.

Jessica is a 5th generation Northern Californian. She and her family still own their original homestead forestland near Tahoe. Her Sierra roots translated into a deep love of the outdoors. Jessica can be found backpacking, skiing, and fishing throughout the Sierra. She even hiked 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Ms. Morse holds a Masters of Public Affairs from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Principia College.

In 2018, Morse ran for Congress against Tom McClintock in California’s 4th
Congressional District.

Susan True
Local Investing to Spur Economic Recovery,
“Main Street vs. Wall Street”

In “Local Investing to Spur Economic Recovery: Main Street vs. Wall Street,” Community Foundation Santa Cruz County CEO Susan True detailed how her organization’s low-interest loan program has helped small business and farm ventures expand, enabled local teachers with deposits to buy their first home and supported the development of affordable housing.

“We’re really pleased to have grown our impact investment portfolio,” said True. “We’ve loaned over $5 million where capital is needed most, for social sector problems where capital is out of reach for whatever reason — the financing is too expensive, maybe the collateral isn’t strong enough, and some projects just are not going to be supported by a commercial lender.”

Some examples:
Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has partnered with the Community Foundation for Monterey County on several loans, including one to Farmlink, a local Community Development Financial Institution that works with the local farming community to strengthen production, encourage sustainable and organic production, and help immigrant and women farmers gain a foothold. One loan to a woman who owns an orchard, allowed her to fix her well, freeing up enough capital and water to expand her crop yield.

Supporting the Pajaro CDC has allowed it, in turn, to continue making ultra-low-interest loans to micro-business ventures in a community largely left out of unemployment benefits, payroll protection, or CARES funding.
“That’s another example of how we can move our money from Wall Street investment and into Main Street investments so that we all can thrive.”

Community Foundation Santa Cruz County’s first loan, for $350,000, was to Opportunity Fund, which in turn financed small business ventures, including an immigrant business owner who was able to expand from one to five employees while increasing revenue and business stability.

Addressing the region’s affordable housing shortfall, Community Foundation Santa Cruz County has been able to provide financing to Habitat for Humanity, in collaboration with Silicon Valley Housing Trust and Monterey Bay Housing Trust, and to Landed, helping local teachers with the downpayment to purchase first homes. A partnership with Santa Cruz County Bank also enabled Housing Matters to buy an old Victorian house across from the River Street shelter, which will be turned into seven units of permanently affordable, supportive housing for people who have experienced homelessness.

“Those are three very different approaches to housing,” said True, “but all of them needed at least partial support from a non-traditional lender like us.”

Susan True Bio

CEO since October 2017, Susan feels grateful each and every day for the opportunity to lead Community Foundation Santa Cruz County. She oversees the stewardship of $140 million in assets and mobilizes people, ideas, and resources to make Santa Cruz County a place where all people will have the opportunity to grow and thrive.

Susan has served as Executive Director of CASA and First 5 of Santa Cruz County. She earned a BA in Community Studies at U.C. Santa Cruz and a Master’s degree from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She was elected to the Cabrillo Board of Trustees in 2008 and served until 2013 when she left to lead the Rainin Foundation’s education investments in Oakland. She is the proud mom of an adult son who teaches 6th grade in Monterey and loves to hike and bike in our beautiful county and to bake for family and friends.

Community Impact Award
Recognizing heroes protecting & serving our community

This year’s award was given in recognition of leaders from across the region who have demonstrated enormous community impact in battling 2020’s incredible fire siege. Accepting on behalf of their colleagues are David Fulcher, CalFire San Benito/Monterey Unit Chief, Michael Urquides, Monterey Regional Fire Chief, Jonathan Cox, CalFire San Mateo Division, Deputy Chief, and Chris Clark, Santa Cruz County Chief Deputy, Sheriff’s Office.

“We wanted to recognize key leaders of the local fire teams in our region. They did an amazing job organizing such chaos in a short period of time, and keeping the public updated on the latest information with the operational meetings and press conferences,” said MBEP board member and President and CEO of Bay Federal Credit Union, Carrie Birkhofer. “It’s a great example of building teams, coordinating diverse groups, communications, action planning, and accomplishing goals in a very volatile situation.”

Closing Prayer
Val Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, provides a closing blessing for SOTR 2020

Val Lopez, Chairman of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band, provides a closing blessing for SOTR 2020

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