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Lifting Regional Economies as Key to

Inclusive, Sustainable Growth for All

Gov. Gavin Newsom joined the 2021 California Economic Summit as it kicked off its annual gathering of elected and civic leaders in Monterey on Nov. 9-10. MBEP served as regional co-host for this year’s Summit, which marked 10 years of collective action, its achievements, and the recommitment of policy solutions with equity top of mind, especially as California continues its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What defines this conference is this bottom-up notion to regionalization framework. This notion of collaboration and partnerships” said Newsom. “You’re not just dreamers. You’re doers. You’re on the ground region by region.” Read more about Day One

Before Newsom took the stage, Summit attendees heard from experts on issues important to California.

Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) welcomed Summit attendees to his district by touting the important investments the state is making in areas including homelessness, affordable housing, broadband access, and climate change mitigation. He grew up in farmworker housing and says the state needs these investments to ensure that all Californians benefit. “We have to fight to ensure the next generation has an opportunity to have a better life like my family.”

LeadersUp President and CEO Jeffrey Wallace spoke about how the California Dream Index can track progress toward an economy that works for people of color and marginalized communities. “The California Dream Index provides a great roadmap for us to ensure that, we just don’t have the data, but we have the baseline for us to organize economic development around a more meaningful and transformative light.”

A panel of experts, led by Kate Gordon, senior advisor to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm at the U.S. Department of Energy, discussed the importance of the $600-million Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF). Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) said, “It’s really about investing in communities that are invested in themselves as well, making sure that everybody’s included as well, not just at the table, but taking ownership of wanting to make a difference in their region and in their community.”

Former California State Treasurer John Chiang, CA FWD Leadership Council Co-Chair Ashley Swearengin and former Secretary of Defense and CA FWD Co-Founder Leon Panetta reflected on why CA FWD was founded and what’s in store in the future. “The primary message of CA FWD is, despite the dysfunction we see, it’s up to us, in our communities and our nonprofits working at the regional level to find the solutions,” said Panetta. “We know the challenges.”

The morning session ended with a “fireside” chat between Newsom and Lenny Mendonca on a number of issues including how the Summit has influenced state policy. “The $600 million in this year’s budget (for CERF) was invested quite literally because of you, because you inspired an idea the last time we got together in Fresno (2019) – the extraordinary Fresno Drive Collective,” said Newsom. He added that it’s “$600 million that we’re putting back in to replicate programs like that to support your efforts at the local level.”

Day two of the California Economic Summit wrapped up with commitments to assist regional economies across the state, and a focus on crucial issues such as broadband and housing. Read more about Day Two

The historic Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF), the $600-million, one-time federal American Rescue Plan Act allocation passed earlier this year, is crucial to ensuring that all California’s regions have the ability to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic equitably and sustainably. CA FWD CEO Micah Weinberg led a panel discussion about how CERF will drive local economies, create good jobs and advance the state’s climate goals.

“We truly need to apply an equity lens in the work that we do, especially in the work that directly effects the lives of the people we are trying to help,” said Director of the California Office of Planning and Research Samuel Assefa. He also announced that the public comment regarding the proposed 13 regions that will receive CERF grants has been extended to Nov. 19.

A panel of corporate leaders discussed the commitments they are making to California to move the economy forward and mitigate climate change. PG&E’s Jason Glickman emphasized the movement to do things differently, saying, “We’re also reorienting the entire company around the triple-bottom-line.” Driscoll’s CEO Miles Reiter is making a commitment to water management and recycling, two issues that are vital to his industry. Southern California Gas President Maryam Brown said they are investing $2 billion in capital to safety and the reliability of their system, as well as working toward clean energy. JOBY Aviation JoeBen Bevirt said it’s imperative to address the environmental impact of air travel, “We have the technology to build true-zero emissions aircraft. We just need to deploy the resources to make it happen.”

Homeownership has traditionally been the way families create intergenerational wealth, but barriers such as redlining and restrictive covenants have kept many families of color from accessing that wealth. And, as California’s demographics change, how does the state reconcile past wrongs? Tara Lynn Gray, director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate, answered that we need “to invest in communities and neighborhoods where there has been traditional and historical disinvestment. Whether we’re talking about the wealth gap, the earnings gap, the education gap, to even the healthcare gap, we have to intentionally and systematically create policies and programs and, most importantly, partnerships that work to close those gaps.”