Regions Rise Together Salinas Initiative Receives Grant from The James Irvine Foundation

The James Irvine Foundation has awarded $250,000 in support of the Regions Rise Together Salinas initiative spearheaded by the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) and California Forward (CA Fwd). The Regions Rise Together Initiative, in collaboration with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), focuses on identifying needs and opportunities in distinct regions that can lift communities up and can be taken to scale across the state. In 2019, CA Fwd led strategy sessions encompassing 10 counties in Ontario, Bakersfield, Merced, and Redding.

In February, MBEP and CA Fwd convened a meeting of a broad spectrum of key leaders and stakeholders in Salinas, from grassroots community-based organizations and established philanthropic to civic institutions. It was clear from this first meeting that in order to create an inclusive and equitable economic planning process, racial equity would need to be at the center.

As a “triple bottom line” steward of our region, equity has always been a part of everything MBEP does. This initiative seeks to develop a comprehensive inclusive economic development plan for the Salinas Valley with diverse stakeholders and local community-based organizations leading this work. The award from The James Irvine Foundation of $250,000 will fund the first phase: creating an economically inclusive plan to execute during 2021-2023. Objectives include integrating and aligning existing community and economic development assets; identifying specific systems changes, new patterns, investments and actions needed; and mobilizing broad and equitable community input, support, and ownership needed for implementation of the plan.

“Through this process, we’ve learned that racial equity needs to be addressed in meaningful and actionable ways in our region. We are building power in communities through inclusive economic development planning, that sets the stage for the necessary and heavy conversations that must take place if we are to address racial disparities,” said Kate Roberts, President, and CEO of MBEP. “We are so grateful for The James Irvine Foundation’s support of this important work.”

This type of regional inclusive economic planning with an equity lens has been modeled by Fresno DRIVE Initiative which was first announced at the 2019 California Economic Summit last fall in Fresno.

“We are excited to see a diverse and representative group of community leaders come together to envision a local economy that works for all,” said Jessica Kaczmarek, Initiative Director at the Irvine Foundation. “In this time of incredible challenge, it is imperative that solutions to economic inequality center racial equity in their approach and include the voices of those most impacted.”

Micah Weinberg, CEO of CA Fwd, said “Now more than ever we must listen and lift up voices in our communities and diverse regions across the state if we are to rebuild a more inclusive and sustainable California where all communities can prosper. We are thankful for the support of The James Irvine Foundation in this critical mission.”

“There have been efforts to invest in economic development in Salinas, but it has not been until now that collective energy has brought together a group representative of all the voices that make this our beloved community,” said Dr. Carissa A. Purnell, Director, Alisal Family Resource Centers, a member of the initiative’s Core Team. “Change cannot occur in isolation. The economic prosperity of our neighborhoods does not lie solely in our businesses, but the residents who frequent, invest, and lead those spaces that send their children to our schools, live in our homes, and still struggle to thrive. This is a unique opportunity to build power and create authentic systemic change.”

About MBEP 


Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) is a regional member-supported nonprofit consisting of public, private and civic entities located throughout the counties of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz. MBEP’s mission is to improve the economic health and quality of life in the region.

About CA Fwd

California Forward (CA Fwd) leads a statewide movement, bringing people together across communities, regions and interests to improve government and create inclusive, sustainable growth for everyone. A 501(c)(3) organization, CA Fwd drives collective action to identify solutions that can be taken to scale to meet the challenges the state is facing. The organization is driven by the belief that the collective impact of regional solutions across the state will help ensure the economic, environmental and equitable prosperity of all people.