We all want to believe that change happens in one great inflection moment. A flash â€“ and everyone comes together, agrees with the direction and hold hands happily marching down the road. Participating for two days at the California Economic Summit in Fresno it was clear there were at least 1,000 people who did not believe in inflection moments. Instead, we were all there to participate in the disruptive, imperfect and relentless journey to growing our economies.
The California Economic Summit is a yearly gathering started in 2012 by California Forward (a bipartisan good government reform effort to improve performance and democracy) and the California Stewardship Network. Every year hundreds of state, regional and community leaders and champions come together to collaborate and adopt initiatives for creating a stronger economy. This yearâ€™s conference was themed on Regions Rise Together, the State of Californiaâ€™s Go-Biz initiative seeking to support cross-sector civic partnerships at the regional scale, and enhance interconnectedness throughout the state to help Californians thrive. Simply put, this initiative looks to see how we can help our neighboring regions, in order to lift us all up.
Each regional leader who attended embodied their own vision of what prosperity could be for their community. They came together not to seek a single answer but to gather hundreds of questions to bring back to their communities and contribute their individual knowledge, while aiming to consider ways in which our economic strategies could bring prosperity for all Californians. As one speaker put it in the Moving a Region Up panel, â€œwe must lay down our agenda and pick up our listening so that we can hear the voices of all.â€
As we well know, California is made up of diverse regions with distinct ecosystems, industries and cultures. But we are still tied together by so many things; water, energy, food, workforce, transportation, capital, education, recreation just to name a few. When I attended our regional California Economic Summit meeting in October, I was stuck at the commonalities of the problems our County faces with other Counties close to us; capacity building, planning resources and funding to enable implementation of good ideas. Coming together again at the state level last week was inspiring to see so many ideas to address our common challenges. There was much discussion on the future of biomass, recreational tourism, housing solutions, trade schools, green construction, and one of the most important issues that faces economic development in Mendocino County, the ever-elusive broadband. (The broadband coalition will be putting forth an action policy letter to Governor Newsom calling for 98% of households in California to have Broadband by 2023.)
The definition of economic development is the â€œprocess by which the economic well-being and quality of life of a nation, region or local community are improved.â€ At West we hope to be part of that process with our training and advising we do everyday to more than 400 businesses a year in Mendocino County. Weâ€™ve launched new programs like Startup Mendocino, designed to spark new thinking about what is possible here, Community Marketplace Training designed to help businesses ready themselves to go to market, and have more new programs to come in the new year. But ultimately economic development must lead to economic growth, so that all here in our County can prosper, grow and thrive. As weâ€™ve seen in the recent PG&E shutoffs, itâ€™s clear that when faced with adversity, our people and businesses pull together to make things better for everyone. From a neighbor offering a hot shower, to Harvest Market staying in full capacity operation mode everyday and operating as a de facto community center because of their solar energy and generators. We know how to come together and make it happen when the chips are down.
Attending the Summit underscored to me not only do we have so many things we can addresses when we band together regionally, but that there is also much support at the State level for grants and funding when we come to the table with plans grounded in current, quality data and research. If we can put together well thought out roadmaps for what we want to achieve, well-defined leadership, and get key stakeholders all signing off on a common vision, then we have the ability to attract a variety of funding resources to help us in economic development, building a vital economy, and creating steady growth for everyone here in Mendocino.
I know there are many great organizations, people and businesses doing exciting things here in Mendocino County. With that in mind, I welcome your ideas about actions you believe could help Mendocino County create economic opportunities for all residents, so we achieve real economic mobility, and foster an economy that is inclusive, vibrant and sustainable. How can West help put together people, ideas and resources? I look forward to your input. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with Economic Resiliency in the subject line.
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