State of the Region recap

By: Darrell V. Nguyen

On a sunny Friday afternoon over 400 people gathered at the downtown Sacramento Hyatt Regency to discuss the state of affairs of the greater Sacramento area. Hosted by the Metro Chamber, the State of the Region brings together business, local government, and the nonprofit community from Sacramento and the surrounding seven counties to discuss and develop solutions to regional concerns.  In previous years, topics have included land use, housing, flood protection, transportation, and clean energy technology.  This year’s topic, to sum it up in one word is – jobs – and how to create more of them.  Specifically, the topic this year was on developing a region–wide game plan for an economic recovery plan. 

As a new resident who recently relocated here from San Francisco, I was particularly excited to hear what this year’s keynote speaker had to say about the Sacramento region.  Lenny Mendonca is an expert on economic cluster analysis and a senior partner and director of the consultant firm McKinsey & Co. in San Francisco.  He is known for advocating integrated regional solutions to economic problems. Mendonca noted that relative to other regions in California, the Sacramento region is beset by high unemployment, and that government and private sectors must innovate to both create jobs and diversify its economy beyond its traditional bases. He also pointed out that Sacramento has a lot going for it – with its region’s universities, active tech sector and access to state leaders – the region is in a good position to take advantage of public-private partnership opportunities. That means that civic, academic, and government leaders in the region need to work together and decide to take matters into their own hands to transform their region.  He cites the North Carolina Research Triangle, Boston and San Francisco Bay Area as examples of places where regional public-private partnerships have transformed their communities. In addition to his comments, I would also add that strong robust cultural institutions are engines for economic growth in that they improve the quality of life in the region and attract highly skilled innovative individuals.  I would also cite the North Carolina Research Triangle, Boston and San Francisco Bay area as examples.  Thus, any region-wide recovery plan should include participation by Sacramento’s cultural institutions. 

The State of the Region was moderated by Dean Steven Currall of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.  Panel members included representatives whose industry is expected to grow - including Trish Rodriguez of Kaiser Permanente on health care, CSU Sacramento President Alexander Gonzalez on higher education, Ashil Abhat of Bank of America on financial services and Meg Arnold of SARTA on clean tech and biosciences. There are many challenges ahead in reshaping this region’s economy so it is important to recognize that universities, private industry and local government are collaborating and innovating to reshape the region’s economy for jobs of the future.