California’s Regions Committed to Advancing the Triple Bottom Line
First published November 2013
Preamble: Connecting the Two Californias
Traffic may be returning to the Bay Area’s freeways, tourism may be on the rise in Los Angeles, state budget revenues may even be climbing again—all good signs that the state’s economy is getting back on its feet. In the last year, over a quarter-million jobs have been created in California, more than any other state. As big as California’s economy is—if it were a country, it would be the eighth largest in the world—the state’s economic growth rate, with jobs roaring back in some cities, is still one of the top five in the nation, surpassed mainly by states enjoying oil and natural-gas booms.
While this is certainly cause to celebrate, California’s economic recovery is being experienced differently—and unevenly—across the state. The four-million people living in the Inland Empire, only 60 miles east of Hollywood, still face unemployment levels rivaling Detroit’s. The agricultural regions of the state’s Central Valley, where only one in 15 adults in some areas have college degrees, are struggling to find even the beginning of a pathway to prosperity. Nearly a third of residents in cities like East Palo Alto, meanwhile, are living in poverty, only a few minutes’ drive from the headquarters of Facebook.
This is the story of two Californias, one coastal and one inland, one rich and one poor, with the middle class increasingly squeezed in between. As California looks ahead at what it must do to thrive in the century to come—from developing a skilled workforce to investing in an infrastructure system that meets the needs of a growing population—this yawning disparity may be the state’s preeminent challenge.
While a strong economy is critical to closing this gap, economic growth alone is not sufficient. Inclusive prosperity—opportunity that extends to all Californians both now and in the future—requires a focus on the triple bottom line: simultaneously advancing economic growth, environmental quality, and social equity in all regions of California.
This is the work of the California Economic Summit.
Some have argued that the starkly different economic realities facing California are the “new normal,” an unfortunate consequence of global economic forces and changing demographics. The California Economic Summit strongly rejects this idea, bringing together regional champions from San Diego to the Redwood Coast who are committed to creating a statewide economic vitality strategy that connects the two Californias—and focuses the state’s resources on rebuilding a strong middle class.
As it did last year, the Summit is tapping into California’s most vital resource—its people—to identify shared problems and to develop a shared agenda that will lay the foundation for a future of well-paying jobs, a sustainable environment, and equal opportunities for every Californian.
To get there, the Summit continues to rely on the endless creativity of Californians, who have come together to solve problems so many times before. Through the Summit, Californians can do it again—and find a way, together, to thrive.