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Harvesting Opportunity Through Local Food System Investments

Valley Vision, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and USDA Rural Development hosted over 125 people on January 30th, 2018 for a forum on the economic power associated with investing in regional food systems.

Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities, was published in 2017 as a partnership between the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The book illustrates regional food systems as a tool for community and economic development; offers unique financing models and case studies of financial investments that are supporting today’s smaller food-related businesses and entrepreneurs; and profiles successful collaborations among the financial sector, government, philanthropy, academic, and others.

Valley Vision board member Shawn Harrison of Soil Born Farms opened the meeting, followed by a welcome to Sacramento and Council District 3 from Sacramento City Councilmember (and beekeeper) Jeff Harris, and comments from Yolo County Supervisor and food access champion Don Saylor, who also introduced keynote speaker Kim Dolbow Vann, the new California Director for USDA Rural Development. Director Vann spoke about the need for increased broadband in rural communities, her office’s ability to facilitate communications and partnerships, and getting food processing and manufacturing “back to where the farming is.” She emphasized that our region has “transportation on our side” with easy access to rail, ports, and multiple freeways.

The event was followed by a reception opened by Assemblymembers Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) and Cecilia Aguilar-Curry (D-Winters) who spoke as champions for rural communities including the importance of agriculture to our state and regional economies, economic development, and bridging the digital divide.

Expert panelists focused on topics addressed in the publication including:

  • Innovative strategies and financing for the next generation of farmers and entrepreneurs
  • Turning the risk-return model of investing into a three-pronged approach that includes social impact
  • Addressing social equity in the food system through investments

Panelists included (listed alphabetically):

  • Anthony Chang, Kitchen Table Advisors
  • Catherine Howard, Northern California Community Loan Fund
  • Reggie Knox, CA FarmLink
  • Ami Naik, Radicle Impact
  • Allison Paap, American Ag Credit
  • Olivia Rebanal, Capital Impact Partners
  • Meredith Storton, RSF Social Finance

Shawn Harrison and Managing Director Trish Kelly moderated the panels.

Topics addressed in questions from the audience included the need for transparency in the investment community, how CDFIs and other investors make decisions to match lending tools with specific projects, and further conversation about the need for social equity in food system investments.

Valley Vision will continue to work with our funding partners, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs to create real opportunities for people on the ground. As stated by Leilani Barnett of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco in closing out the event, there are some very real projects that come out of these important discussions, and we will continue to elevate them.

Robyn Krock is a Project Leader managing Valley Vision’s food and agriculture portfolio.

Traffic Congestion, Road Conditions Top Residents’ List of Most Pressing Transportation Concerns

New research shows 69% of respondents drive alone all or most of the time

SACRAMENTO, CA — Valley Vision and Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) released findings today from a public opinion survey that captured regional attitudes on transportation. Respondents overwhelmingly say that reducing traffic congestion is the region’s most serious transportation issue and the main reason to invest in transportation improvements.

When asked how important transportation infrastructure is to the region’s job and business growth, 93 percent of respondents reported it being ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ important. At the same time, 28 percent cited traffic congestion as a major barrier to obtaining or getting to work and another 20 percent said it was ‘somewhat’ of a barrier. From a jobs perspective, a long commute was seen as a ‘major’ (22 percent) or ‘somewhat’ of a barrier (19 percent) to obtaining employment.

This public opinion survey is the second in an ongoing series of studies conducted by Valley Vision and ISR that gathers insights into residents’ views about a variety of regional issues affecting quality of life and livability. The polls provide independent opinion research on matters important to the region’s future health and prosperity.

“The findings of this transportation poll offer valuable information to local policy makers on investments and priorities for advancing transportation and mobility infrastructure for our communities at a time when improvements are of increasing importance,” said Valley Vision chief executive Bill Mueller. “Valley Vision believes that having a greater understanding of residents’ transportation uses, needs and challenges will serve to better direct regional planning and goal-setting.”

Top-level findings from the transportation poll include:

  • Respondents feel transportation is critically important to the region’s business and job growth.
  • The majority of respondents view transportation as a problem in the region and feel worse about conditions today than they did in 2014.
  • Traffic congestion and conditions on roads and freeways were cited as today’s most notable problems, while 69 percent of respondents said they drive alone all or most of the time.
  • For those who do not use public transportation options, the main reasons are that it takes too long, stops are too far from home or destination, or people have safety concerns.

“Considering that two-thirds of respondents cited they drive alone all or most of the time, focusing on road improvements alone is an incomplete solution,” Mueller noted. “Residents, transportation planners, and decision-makers must look at a broad suite of solutions capable of reducing congestion as the region plans for transportation improvements and investments.”

Findings suggest a willingness to increase use of public transportation if service frequency was improved and if there was more service near their home or end destination, two leading factors respondents named as barriers to public transportation use.

“Capitalizing on residents’ willingness to increase use of public transit is imperative to congestion relief strategies,” said Henry Li, Sacramento Regional Transit District General Manager/CEO. “As the region’s population continues to grow, our ability to coordinate planning, inject new investment, and assert needed policy actions are all vital to delivering public transit that serves residents’ needs today and in the future.”

“This research provides high-value information that will be helpful in framing the next Metropolitan Transportation Plan—supporting regional leadership to proactively address these expressed public priorities, values, and trends,” said SACOG CEO James Corless.

The transportation survey is the second in a series of studies being conducted by Valley Vision and ISR, a unique public opinion research program being fielded at a regional level. The first poll on civic amenities was released in June 2017. The next poll will gauge resident attitudes and preferences on livability factors and community values, scheduled for release in the spring.

The transportation survey respondent group consisted of 788 residents in Sacramento County and specific zip codes in Yolo, Placer and El Dorado, San Joaquin, Solano, Sutter, and Yuba counties, with a margin of error of +/-4.7.

“Understanding local perspectives is critical to building responsive solutions,” said ISR Executive Director Shannon Williams. “Utilizing our state-of-the-art CalSPEAKS survey methodology allows ISR to serve the public interest by informing policy and catalyzing community conversation.”


Study Finds Workforce Shortage in Construction Sector

New research shows projected shortage of more than 7,000 workers annually over next five years

SACRAMENTO, CA — Valley Vision and the Center of Excellence at Los Rios Community College District released research findings today assessing the needs of the construction industry cluster, including a comprehensive workforce assessment.

“The impact of the recession that began in the late 2000s has cast a long shadow on the construction industry in California and its regions,” said Aaron Wilcher, Director of the Center of Excellence. “Unlike other sectors, overall construction value has not returned to pre-recession levels when residential construction was especially hard hit.”

Top-level findings from the research include:

  • The construction cluster contributes about $34.8 billion in industry output, 221,300 jobs and $17.4 billion in labor income to the Sacramento region.
  • For every job created in the construction cluster, 1.2 jobs are created elsewhere in the economy.
  • The region is woefully undersupplied in terms of the number of skilled workers available.
  • Workforce shortages pose a critical concern for the region and the industry.
  • Occupations with the largest shortages include carpenters, construction managers, electricians, real estate professionals, and heavy equipment operators, engineers, and plumbers and pipefitters.
  • Other occupational pain points include estimators, sheet metal workers, HVAC installers and mechanics, and welders.
  • The construction industry provides numerous career opportunities in well-jobs; career awareness is one challenge industry faces in attracting workers.

These and other findings were revealed today to more than one hundred attendees at a forum in Rocklin where Valley Vision facilitated discussion with education, workforce and industry partners around critical skills gaps, projected employment needs, education and training resources, and supply gaps. An employer panel discussion included participants from the Associated Building Contractors of NorCal, the North State Building Industry Foundation, Otto Construction, the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 104, Teichert Construction, and Villara Building Solutions. The event was also a forum for gathering input on how to align and coordinate a regional workforce system that betters supports the construction industry cluster and to explore how system leaders can partner in ways that best address industry challenges.

“As part of our mission to support a 21st-century talent pipeline for the Capital Region, we partnered with the Los Rios Center of Excellence on this groundbreaking analysis of the construction industry,” explained Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller. “The forum that followed gave industry leaders an opportunity to weigh key findings and to identify priorities for education and workforce programs, Strong Workforce investments, and new partnerships to better meet industry needs for this important sector of our economy.”

Valley Vision’s interest is to better understand the occupational gap impacts on construction and its sub-clusters and to provide a starting point for engaging employers around workforce development strategy and joint action planning. This research provides vital information to educational institutions, construction industry employers, and regional workforce stakeholders, who are now better positioned to work together in planning investments, coordinating training and recruitment, and addressing short and long-term employment challenges.

The research was made possible by the generous support of JPMorgan Chase & Co, the Los Rios Community College District, the Sacramento Employment & Training Agency, Golden Sierra Job Training Agency, North Central Counties Consortium, and Yolo Workforce Innovation Board.


For 25 years and with offices in Sacramento and Stockton, Valley Vision has brought people together from across a political and geographic spectrum to design solutions to big regional problems. Valley Vision is a trusted interpreter, commentator, forecaster and work partner for community inspired solutions and widely recognized as a leading research, civic planning and action agency that takes an independent and systemic approach to economic, social, and environmental issues.

What Are You Hopeful for in 2018?

The New Year is upon us – read on for thoughts, predictions, and wishes on what Valley Vision staff hope will come to pass in 2018.

Kari Hakker: “I am hopeful for peace, grace, love, health, and wellness in 2018.”

Tammy Cronin: “I’m hopeful for new opportunities and challenges in 2018 as well as many travel adventures!”

Emma Koefoed:

  • To travel somewhere new at least twice
  • Run a marathon
  • The rise of equality for women
  • One less year of the current administration
  • Read a few good books

Meg Arnold: “I am hopeful that friends and family currently facing personal challenges will find strength, resolution and peace during 2018.”

Adrian Rehn: “I hope for the world to become just a little bit more aware of the need to work together in addressing our collective challenges.”

Alejandra Gallegos: “I am hopeful for fun times.”

Evan Schmidt: “The world to get more sane, the region to get plenty of rain, and to go someplace cool on a plane (or train!).”

Patrick Guild: “The continued prosperity of Valley Vision and the Capital Region in 2018 and beyond!”

Alan Lange: “I am hopeful that I will clean up my desk at some point in 2018.”

Jennifer Romero: “I am hopeful for a peaceful and uneventful year in these tumultuous times.  Let’s hope nothing BIGLY happens!”

Christine Ault: “I am hopeful that Oprah will run in 2020.”

Sacramento Takes Next Step On Solar

Sacramento has taken a significant leap forward in establishing itself not only as a driving force in California’s commitment to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, but also in highlighting Sacramento’s capability and true potential behind being a 21st century economic hub.

On Thursday, December 14th, the Sacramento International Airport unveiled its Solar Farm, which lies over two solar array fields. The environmental and economic implications for Sacramento following the solar farm are monumental. Built on land that was previously underutilized, the Solar Farm, will now be responsible for providing about one third of the electricity needs of the Sacramento International Airport and equate to an average annual cost savings of $850,000 over the next 25 years. This solar facility is now the largest on any airport in California and one of the largest airport-based solar facilities in the entire U.S. The message that seeps through to employers, employees, businesses and residents is one of Sacramento’s dedication to sustainability, and above all, commitment to a ‘community of livable quality.’

The newly constructed solar farm is the fruition of a joint partnership between Borrego Solar Systems Inc. and NRG Energy Inc.  Borrego provided the capital infrastructure, while NRG provided the financial support and will continue to own and operate the facility. Under a Power Purchase Agreement, NRG will sell electricity to the Sacramento International Airport at below-market rates—a mutually beneficial agreement for both parties. The infrastructure financed for the solar farm by NRG came with no up-front costs to the Airport of Sacramento County. Instead, NRG will be reimbursed over the 25 year period through the Power Purchase Agreement.

A particularly important benefit of this solar farm is that solar electricity is a renewable source of energy and does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The annual environmental benefit generated by the solar facility is quantified as having a carbon reduction equivalent to that of removing more than 2,300 cars from the road, not consuming 25,000 barrels of oil, or not burning 11,500,000 pounds of coal. Using more than 23,000 solar panels, all of which are mounted on tracking equipment that follow the suns path over the course of the day, ensures ultimate efficiency and productivity.

Discussing these remarkable attributes at the press conference were John Wheat, Jackie Pitera, Kevin Prince, David Tamayo, Supervisor Don Nottoli, Senator Richard Pan and Assemblymember Kevin McCarty. A common theme stressed among these officials was the important role the solar farm plays in asserting and depicting Sacramento’s commitment to its communities. These leaders explained the importance behind a city’s commitment to community health by describing how at the heart of economic growth and prosperity lies health at the community level. In order to thrive economically, communities and the residents must be healthy.  Seeing this solar facility project through is a step in the right direction—as Assemblymember McCarty stressed, “pushing hard to make California clean only leads to a multiplier effect”, and the implications for community health behind the ‘multiplier effects’ are critical.

Valley Vision manages the Cleaner Air Partnership, which helped the Sacramento region attain the federal particulate matter standard (PM 2.5), experiencing a  66% reduction in smog-forming emissions and a 63% reduction in smog-forming reactive organic gasses. This solar farm will help further reduce regional emissions. It is great to see progress being made by other entities and it is exciting to see what the future holds for environmental health improvements.

Subscribe to Valley Vision’s Cleaner Air Partnership newsletter to keep up with our region’s efforts to ensure clean and livable communities!

Alejandra Gallegos was a Valley Vision Project Associate working on the Cleaner Air Partnership and broadband initiatives.