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Promoting Opportunity for All Californians

By Bill Mueller

For the past 10 years, a group of regional business, government and nonprofit leaders have been gathering to answer a big question: In a state as big and diverse as California, how can we all come together and get behind a focused set of economic growth strategies with the power to build a California for all? As we can all relate, this is a monumental challenge in a state that is home both to great poverty and inequity, as well as immense wealth and ingenuity.

We knew the answer could come if we created a place open to all Californians to problem-solve. Where business, environmental groups, entrepreneurs, educators, labor, big corporations, nonprofits, and community organizations could each suspend their differences and look instead for areas we could agree upon on some of the toughest economic, equity, and environmental issues we face. The California Economic Summit, co-hosted by California Forward and the California Stewardship Network, was our answer. Over the past seven years, thousands of civic leaders from all parts of California have joined together to focus on building more affordable housing, improving the skills of middle income workers, and making key infrastructure more resilient to disaster, among many other areas. We have made great progress in some areas, changing policy and increasing investment in the workforce arena in particular, but not enough in others.

Sacramento has hosted many of these Summit conversations, and Valley Vision and our partners have played host. Perhaps you have been to one of these 2-day working meetings. Governor Gavin Newsom is proud to say he has been to six of the previous seven Summits, but he had to miss the last Summit in Sonoma due to the wildfires in both Northern and Southern California. He is co-sponsoring the next Summit set for November 7-8 in Fresno saying he will be there along with many of his senior staff, where he intends to lay out some of his economic strategies.

Since 2011, the California Economic Summit has been the leading forum for California’s regions to problem-solve together. Summit organizers California Forward and the California Stewardship Network are merging to power prosperity across the State.

To place even more horsepower behind this “regions up” inclusive growth strategy for the state, the California Forward and California Stewardship Network organizations announced this week that they are combining forces, growing staff and adding capabilities to push this effort forward. What I call the new “California Forward 2.0” has already recruited a major round of additional funding from the Morgan Family Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation, and is growing their staff team.

While we often work behind the scenes with little fanfare, it’s important to let you know that the Valley Vision board and staff team has dedicated themselves for years to working with others to create the conditions necessary for this inclusive growth agenda for California to happen, and even more importantly, to have the level of support and buy-in that can activate new business, housing, workforce, and infrastructure policies and investments across the entire state so that we see real results. Read more here about the combination announcement and what lies ahead. We hope you join us in the call for a more prosperous, just, and sustainable California for all at this year’s Summit on November 7-8 and beyond.


Bill Mueller was Valley Vision’s Chief Executive.

Featured photo credit: Habitat for Humanity