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Region’s Innovation Ecosystem Showcased to International Leaders

By Trish Kelly

The tenth Americas Competitiveness Exchange arrived in Sacramento on Thursday, following five days of exploring sites across Northern California representing a broad swathe of the Megaregion’s robust innovation ecosystem.

Before arriving in Sacramento, the delegation of 50 high-level decision makers representing 23 different countries across the Western Hemisphere and beyond, visited multiple sites in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz, Monterey, Salinas, Los Banos and Fresno. The purpose of the ACE program is for participants to make connections with the local community and explore opportunities for ongoing partnerships in research, trade, economic development, and more. Valley Vision‘s strong connections to federal partners through AgPlus and other initiatives were key to Northern California being the location of the exchange, with Valley Vision and UC Agriculture and Natural Resources serving as organizers and hosts.

Click here for video highlights from the ACE 10 delegation’s activities in the Sacramento region!

Upon arriving in Sacramento, the group was hosted by the Sacramento Kings in the Golden 1 Center Assembly room, where they were welcomed by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Sacramento City Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and President of Business Operations for the Sacramento Kings, John Rinehart. A panel discussion, moderated by Valley Vision’s Chief Executive, Bill Mueller, explored the public-private partnerships involved in building the arena as an anchor asset for community revitalization and economic development. Featured panelists were Arlen Orchard, General Manager and CEO of SMUD; Danielle Casey, a new Executive Vice President with the Greater Sacramento Economic Council; and Louis Stewart, Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Sacramento. Each of the speakers and panelists shared their perspectives on why it was important to work together in bringing the arena to downtown Sacramento and how it serves as a regional and community asset. After the panel discussion, participants were treated to a tour of the most technologically advanced and sustainably operated sports arena in the world by Ryan Montoya, Chief Technology Officer for the Sacramento Kings and member of the Valley Vision Board of Directors.

The next stop in Sacramento was the Urban Hive at the Cannery where the participants saw another urban revitalization project in the former cannery transformed into a sleek and creative co-working and event space. A panel discussion of nine women leaders representing various aspects of the Sacramento region’s innovation ecosystem was masterfully moderated by Valley Vision’s Meg Arnold. As noted by Meg, the job of moderating was made easier by the powerhouse of talent serving on the panel including Amanda Blackwood, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce; Cynthia Carrillo, Regional Director for the Greater Sacramento Economic Council; Katherine Cota, Executive Director for the new Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at California State University Sacramento; Kathy Kossick, Executive Director with the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency; Debbie Lowe Muramoto, Director of the Women’s Business Center, California Capital Financial Development Corporation; Gina Lujan, Founder and CEO of Hacker Lab; Tracey Schaal, Executive Director for Power Inn Alliance; Dr. Amy Schultz, Dean of Career, Continuing, and Technical Education at Sierra College; and Molly Weber, Founder and CXO of the Urban Hive. Additional speakers included Evan Schmidt, Director of Evaluation and Strategy for Valley Vision, Brooks Ohlson, Director of the Los Rios Community College District Center for International Trade and Development, and Ian Steff, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing with the Department of Commerce International Trade Administration. Local farmer David Ogilvie also warmly welcomed the group to Sacramento and reflected that many of the challenges he faces as a farmer in a small community are similar to the challenges ACE 10 participants face in their own home countries.

After the event at the Urban Hive, ACE 10 participants and local community leaders split into tables of ten at farm-to-fork restaurants in Sacramento for small group discussion dinners. The Dinner Discussion sponsors were the City of Davis, the City of Elk Grove, the City of Sacramento, Los Rios Community College District, Center for International Trade and Development, Sacramento State University, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Sierra College, and Raley’s. The small group discussion dinners received rave reviews, with many ACE 10 participants commenting that these dinners allowed for in-depth conversations to occur and strong connections to develop – not to mention the best Farm-to-Fork food experience of the entire trip!

Friday morning kicked off with a welcome breakfast hosted by Sacramento State University at the Leland Stanford Mansion, where university President, Dr. Robert Nelsen welcomed the group and shared his pride in Sacramento State. His pride is well placed in the recognition the university received from the American Association of State Colleges for Excellence in Innovation for successful strategies to increase graduation rates and reduce achievement gaps. Following Dr. Nelsen’s remarks, Brian Lenihan, the newly appointed Executive Director for SelectUSA with the U.S. Department of Commerce had an opportunity to address the group and share the importance of building strong trade relationships.

Following the welcome breakfast, the group relocated to the first floor ballroom where Congressman Ami Bera, California’s 7th District, welcomed the ACE 10 participants to Sacramento. The group then had an opportunity to hear an interactive policy dialogue with state and local policy leaders. The discussion was moderated by Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry, California District 4. The panelists were Secretary Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture; Awinash Bawle, Deputy Director of International Affairs with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development; and Dr. Alberto Ayala, Executive Director with the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. The aim of the panel discussion was to highlight how, by working together, we can address some of the most significant challenges we face globally through embracing the new connections, partnerships, and possibilities.

The welcome breakfast and policy dialogue were following by a full afternoon at UC Davis that will require another entire blog to cover. On the way back to Sacramento from UC Davis the group stopped in West Sacramento for a tour of the Bayer Crop Science facility where they were welcomed by West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.

ACE 10 culminated with a closing dinner at the California Museum attended by local community partners. Dr. Stacy MacAfee with the University of the Pacific provided closing remarks along with Assistant City Manager, Mike Jasso, with the City of Sacramento. The Honorable Manuel Laboy, Secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce for Puerto Rico was on hand for Puerto Rico to receive the hand-off for ACE 11.

Overall, the ACE 10 event was an opportunity to raise the profile of the Capital region’s innovation ecosystem assets nationally and internationally. This objective was well accomplished, along with making new connections and becoming part of a network of global innovators seeking a brighter, more prosperous future for all. A big shout out to our sponsors for their support in accomplishing this objective. Many thanks to CALED, Los Rios Community College District, Center for International Trade Development, California State University Sacramento, Carlsen Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, SMUD, Power Inn Alliance, Sacramento State University, University of the Pacific and Visit Sacramento for helping us warming welcome our international guests to the Capital region.

To see video highlights from the ACE 10 delegation’s activities in the Capital region, see the videos for Day 5 and Day 6! See also the ACE 10 Website and Trip Book!


Tammy Cronin is a Valley Vision Project Leader working in the 21st Century Workforce and Innovation and Infrastructure strategies.