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Agplus Generates New Ideas for Access to Capital

What can funders – bankers, lenders, government program administrators, fund managers, and others – do to help California’s vital food and agriculture businesses more easily access capital?

Over 65 leaders from business, finance, government, and the nonprofit sector gathered at the AgPlus Funders Forum on December 12th to address the critical issue of access to capital, hosted at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources offices in Davis.

Meg Arnold, Managing Director of Valley Vision, kicked off the Forum, calling on attendees to leverage other leaders in the room, and to liberally share best practices. She then introduced Justin Emmi with Chase Bank – a presenting sponsor of the event – who specializes in agribusiness and food banking for nearly the entire State of California.

Glenda Humiston, Vice President of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), provided the keynote address and set goals for the day. She described the work done to organize, categorize, and describe different types of financing for California businesses, resulting in the California Financial Opportunities Roundtable’s (CalFOR) 2012 Access to Capital publication. For years, this comprehensive guidebook has been the best resource available for information about financing and community investment in California. The CalFOR team is currently working on a 2018 update, which will include additional innovative and creative financing strategies that have arisen since 2012. The AgPlus Funders Forum is an important step toward collecting these innovative models and strategies for inclusion in the next iteration of this fantastic resource!

Following the keynote, a panel of experts spoke about the challenges they face in supporting or lending to food and ag businesses. Carrie Ellinwood, Lead Lender Relations Specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration, observed that her SBA district is up 300 loans in the last year, and that average loan sizes are increasing, strongly indicating the need for more support programs for smaller businesses. Ismael Herrera, Associate Director of the Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State, talked about the interest that Silicon Valley is taking in the San Joaquin Valley, and the opportunities that provides to food, ag, and agtech businesses. Catherine Howard, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Northern California Community Loan Fund, noted that borrowers often need meaningful assistance in addition to, and complementing, financial resources, which could help accelerate projects to market more quickly. Marc Nemanic, Executive Director & Chief Credit Officer at 3CORE, pointed out that entrepreneurship among millennials is made even more challenging due to deep student loan burdens, and that this area is not being addressed by existing business support programs.

During the afternoon, participants took part in four working sessions based on key areas of opportunity identified in the original CalFOR report, addressing a set of questions designed to identify tangible next steps:

Session #1: Supporting Economic Development: What are the emerging best practices in support of economic development in California’s communities? Are roles changing, are tools being added or updated? What hurdles, either in policy or in practice, are slowing progress, and how can they best be mitigated? This session will identify current and emerging examples, such as CALED’s statewide revolving loan fund, as well as the use of appropriate metrics to assess local economic development work.

Session #2: Supporting Small Business & Micro Enterprises: The smallest businesses in any community can be among the most challenging to both identify and then to serve, including access to capital. What is proving most effective in supporting these businesses, and what challenges remain?

Session #3: Effective Intermediaries: A variety of intermediaries already help to “close the gap,” offering access to capital with different terms and structures intended to expand its accessibility. What policy constraints do intermediaries face, and what changes would strengthen the roles they fill?

Session #4: Regional Finance Fund: Targeted financing vehicles, often defined in terms of regional or industry focus, can fill critical gaps while also providing funders a means of “investing in Main Street” to support local economic growth. What might a Regional Finance Fund supporting food and agriculture in the Central Valley look like? How has the California FreshWorks Fund evolved in the five years since its founding, and what lessons does its experience, as well as that of similar funds, provide?

Group participants then reported out to the full group and had an in-depth discussion around next steps in each of these areas. The CalFOR team is synthesizing the information gathered and preparing it for inclusion in the forthcoming 2018 CalFOR update intended to be a leading-edge resource for California’s entrepreneurs, businesses, and governments in securing financing.

For food and ag businesses and nonprofits who want to participate in the conversation around innovative financing structures, we invite you to join us for two AgPlus events on January 30th. The first event will take place in Woodland, and will feature a morning panel discussion around the importance of establishing an Ag Innovation Hub in Northern California, in proximity to UC Davis. The second event, in the afternoon, serves as the West Coast launch of Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities. This new publication from USDA and the Federal Reserve Bank delivers the latest insights on innovative strategies and resources to:

  • Supporting the next generation of farmers and food economy entrepreneurs
  • Models for collaboration between policymakers, practitioners, and the financial community
  • Research addressing how to improve regional food systems
  • Strategies for improving food access and security

Please register for both events to join Valley Vision, the AgPlus Consortium, and our local partners in contributing to this important work. Let’s support our vital food and ag businesses and nonprofits!

The Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium is managed by Valley Vision (Sacramento region), the Office of Community and Economic Development at CSU Fresno (San Joaquin Valley), and the Center for Economic Development at CSU Chico (North State) as part of a federal designation as a manufacturing communities partnership, or “IMCP.” This work is funded by the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) to drive growth in the region’s food economy.

Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Manager leading the Cleaner Air Partnership and managing the organization’s communications.

What Are You Grateful for in 2017?

It’s that time of year again!

Every Holiday season, Valley Vision staff reflect on what we have been grateful for over the past year. It’s an annual tradition, and we are excited to share our reflections with you. Thank you!

Tammy Cronin: “I am thankful for my awesome coworkers, and the opportunity that we have to make this a great place to work, live and play.”

Emma Koefoed: “Grateful for a new job, new friends, and to have spent the summer traveling.”

Patrick Guild: “Happy, as always, for great family, friends, colleagues, and to live in such a beautiful part of the world.”

Bill Mueller: “As I grow older I am most thankful for my family — immediate and extended.”

Kari Hakker: “Every day I harbor a goldmine of gratitude for everything around me; especially the things I often take for granted like clean water, safe food, my health, electricity, family, strong values, the ability to learn, love, read, think, see, hear, smell, talk, touch, teach, and laughter!”

Alejandra Gallegos: “I am thankful for all the learning and growth opportunities I have experienced this year, the opportunity to able to work towards social improvement in my hometown, and for the exposure to the strong and inspiring work ethic from the Valley Vision family. Most importantly, I am grateful for the kind individuals who I have the pleasure of interacting with on a consistent basis.”

Anessa Chacon:

  • “I’m grateful to have be given the opportunity to work in a place as accepting and wholesome to work at like Valley Vision.
  • I’m grateful to have such a wonderful family whom I hold dearly.
  • I’m grateful to be here on earth with all of you.”

Evan Schmidt: “I’m grateful for my family and supportive and fun communities at home and at work.”

Adrian Rehn: “I am grateful for a fantastic year of personal growth, accomplishment, and awareness.”

Trish Kelly: “I am grateful that I live and work in a region where many wonderful partners are working together to support inclusive growth and prosperity for all, drive innovative approaches to our shared complex challenges, and help our region be a model for a healthy and clean workforce economy. To quote our partner Brian Bedford (Align Capital Region) “we are better together.”

Robyn Krock: “I am grateful for dogs. And my family’s health. Maybe not in that order.”

Lucie-Anne Radimsky: “I am grateful for:

  • Nature and simple pleasures.
  • My family and true friends.
  • My health and those of my loved ones.”

Jennifer Romero: “I am grateful and lucky to have an amazing wife who supports and encourages me to pursue my dreams. I am grateful for my family who without them I couldn’t be who I am, and to the furry babies in our lives who complete our family circle.”

Alan Lange: “I’m grateful for my family.  Both my wife and my son have a knack for making every day even brighter.”

Christine Ault: “I’m grateful that my path lead me to Sacramento, a small and connected community full of bright, passionate people with good intentions and big aspirations.”

Meg Arnold: “I’m grateful for soup, and for all the colleagues who make fun of my eating it every single day.”

Growing Entrepreneurial Communities

In the last week of November, 2017, a group of thought-leaders on entrepreneur-led economic development from across the nation gathered in Kansas City for a gathering called Growing Entrepreneurial Communities.

What is entrepreneur-led economic development? It is the idea that the creation of businesses by entrepreneurs is the most sustainable and equitable way to facilitate economic prosperity in any community, no matter the size. But, enabling entrepreneurship involves an “ecosystem” approach – or the development of a rich support system for entrepreneurs, led by entrepreneurs, and supported by community organizations, economic developers, workforce, government, education, and others.

This gathering was hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and SourceLink, and supported by the Kauffman Foundation – all entities that are focused on supporting entrepreneurship and economic development. The ~30 leaders who attended came from small communities or networks, such as the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, national or international networks, such as the International Economic Development Council and the National Center for Economic Gardening, and educational and research entities who are interested in supporting entrepreneurship, such as Brookings and the Institute for Work and the Economy at DePaul University in Chicago. These far flung entities all have something in common – advancing the way local entities can both support entrepreneurship and document and measure the ways that entrepreneurs are transforming communities across the nation for the better.

Some of the key take aways from the gathering:

  • There is a committed network of practitioners working throughout the country to build, advance, track, and measure entrepreneurial ecosystem success.
  • The core goal is to create wealth and equity within communities and regions by supporting entrepreneurs.
  • A high impact action that the group is pursuing is a paradigm shift for economic development practitioners, from a focus on talent recruitment to entrepreneurship ecosystem development. Credentialing, continuing education for economic developers, and advancing research and metrics that show a relationship between local economic prosperity and entrepreneurship are all strategies that the group is pursuing.
  • This small group gathering supported the development of larger Growing Entrepreneurial Communities Summit in April 2018 to bring together more communities from across the nation to explore these topics further.

Valley Vision has a vested interest and strong role is supporting the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Capital region. Through our work on SlingShot, Valley Vision has managed, for the four regional Workforce Development Boards (SETA, Golden Sierra, North Central Counties Consortium, and Yolo), efforts to grow entrepreneurial supports here. In Spring 2017, through SlingShot, SETA released $750K to support entrepreneurs and develop an online resource locator for services that support the region’s entrepreneurs. These services and the locator will help grow our communities’ entrepreneurs by creating new mentorship services, new physical spaces, and make support services more accessible and transparent for users.

Sacramento has seen increased activity for entrepreneurs – two immediate examples are the opening of a new space by Urban Hive and the recent expansion of Hacker Lab in Rocklin. Gatherings like this one in Kansas City help us learn what is working in other communities and help communicate our success to others across the country.

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Director of Strategy and Evaluation.

Innovate Sac Showcases New Partnerships and Cutting-Edge Tech

Following the announcement of Dale and Katy Carlsen’s $6 million gift to Sacramento State, which will establish the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Sac State’s Alumni Center was the perfect backdrop for Innovate Sac. The event, one of a series of activities planned during Global Entrepreneurship Week, served as the launch for the vision of the City of Sacramento’s Urban Technology Lab (SUTL), an initiative of the City of Sacramento.

The event was presided over by Monique Brown, of iHub, who set the stage for the event and was followed by an energetic presentation by President Robert Nelsen who shared his vision for the region as a center for innovation, and the importance of the new Center as a symbol of prosperity for the entire Sacramento region.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg gave an inspiring presentation on the growing significance of Sacramento as a key innovation partner, an idea supported by several innovative projects from high-profile companies and organizations launching initiatives at our doorstep, from Verizon’s 5G Network to an autonomous vehicle partnership. Addressing the theme of community and improving the lives of all, Mayor Steinberg went on to address more serious social matters including a $100 million pilot project that had been approved to support homeless services across the City and County. He closed out his presentation with a call to action to continue to raise Sacramento’s profile by communicating these successes through our own networks.

The event’s headline speakers Aaron Frank, Faculty at Singularity University and Dr. Austin Brown, Executive Director of the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy, followed suit. Both touched upon the reasons for the exponential growth in technology advancement we are witnessing and how increased accessibility to the common man will further speed up innovation and disruption across all industries. Mr. Frank’s presentation explored the impact of Moore’s Law on technology from batteries to computers and offered us a glimpse into the future of what might be. He then went on to address the seismic shifts in workforce that we need to be prepared to address. Dr. Brown of UC Davis, spoke on the positive impacts of technology advancements on the environment and overall efficiencies that technology was bringing to society. He went on to address the risks associated with unintended consequences that were by nature inherent to technology advancements and which consumed a majority of his team’s energy and focus as they attempt to identify issues and mitigate their negative effects.

Louis Stewart, Sacramento’s recently-appointed Chief Innovation Officer, closed out the event with a brief presentation of the proposed SUTL. The Lab will serve to engage the community to transform Sacramento into a living laboratory to develop, test, deploy, replicate, and scale new technologies, products, and services that will accelerate quality of life improvements for all residents.  Mr. Stewart went on to highlight that advances in technology and technology for technology’s sake are not what drives Sacramento nor its policies and projects, but rather how technology can help the greater good so that everyone benefits. Sacramento, he stated, is well positioned to be competitive across numerous industries including urban technology, biotech, and Agtech.

The event was an encouraging reminder that our ability to shift and evolve as a region to benefit from these technological advancements is by working together. Without the support of our local employers and the academic community in the region we cannot build a skilled and viable workforce that can address changing occupational demands. We cannot properly fund essential programs nor create effective policy without the support of our city leaders and non-profit organizations.

At Valley Vision we know this to be true and since 1994, we have driven transformative change for Northern California. Our contributions have improved quality of life by building strong communities, a healthy environment, and economic vibrancy.  Valley Vision has an active portfolio of projects focused on innovation (Slingshot) and workforce development projects (Capital Region Workforce Action Plan) supported by key partners such as JP Morgan Chase, Los Rios Community College District and the regional Workforce Development Boards.

Take a moment to learn more about these exciting developments in our region led by Valley Vision:

  • Slingshot: SlingShot is an initiative of the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) to encourage and support regional partnerships across the state to engage in new collective actions around innovation workforce challenges.  The Sacramento region’s SlingShot project is focused on building an ecosystem where innovation thrives, and business startups can be successful.
  • Capital Region Workforce Action Plan: Currently we have four independent and active projects that are set on achieving the same outcome: to develop a seamless, collaborative and equitable system which engages all levels of academia, employers, regional political leaders, Chambers of Commerce, PBIDs, Workforce Development Boards and non-profits to assure a strong and viable workforce and as a result a vibrant economy that benefits all levels of our community.

Authored by Lucie-Anne Radimsky, with contributions from Trish KellyTammy Cronin, and Meg Arnold.

707 Is Rising

Region Rising.  That’s what Valley Vision branded our first-ever regional town hall back in 2015, produced with our government partner SACOG.

But it wasn’t this innovative conference that drew 1,000 participants that kept coming to my mind at last week’s California Economic Summit in San Diego.  It was a single region.  The counties of Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa, Lake, and Solano now working jointly.  People and institutions rising after the wildfires that killed 43, destroyed 8,400 structures, and laid waste to a land mass equal to the size of 13 cities – each the size of San Francisco.

A special session organized by Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore one evening drew dozens of political and business leaders from across the state, matched by their own school, business, government and community service leadership.  We sat in a circle, looking eye-to-eye at each other, seeking to understand the extent of the damage to lives and property, and what was needed next.  The stories were riveting.

One story hit me deeply:  A mother admonishing her teenage son on his way home from college to keep his eyes on the road when driving down Highway 101.  The devastation is so jarring, drivers get fixated on the apocalyptic scene, lose track of where they are, and crash into each other.  Another: A wife and husband, already struggling to make ends meet, pay their mortgage bill this month on a house that is now an ash heap.

While you couldn’t help but be deeply moved by countless stories of personal loss and suffering, the conversation didn’t stay there long.  The focus instead was on action.

Attending as a friend of Sonoma County leaders and as co-chair of the California Stewardship Network, it was clear to me that this is not a disaster impacting a few, but instead thousands.  Area residents are making decisions now (or over the next few weeks) about whether they will stay and rebuild their lives or leave the area or even the state. I asked Supervisor Gore, “How are you and others staying in touch with residents to know their needs and to make decisions based on real-time information?”

His response drew the room quiet, “Our first action was to teach community organizing,” he said.  “In town hall meetings attended by hundreds of people across the fire-impacted areas we placed big blown-up maps of the cities on easels and trained people to organize at the block level to form a support network,” Gore explained.  Neighbors selected their own leaders to support and serve them.  People stepped up. Communication is disseminated instantly using Facebook or Twitter… emerging needs are raised.  “It’s just how we do things in Sonoma County,” Supervisor Gore said matter-of-factly.  “I stay in touch with these new community leaders – we all do…” as he looked around the room.

In the wake of events like these, I was reminded again of the very best aspects of humankind.  Selfless acts.  Neighbor helping neighbor.  Government moving smartly and swiftly to provide the right safety net services to those who need it most, coordinating closely with nonprofits doing the same.  Businesses mobilizing and rebuilding, providing both the philanthropy and investment capital necessary for forward progress.  More real-world proof of the power of networks to improve people’s lives.

The devastation is also driving unprecedented conversations and collaboration across city and county boundaries.  California, the nation-state, is actually a state of regions – areas with distinct but connected economies, transportation networks, workforce, and food systems, all interlaced.  It’s a truth upon which the California Economic Summit is based and policy advanced.

I witnessed this again and again over two days with my peers from across California on affordable housing, water and workforce, punctuated this year by new needs rising from the wine country fires.  These local leaders aren’t talking about rebuilding communities that once were, but instead seizing this awful moment to accelerate well-thought-out plans that pre-existed the fires to transform their communities to be more prosperous, just and sustainable – but 5-15 years faster than earlier envisioned.  They need the State’s help to do so, and the State is responding.

We will see this on display when the California Economic Summit is held in Sonoma County next fall.  They will have much to teach us about resiliency.

James Gore ended the meeting with a comment that this region might be called “707” for short after the area code that covers them all.  Short.  Memorable.  Everyone smiled.

707 is rising.

Bill Mueller was Chief Executive of Valley Vision.

Visit Sacramento & Valley Vision Announce New Farm-to-Fork Partnership

Organizations will work in tandem to promote and grow the region’s food and agricultural efforts

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Visit Sacramento announced today that it will partner with regional leadership organization Valley Vision to enhance the Sacramento region’s America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital identity.

Visit Sacramento took on the development of a program around farm-to-fork after the region was declared America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital in 2012. Since that time, the destination marketing organization has led the effort to grow farm-to-fork into a year-round national identity that has been embraced throughout the greater Sacramento area. Over the last five years, Visit Sacramento has shared the region’s farm-to-fork story with tour operators, visitors and travel media across the country, while helping to guide local programs and endeavors that bring farm-to-fork to life for the community.

“When we set out to make a year-round initiative around farm-to-fork, we never would have believed how far the concept would have come in just five years,” said Visit Sacramento President and CEO Mike Testa. “As we moved into our fifth year, we were looking for a strategic partner that could help us take farm-to-fork to the next level. The partnership with Valley Vision will allow Visit Sacramento to concentrate on our strength areas of sales and marketing, while Valley Vision simultaneously continues the growth of the program in other areas.”

In its new role, Valley Vision will work to extend the reach and impact of farm-to-fork, with the organization taking over Visit Sacramento’s farm-to-fork committees and expanding the network of partners, continuing research work around regional food and agriculture, and helping to facilitate solutions to related issues. Visit Sacramento will continue to lead marketing for the region’s farm-to-fork identity, along with hosting the annual Legends of Wine event, Farm-to-Fork Festival and Tower Bridge Dinner in September. Proceeds from the Tower Bridge Dinner will also continue to be used to fund initiatives such as the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services’ fresh produce drive and the Visit Sacramento CAMP scholarship at Sacramento State.

“We are excited to lift up all the people, the data, and the inspirational stories that make us the nation’s farm-to-fork capital,” said Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller. “By drawing on Valley Vision’s two decades of work supporting the growth of the food and agriculture sector – from close ties with local farmers, restaurateurs and food access organizations to statewide associations and our ties to federal agencies, Valley Vision can bring additional breadth and depth to this initiative.”


About Visit Sacramento

Visit Sacramento is a non-profit, destination marketing organization funded by the City of Sacramento, the County of Sacramento a local hotel self-assessment and business membership throughout the greater Sacramento region. As the premier economic development and services organization for the region’s convention and tourism industry, Visit Sacramento develops and executes sales, marketing and customer service programs to help strengthen the regional economy, as well as the bottom lines of our member businesses and marketing partners.  Brands operating under the Visit Sacramento umbrella include America’s Farm-to-Fork CapitalSacramento Sports Commission (Sac Sports), Sacramento365 (a joint partnership with Convention & Cultural Services and the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission), Sacramento Film Commission (Film Sacramento) and Sac Event Crew.

About Valley Vision

Valley Vision has inspired change for a better, more livable future across California’s capital region for more than two decades. Using our expertise in research and collaborative strategies, along with our expert knowledge of the region’s food and agriculture sector that we’ve built over two decades, Valley Vision has long been committed to growing the many assets found in our local food economy. We work on a variety of food system initiatives and are known as a regional leader in food, agriculture and related health systems. Valley Vision led the creation of the Sacramento Region Food System Action Plan, the region’s roadmap for advancing the food system, and we are the regional lead for the federal designation of the Central Valley as a manufacturing community, AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium. Our initiatives focus on pioneering innovations to make food and ag sustainable, healthy, productive and accessible, from strengthening our agricultural heritage to expanding our food processing and manufacturing sector to helping increase markets for local goods.

Seven Questions with SMUD CEO Arlen Orchard

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has been Sacramento County’s publicly owned, not-for-profit electric service since 1946. We recently sat down with Valley Vision board member Arlen Orchard, the CEO and General Manager of SMUD, to talk Cap-and-Trade, cannabis legalization, and cultivating a clean and sustainable economy in the Sacramento region.

1. Why is the extension of the Cap-and-Trade program important to SMUD?

SMUD has been committed to environmental stewardship for many years and has invested significantly to reduce greenhouse emissions for its customers and California. The extension of the Cap-and-Trade program over the next decade is the cornerstone of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in California and allows California to continue to play a leading role in addressing climate change. The extension includes continued allocation of allowances to utilities, a known and stable market structure, and important allowance price control mechanisms that will collectively provide a reasonable cost approach to deeper greenhouse reductions while providing the State with needed funds for greenhouse reduction investments. The extension of Cap-and-Trade program will help SMUD provide clean, reliable power at affordable prices and support our goals of electrifying transportation while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our region and throughout the state.

SMUD sees a surplus of Cap-and-Trade allowances at times, particularly during high hydro years, and has sold those allowances in quarterly auctions. The revenue helped fund several greenhouse-gas reducing projects in SMUD’s service area to benefit SMUD’s customers, including disadvantaged communities and customers. For example, SMUD funded three programs that delivered deep energy efficiency retrofits to low-income customers; a program to train high school students in underserved communities in energy audit techniques, leading to energy efficiency retrofits at the students’ seven schools and potential career paths for the students; and a program to fund and demonstrate deep energy efficiency retrofits at local non-profits and small businesses.

2. Washington State saw energy use increase by an unanticipated 20% rate after legalizing cannabis. What is SMUD doing to prepare for the high energy demands and other aspects of the emergent cannabis industry?

SMUD is taking a multi-pronged approach to serving new indoor cultivation loads. SMUD is working with these new customers to understand their facilities and loads while providing assistance with energy efficiency programs, like lighting and HVAC, to reduce the load as much as feasible. SMUD is also planning capacity additions to meet the new loads quickly and evaluating alternative ways of providing service to the customer as reliably and cost effectively as possible when standard distribution service may be costly or delay new service. SMUD is reaching out to various business partners to encourage new indoor cultivation in areas that meet their permitting requirements but also have utility system capacity available to serve this new load. This proactive approach ensures we can meet the needs of this growing industry efficiently and cost effectively.

3. Why is broadband deployment important to meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals?

While SMUD does not provide broadband or communication services to our customers, we recognize the important role that broadband plays in supporting economic development, access to information, and opportunity to disadvantaged communities. Along with ensuring the sustainable energy practices and investments that support disadvantaged communities, access to broadband can play an important role in creating sustainable communities. Specific to our business, widespread deployment of broadband allows SMUD to collect real-time data on customer behavior and energy usage, which can be used to design programs targeted to achieve various objectives. This includes design of programs and rebates that help reduce overall customer usage, especially during peak periods when higher pollution generating resources are needed to help meet customer loads.

4. Valley Vision’s Green Communities project has helped San Joaquin Valley households save over 13 million kilowatt hours. What opportunities do businesses and nonprofits have to conserve energy in their communities?

SMUD spends over $35 million a year and offers a comprehensive set of energy efficiency solutions to our business and non-profit customers. These include offerings addressing lighting, HVAC, refrigeration, data centers, and custom energy efficiency solutions. We offer convenient direct install services as well as financing that can make conserving energy easy for our customers. We also partner with our customers to test innovative new technologies that can help create savings in the future. Recent additions to our customer offerings focus on the use of efficient heat pump technologies to reduce natural gas use for heating and water heating and thereby help the state achieve its carbon reduction goals. The online enhancements we’ve added to include bill alerts; “My Energy Tools” for residential and business customers that help them save energy; “My Account” charts that show customers how their usage compares to previous months and years; expanded payment options; an online rebate center; and other easy-to-use tools that give customers more choices and options regarding their energy use. These options have been very well received. SMUD also redesigned its low-income assistance rate to provide discounts to the customers who need it the most.

5. How will SMUD’s agreement to help Japanese power companies with technology adoption benefit customers in Sacramento County?

SMUD’s new partnership provides several direct and indirect benefits to our customers. The continuing deployment of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) and successful energy efficiency programs has resulted in flat to negative load growth from SMUD. Yet, costs to serve customers with services, and operate and maintain distribution, transmission and generation facilities, continue to rise predictably. Revenue diversification will allow SMUD to fund new investments in grid modernization and new technologies to benefit our customers without asking our customers to foot the entire cost. Indirectly, SMUD is gaining valuable global knowledge about emerging technologies in the Smart Grid arena that NEC and Japanese utilities are deploying to meet their needs – knowledge that will help SMUD shape the products, services and options to our customers in the future. The emerging technologies include better utility asset management and operational tools to reduce costs and improve reliability of electric service, as well as customer sited technologies such as storage and electric vehicles to name a few. Additionally, as Japan continues its deregulation of its electricity system, SMUD gets to glean valuable information about how this may affect SMUD customers should California consider deregulation of retail energy again in California.

6. Taking into account the devastation caused by tropical storm Harvey, have lessons learned from this disaster caused SMUD to modify its business resiliency plans?

The impacts from tropical storm Harvey re-emphasize the significance of our maintenance, asset replacement and grid modernization strategies in ensuring a safe and resilient grid. Our journey towards a modern and more resilient grid began in 2009 with the SmartSacramento® project. With the assistance of a $127.5 million Smart Grid Infrastructure Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, SMUD invested a total of $308 million in our SmartSacramento® project. SmartSacramento’s scope ranged from the installation of 617,000 smart meters and distribution automation systems to a digital operations wall map and an improved outage management system. These investments equip our operations staff with tools to be able to quickly determine which customers have lost service, allow them to remotely operate equipment to quickly isolate areas affected by outages, and inform restoration strategies.

Since the completion of SmartSacramento®, we’re continuing to invest in the deployment of additional line automation switches and retrofitting existing distribution substations with remote data acquisition and control functionalities. These functionalities provide our distribution operators visibility at more granular levels to keep outages times low, protect equipment and maintain the grid without compromising reliability. These projects, as well as implementation of an Advanced Distribution Management System and upgrade of our communications network, round out the investments SMUD is making to ensure that we continue on the path to a modern and more resilient grid.

7. What is one bold prediction for what the electric utility industry will look like in five years, and what does that mean for the Sacramento region?

The electric utility industry is undergoing tremendous change. The disruption of our traditional business model is driven by the 3Ds – digitization, decentralization, and decarbonization. In addition, increasingly sophisticated customer expectations are requiring utilities to focus on customer engagement and providing customers with more information, tools, and choices. Nowhere is this more evident than in the growth of distributed energy resources and services which are allowing customers to take control of their energy supply and cost. With a proliferation of distributed services, new devices and technologies promise to radically change energy use and control. The next 5 years will see an immense innovation which will redefine our customer relationships, force us to become more efficient and effective at what we do, and provide new opportunities to create new products and services that will benefit our customers and community. We will need to make major investments in new and developing technologies to provide the visibility into our distribution grid to allow us to optimize the proliferation of distributed energy resources to maximize the economic value of a decentralized grid for our customers, third party providers and SMUD. The utility of the future will be the glue that binds all of these new technologies and services together to ensure reliability, access to all segments of society, and the fair allocation of the economic benefits.


Arlen Orchard is a Valley Vision board member and CEO and General Manager of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), Sacramento County’s publicly owned, not-for-profit electric service.

Manufacturing the 21st Century Workforce

Manufacturing is alive and growing in the Capital Region – just look at our new maker spaces, new manufacturing workforce programs at our community colleges, and K-12 kids participating in robotics programs!

With a skilled workforce, manufacturing can thrive, innovate and provide great “middle skill” jobs for workers across the region. As part of the Capital Region Workforce Action Plan, Valley Vision has been working with diverse partners, employers and stakeholders across the region to elevate awareness of career opportunities in manufacturing, close the manufacturing workforce skills gap and provide a voice for manufacturers. Valley Vision also supports the food and beverage manufacturing cluster as part of Central Valley AgPlus, through our federally designated program.

In September, Valley Vision held a well-attended and energetic manufacturing forum to explore workforce opportunities and challenges, in collaboration with the Power Inn Alliance, Sacramento City Council Member Eric Guerra, Los Rios Community College District, Sacramento State University, Hacker Lab, the Office of Congressman Ami Bera, and workforce boards. The Power Inn Alliance is home to more than 60% of Sacramento City’s manufacturing employment. Dubbed “Let’s Talk Manufacturing,” 120 employers, educators, and system partners gathered at Depot Park to hear from key employers about their most pressing workforce needs and skills gaps, priorities for development of new community college Career Education programs, and as importantly, to help form an ongoing network of employers, educators, economic development and workforce partners to advance manufacturing. In addition, participants had the opportunity to provide input for a new Sacramento Innovation Center to be located near Sacramento State University. The idea is to create a manufacturing ecosystem to connect students and workers to skills training and upgrading, from K-12 to higher education and maker spaces.

On Friday, October 6th we celebrated National Manufacturing Day 2017. Manufacturing events and activities held across the Capital region illustrate the vibrancy of modern day manufacturing, from innovative dairies/beverage producers and breweries large and small to highly sophisticated machining technology and global paper company. Over the course of the day Valley Vision participated in and/or helped organize four events highlighting and celebrating manufacturing careers at International Paper in Elk Grove, HP Hood in Sacramento, Claimstake Brewing Co. in Rancho Cordova, and the opening of the Haas Technical Education Center at Sierra College in Rocklin. The Center, according to Willie Duncan, President of Sierra College and Valley Vision board member, is the “most state of the art manufacturing lab at a community college anywhere.”

The visit to HPHood – with more than 260 employees and millions of dollars of investment in state of the art beverage producing facilities, followed the Marking your Mark Competition sponsored by the Power Inn Alliance to provide capacity support to a manufacturing entrepreneur over the coming year. This is a creative approach to growing new manufacturing companies and jobs, and Tracey Schaal, Executive Director, organized an innovative package of resources for the winner, Lifeline Lift. Trish Kelly, Valley Vision Managing Director, enjoyed the opportunity to participate as a judge in the Competition.

At Claimstake Brewing Co., participants were warmly welcomed by the city of Rancho Cordova Mayor Donald Terry, Council members and staff, the Chamber of Commerce, Supervisor Don Nottoli and owners Mike and Brian to tour this brewing facility and community gathering space, and hear about how we all need to work together to help companies grow by providing a skilled and ready workforce. The City is becoming a location for beverage manufacturing with a new Barrel District encompassing breweries, a meadery and a distillery. As Congressman Bera noted, “Each city and each county in the region has its own unique assets. Groups like Valley Vision and others are facilitating those conversations…There’s no reason Sacramento can’t be at the center of it all.” Thank you to the City of Rancho Cordova, the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce, and the California Manufacturers & Technology Association for partnering and making this event possible!

Manufacturing is often thought of as a declining sector given the impacts of global outsourcing. In fact, many blue-collar workers are hurt more by a lack of skills than by globalization. Modern day manufacturing offers a smart career pathway for today’s job seekers. Over the next decade, as many as 3.4 million manufacturing jobs will become available, according to a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek. Today’s manufacturing jobs require workers with computing, technical, basic-math, and problem-solving skills and require specialized post-high school training or certification. The Bloomberg article notes there is currently a “skills gap” that could result in 2 million of these jobs being unfilled.

The Capital region is ready to meet the challenge! Stay tuned as we visit other areas of our region to highlight our manufacturers and mobilize to meet their workforce needs.

October 11, 2017
This blog was co-authored by Tammy Cronin and Trish Kelly

Making Moves to Close the Digital Divide

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) has awarded a $25,000 grant to Valley Vision to manage implementation of the School2Home digital literacy program at Leataata Floyd Elementary School (LFE) in Sacramento during the 2017-18 academic year. This will be the third year that CETF and Valley Vision have supported LFE leadership with program implementation on-site. This year, LFE is expanding School2Home schoolwide, training all teachers and staff on effective integration of technology into their classrooms, and reaching about 350 students and families, up from 66 students just last year. With the expansion of the program, every child at LFE will have access to a laptop and other digital tools every day to support and augment their learning.

Leataata Floyd Elementary School serves the two neighboring public housing communities – Marina Vista and Alder Grove – where nearly half of residents do not have access to high-speed home Internet or digital tools. In addition to monitoring implementation of School2Home’s core components, Valley Vision plans to facilitate parent engagement workshops throughout the year focused on digital literacy and student success, aiming to expand digital access and inclusion within the neighborhood. Valley Vision and LFE leadership trained 40 parents in 2016-17 and are hoping to reach an even greater number this year.

Over the last year, Valley Vision has also continued to work with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SHRA) as a planning partner on Jobs Plus, a four-year initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to support employment readiness among residents of public housing communities. Valley Vision’s goal, through management of both School2Home and the Connected Capital Broadband Consortium, is to help equip residents of Marina Vista and Alder Grove with the 21st Century skills needed to be successful in the digital age. Without access to broadband, residents of these communities will be less able to compete with their digitally connected peers. Moreover, despite proximity to the downtown area of our State’s capital city, many of the families with children at Leataata Floyd Elementary School are unable to access critical information, resources and services that most of us rely on every single day.

CETF has also awarded a $10,000 grant to Hacker Lab to provide technology skill development opportunities to parents with children at Leataata Floyd Elementary School and the surrounding community. Valley Vision and Hacker Lab are working collaboratively to maximize impact of the awarded grants. Both Valley Vision and Hacker Lab will be participating in an October 4th resource fair hosted by SHRA to outreach to residents on low-cost home Internet programs as well as the new resources and opportunities coming into the school and community.


Jenny Wagner was a Valley Vision Project Associate working on School2Home, the Cleaner Air Partnership, and other Healthy Communities-related initiatives.

Touring the Region’s Food and Ag Ecosystem

August kicked off with a focus on many aspects of our region’s food and ag systems, including a site visit from Bryan Zulko, our USDA Rural Development federal representative for the Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium. The visit was a follow up to the Metro Chamber’s May Cap-to-Cap trip, where the Food and Ag Committee connected with our federal agency partners as well as congressional delegation to advance our regional food economy. Valley Vision hosted Bryan for a week-long tour showcasing some of the region’s diverse assets, with opportunities to discuss some of our key challenges and brainstorm strategies and approaches given the still evolving changes in Washington, and taste some of our delicious farm-to-fork bounty.

Site visit highlights included: a special meeting of the Chamber’s Food and Ag Committee to discuss our policy priorities, especially pervasive rural broadband gaps and workforce needs, and upcoming topics for the 2018 Farm Bill; a meeting with Woodland city leaders and tour of Boundary Bend Olive Oil company; a visit with Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry in Winters to discuss broadband and food hub development topics; a tour of the Delta hosted by Muddy Boot Wine’s David Ogilvie, Food and Ag Committee Co-Chair, which included a visit to Greene and Hemly in Courtland where packing of the pear harvest was underway; a meeting of the several nonprofit partners at Leataata Floyd School, future site of the Food Literacy Center’s learning center, including the Food Literacy Center, the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, River City Food Bank, Alchemist CDC (which has a USDA grant for a food business incubator feasibility study), and Sacramento City Unified School District; and a tour of the future site of the Food Factory incubator in downtown Sacramento.

The Week culminated with the Metro Chamber’s annual State of Agriculture event – Crushing It: How the Wine Industry is Influencing AgricultureFour hundred regional food and ag supporters had the opportunity to network along “Winery Row,” sampling wines from 15 local wineries and meeting winemakers, then hearing about the important impact of the wine industry on the regional economy from wine industry leaders.

As noted by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, “A little less than five years ago, our region planted a flag in the ground and proclaimed ourselves the Farm-to-Fork Capital of America. While it was an acknowledgement of what we already knew, Sacramento is the heart of the breadbasket for the world, the designation recognized that we should play to our strengths and be proud of our heritage. The greater Sacramento region has over 200 wineries and that is something to celebrate. In our 21st century economy the intersection of agriculture and technology continues to be pivotal and I want Sacramento to embrace its agricultural heritage as a way to tap into this economic boom.”

Keynote speaker John Aguirre, President of the California Winegrape Growers Association, and a stellar panel discussed some of the major trends and challenges the industry is facing as it seeks to maintain a competitive edge in both California and the Capital region. Click here for a video by KVIE!

We closed the week with a continuing appreciation for the incredible people and places that make our region a center of ongoing collaboration, innovation and support for all aspects of our regional food system. Thanks to Bryan, we have new resources and connections for our mission and look forward to seeing him on Cap to Cap 2018!


Trish Kelly is Managing Director of Valley Vision, leading the food system, workforce, and broadband portfolios.

Women Who Mean Business: Trish Kelly