Skip to Content

West Coast’s Young Leaders Visit Farm-to-Fork Capital

Flashback to Project Leader Adrian Rehn’s blog from five years ago: “Our team looks forward to harnessing this momentum, expanding our community partnerships, and doing another mind-blowing thing in the not-too-distant future.”

Five years and one pandemic later, the Sacramento Hub of the Global Shapers – the youth leadership network of the World Economic Forum – has done it again! From September 22-24th, Sacramento Hub members hosted young leaders from San Francisco, Oakland, and Phoenix for a weekend full of connection, impactful dialogue, and challenging preconceived notions while showcasing the best of Sacramento’s arts and culture.

Valley Vision has been the fiscal agent for the Global Shapers – Sacramento Hub for several years. Through this formal partnership, the Sacramento Hub has access to a high-performing and trusted local nonprofit that manages its finances and records, keeping things running smoothly. For Valley Vision, the Global Shapers bring a unique connection to the global community not found in other young leaders groups, which further boosts VV’s toolset in advancing the livability of the Sacramento region.

Sacramento: More than Just a Capital

The 2023 Global Shapers West Coast Retreat, as it was billed, was a revelation for many in that it shattered preconceived notions about Sacramento. While often seen only as just the capital of California, Sacramento proved to be much more. As Amy Vatcha, a San Francisco Global Shaper, put it: 

“From the innovations in indoor farming & microgreens, to the art walks/art exhibitions/murals, to the salsa and bachata night at Dance on the Edge on the waterfront, I experienced the depth and variety of what Sacramento has to offer.”

Members of the Sacramento Hub were encouraged to shape the retreat based on their own connections to the city and their interests, including but not limited to:

  • Guided tours of Sacramento’s many murals and art installations
  • A private tour of the California State Capitol building
  • A meet-and-greet with local urban agriculture leaders and entrepreneurs
  • Salsa dancing lessons on the Old Sacramento Waterfront
  • Leadership development sessions and cross-Hub skill-building

Connecting Young Leaders Beyond Boundaries

Beyond its role in showcasing Sacramento’s vibrant culture, the retreat emphasized the importance of connecting young leaders outside of their existing networks to think globally, and act locally. Adam Shipley, the Phoenix Hub’s curator, noted:

“Understanding perspectives across industries, demographics, and geographies helps us all create and maximize our community impact. [The] Sacramento Hub took the first proactive step in launching new dialogues.”

With this emphasis, the retreat underscored the significance of breaking down barriers and fostering a more holistic understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing our communities. It demonstrated that when young leaders unite with open hearts and minds, they can collectively address pressing issues and create a more interconnected, prosperous world.

Authentic Fellowship and Community Connection 

Throughout the retreat, Shapers experienced the commitment to authenticity that has made the Sacramento Hub a long-lasting group. As Raphaël Tshitoko, San Francisco’s Vice Curator, put it:

“I can see how they’ve carefully nurtured their connection within their Hub, leading to genuine enjoyment of each other’s company, to how they’ve nurtured their connection to their community, intentionally creating spaces of togetherness but also being connectors by associating with and supporting leadership in their own neighborhood.”

Sacramento Hub members emphasized the importance of deep camaraderie rooted in shared values and experiences, where members actively nurture relationships within their group while also engaging passionately with their local community. This authentic bond goes beyond networking, fostering lasting connections and a sense of trust, unity, and shared purpose among its members.

Ultimately, the West Coast Retreat was a resounding success, leaving participants feeling optimistic and energized for their future involvement with their communities. The Sacramento Hub could not have pulled off this production without the help of our fantastic sponsors: Balanced Body, UC Davis Graduate School of Management, Councilmember Karina Talamantes, Revolution Winery, and our longstanding fiscal agent, Valley Vision.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Our Predictions for 2019

“Nothing we can do can change the past, but everything we do changes the future.” – Ashleigh Brilliant

In this final post of 2018, I wanted to write to you about some predictions we have for the coming year, and our hopes for you and our communities at the holidays.

Our regional economy will grow by another $5 billion next year. It’s been growing at that clip for the past four years, and despite global head winds, it’s likely to happen again, raising our total Regional GDP to about $130 billion annually. If you didn’t already know, we have one of the nation’s biggest economies – we are in the top 10% of all regional economies in the US today in terms of economic output.

While the regional economy will grow larger, inequity will get worse. Middle-wage jobs are more scarce these days, while jobs at the top and bottom of the scale and bottom are growing. If you have a good education and workplace skills, you’ll earn a good livable wage. If you are entry level, or lack the skills or training for the increasingly technical or digital jobs available, then service jobs will be your best (and maybe only) option. For most people, this needs to be the start of their careers, not the end of their economic fortunes. That’s why we at Valley Vision are so focused on helping students, employers, universities, workforce boards and schools prepare for this new future of work, creating a talent pipeline that includes everyone. Nearly one-third of our work directly relates to this purpose.

In 2019, a bunch of really important decisions affecting the lives of you and your family will be made. If you live in Sacramento, the people at city hall, with input from various communities, will decide the priorities for a long-term jobs strategy, how to spend millions from the Measure U tax increase, and how best to help under-represented school kids dealing with the potential bankruptcy facing the Sacramento City Unified School District. Regionally, big choices are coming for what type of housing, growth, and mobility investments we will make for the next generation. Being plugged into these decisions is important to your wellbeing. Valley Vision will be more than watching; we’ll be directly engaged with our region’s leadership, advocating for solutions that balance equity, economy, and environmental sustainability.

Harder to predict, but still inevitable, are the ways that coming shifts in mobility and new technologies will affect how we live, and the form and shape our communities will take. We are going to see more autonomous vehicles on our streets and universities’ campuses, new electric fleets, more bikes and scooters, and new applications that can help us get where we need to go easily and without a huge price tag.

In so many ways, the headquarters for the State of California is the likeliest place in the world to test the latest innovations that are transforming our buildings and streets, how we get our food, our sources of energy, and transportation. This is not only because California is setting the pace globally on these issues with new policies and technologies, but also because we have vast sections of our cities in the Capital Region that can be re-built – often from scratch – with the latest technologies and cutting-edge materials, as well as break-through designs and modern conveniences geared for the future.

For our part, Valley Vision is doing what we can to champion this region’s ability to serve as a “test bed” and incubator for new technologies and applications aimed at solving urban problems – as a fiscal sponsor for local governments, businesses, and utilities for new cutting-edge mobility enterprises; as a project manager driving changes in policy that focus on future needs; and as an independent researcher and catalyst.

2018 has been a formative year. Strong foundations have been laid and things feel more certain (or at least known). The region’s business, government, education, and community groups seem to be coming together, sharing effort, trusting each other more versus going it alone. New leaders are settling into their posts and getting things sorted out. More seasoned leaders in our neighborhoods, governments, and businesses are actively working with others to fulfill their promises. 2019 will put it all to the test as these decisions come up and the stakes rise. We are at a turning point.

Our wish for you? Participate: the voices of those whose lives are directly impacted need to be heard now more than ever in boardrooms and council chambers. Encourage: tell those who represent you that you expect them to work collaboratively with others, including people with whom they don’t instantly agree, because we are better together. Hold them to account for this. Remember, they work for you, not the other way around. Last, love always: love your family and your community. Be involved. This is most important and what no one can do but you. Throughout time, positive change has always begun here.

The future remains bright, if we make it together.

Happy holidays from the team at Valley Vision! To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Bill Mueller was Valley Vision’s Chief Executive.

Our People-Centered Digital Future

On Monday, December 10, Valley Vision had the honor of joining an historic event with key Internet pioneers (pictured above are Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and Vint Cerf, known as Father of the Internet), the People-Centered Internet coalition, and the next generation of positive change agents in a discussion of Our Shared Digital Future. Valley Vision joined the ranks of “The Brain Trust of Pioneers, Change Agents, And Agents of Courage” attending the conference at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California. The event was also lived streamed on YouTube in order for a global audience to participate.

Dubbed Our People-Centered Digital Future, the conference coincided with the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and an announcement by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that 50-percent of the global population is now connected to the Internet. Announced at the event was the release of the World Economic Forum Paper: Our Shared Digital FutureAuthored by leaders from business, government, academic, and civil society, the paper stresses an urgent need for collaboration in order to shape a digital future that is beneficial for all. It defines a set of shared goals for action in the digital space and calls on global leaders to take action in shaping our digital future.

The six shared goals highlight what is needed in order to achieve an inclusive, trustworthy and sustainable digital future and provide a common framework across goals:

  1. Leave no person behind: ensuring high-quality internet access and adoption for all
  2. Empower users through good digital identities: ensuring that everyone can participate in the digital society through identity and access mechanisms that empower the user
  3. Make business work for people: helping companies navigate digital disruption and evolve to new responsible business models and practices
  4. Keep everyone safe and secure: shaping norms and practices that enable a technology-dependent environment that is secure and resilient
  5. Build new rules for a new game: developing new flexible, outcome based and participatory governance mechanisms to complement traditional policy and regulation
  6. Break through the data barrier: developing innovations that allow us to benefit from data while protecting the legitimate interests of all stakeholders

Valley Vision’s impact areas and work efforts intersect with several of these shared goals. Since 2009, Valley Vision has been working to close the Digital Divide and expand broadband access and adoption. In a world where information, education, jobs, healthcare, and other services are increasingly being accessed digitally, we risk allowing people who are disconnected from the Internet to fall further behind in the opportunity divide. Through our Connected Community Initiative, we aim to close this divide and provide equitable Internet access across the region.

Moreover, regional leaders, including the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the Metro Chamber, the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, and Valley Vision, are collaborating to implement a Regional Prosperity Strategy centered on an inclusive economy. The strategy is based on research from Brookings, and helps chart a course to the Sacramento region’s future economic prosperity. A major imperative for equitable prosperity is investment in digital skills training. The region needs enhanced digital skills both to grow the pool of high-skill technical workers and to expand the number of workers that have basic digital literacy. Digital skills are needed both for well-trained computer and information technology professionals such as software developers and engineers; and in order for entry-level employees to meet basic job requirements for digital software like Excel and other programs.

Over the past year, Valley Vision has been leading a regional conversation around the Future of Work and how automation, digitalization, and the disruption created by technological advances will impact jobs and the region’s workforce. As a workforce intermediary, Valley Vision is partnering with educators and employers to assess current and anticipated future skills gaps and to deliver on an action plan to build a robust pipeline of qualified workers across multiple career education sectors including Information Communications Technologies (ICT); Advanced Manufacturing; Energy, Construction and Utilities; Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Water Technologies; and Health and Life Sciences.

Prescient for the Future of Work, it’s important to note that today ICT and Digital Media are integrated into almost every technology, industry and job. As noted in the Brookings report, close to three-quarters of occupations in the region now require high or medium levels of digital skills. Whereas 49-percent of middle skill jobs required medium or high levels of digital literacy 15-years ago, 87-percent of today’s jobs require these skills.

As we pursue the goal of getting the remaining 50-percent of the world’s population online, there is a great need for collaboration and urgent action to shape a digital future that is beneficial for all. Valley Vision looks forward to the continuing the advancement of this work and in securing an equitable digital future.

Tammy Cronin is a Valley Vision Project Leader working on the 21st Century Workforce and Broadband Access and Adoption.

My Valley Vison Experience in One Word

I am grateful to have been Valley Vision’s Communications Intern since January 2018. Grateful to work alongside people dedicated to their work. Grateful to deepen my appreciation and love of my region. Grateful to grow my skillset with a nonprofit whose mission is aligned with my own. Grateful that I’m now prepared for my next step in life.

The team guided me and shaped me: Understanding that Adrian adds an exclamation point to make anything more exciting, and that Robyn will catch any spelling or grammar error that I threw at her, assured me that I was in a space where we took care of business. Days of having dogs in the office, the steady stream of Philz Coffee, and being offered helpings of Yzabelle and Sonia’s food kept my heart and stomach full.

Chloe was patient with me when I struggled with program design, showing me that others will help me, but I need to help myself first. Alan’s quiet confidence and one-liner jokes was something I tried so hard to emulate. Seeing firsthand how hard everyone worked, but then how willingly we would play along with an office joke or conversation was the balance I needed to keep me motivated.

I deepened my appreciation for my hometown and heightened awareness of the surrounding counties: I’ve always been proud of being from Sacramento. While living in the Bay Area and Stockton, I proudly reminded people that I was from Sacramento. Curating content for our five monthly newsletters has showed me all of the great work that people are doing to improve the region. Small establishments are making huge impacts, like the Yisrael Family Farm in Oak Park which teach residents about agriculture, and CleanStart, which helps clean technology startups share their work and secure funding.

There are countless other people and organizations who work tirelessly to make sure the region is a place where everyone can live comfortably. The people create the direction for the region, and have spoken loudly. We care about one another.

Ruben and Project Manager Adrian Rehn discussing important Fantasy Football outcomes.

Valley Vision took a gamble on me, but it paid dividends: When I accepted my role at Valley Vision, I had managed social media accounts for City Year Sacramento, and championed newsletter efforts at St. HOPE – not exactly expansive knowledge of communications. I did not have a degree in Communications, Public Relations, Graphic Design, or a related field. What I did have was a curiosity and unwavering commitment to never stop learning. Those qualities are what helped me overcome what I lacked in formal education. Gratitude and curiosity fueled my first few months as I learned platforms like MailChimp and WordPress, and kicked up our social media activity.

After building proficiency and confidence, and learning the working styles of my teammates, I gained traction. Curating 50+ newsletters, growing our Twitter reach by over 750%, and developing rapport with staff members to create content, I elevated the external awareness of Valley Vision greatly. Taking cues from Bill, Trish, Christine, and Adrian, I found a way to leverage my enthusiasm and turn it into irrefutable growth.

Growth and opportunity: My next step is to be determined. Staying in Sacramento and continuing to make my hometown and the region I love a place where everyone can live and thrive is of the utmost importance to me. Nonprofits do this work. Government agencies do this work. Schools do this work. The private sector does this work. I do this work.

Ruben Moody has been a Valley Vision Communications Intern since January 24th, 2018.

Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Workforce

Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller gave the following remarks at the Hands On the Future 2018 Counselor’s Conference on December 4th in Sacramento. The summit was designed to help hundreds of high school and college counselors in preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s workforce.

“Thank you all for being here.  You are the critical bridge in our economy, connecting students to their future.  We are grateful for the job that you do, and respect the daily responsibility you carry.  We are here to help and support you today.

As Cristina Mendonsa mentioned, I am the CEO of a nonprofit group called Valley Vision with offices here in Sacramento and in Stockton.  We were created 25 years ago to help mayors and business CEOs, hospital executives and foundation leaders come together around a common table to address complicated issues like creating more affordable housing, improving healthcare access, or unraveling how to fill the jobs of the future that no single group could tackle alone.  Our 33-member board includes the chancellors and presidents of all the major public and private universities, the top businesses and foundations CEOs, and many community and nonprofit leaders.  Our job is to help our communities have the important conversations to be future ready.  So Valley Vision is more than a name, it’s also what we do.

How do you plan for a future in an age of massive disruption? A time when technology is transforming old industries and remaking whole new job categories that didn’t exist even 5 years ago?  What about the impact of artificial Intelligence, machine learning, genetic engineering, and the Internet of Things — how are these forces changing the nature of what work will be in the future?  Which jobs will be replaced by machines, or end all together?  Just how important is digital literacy to future success?  (Hint: it’s very important, and we are lagging here).

Thinking more globally, the United Nation forecasts we will add another billion people to the planet by 2030 — that’s just 11 years away.  Many of them will be born in India, China, and about half in Africa, UN data indicates, where medicine is getting better and birth rates are high, but food and water are scarce.  As the climate changes, who will create the cures and breakthroughs that address our next global challenges?

As an independent organization that works closely with our region’s top universities, all the work force boards, government, business and community groups, Valley Vision starts to answer these questions by curating some of the best research from industry and government sources.  We look deeply at reports from the Economist Intelligence Unit, McKinsey & Company, Brookings Institute and others.  We read the latest findings and talk with the researchers themselves.  We also create our own research, partnering with universities, national think tanks, and private enterprise.

That’s why I was asked to join you this morning. To tell you that we have studied the local economy and talked to area employers and have a good handle on what’s coming in the next 5 years.

So what IS coming next, you might ask…

I hope you might have a pen and some paper so you can take a few notes.  I’m going to tell you what we have learned so far about the jobs of the future here.  You’re going to hear more about this later this morning from experts from the field.  I’m also going to tell you what employers and experts are telling us they need most from graduates. So here goes.

In 2015-16, Valley Vision worked with Theresa Milan and the Los Rios Center for Excellence and conducted quantitative and qualitative research to better understand six high growth industry clusters for which we have a competitive advantage.  We held six forums to gain market intelligence directly from hiring managers and conducted individual interviews.

In 2017-18, Valley Vision, along with our workforce board and Strong Workforce partners, held several industry forums and regional advisory meetings to gain an even deeper understanding of in-demand skills and occupations.  We held four Future of Work forums and also mapped more than 115 industry advisory committees with more than 2,200 members.

This is what we learned:

Manufacturing is not in decline, but is growing both nationally and locally.  It is undergoing a renaissance due to technology and the advantages of local suppliers and the need for quality control.  We have added over a million manufacturing jobs nationally since the recession, and are adding thousands of high paying jobs at places like Siemens Mobility that don’t need a four or even a two-year degree, but a high school diploma, certificates and on-the-job training. Dean Peckham is here from the Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Initiative, and can tell you more.

Construction will need over 36,250 jobs through 2021 to rebuild our communities and homes and to incorporate energy efficiency and green materials.

Information and Communications Technology will need over 22,000 new hires at companies like Teledyne Microwave Solutions in Rancho Cordova and Intel in Folsom, through 2021.

Food and Agriculture here employs over 31,200 people with over 1,800 employers.  Notably, 55% of those jobs are “off farm” in production, distribution and processing.  This sector will have over 5,000 job openings over the next few years.

Another of our studies found that job growth is anticipated to continue at a 2.4% growth rate in life sciences as healthcare.  Registered nurses posted the largest job counts amongst the top 15 occupations with nearly 18,000 job openings expected over the next 5 years.  Social assistance and ambulatory care are driving a lot of the job growth. This is just an example of what we have learned so far.

This region also hired the Brookings Institute to come in and do a “stress test” on our region’s economy.  We are wealthy and productive when compared to the other top 100 metros in the US.  But we are falling behind in digital training and literacy.  We need to increase and align our efforts, especially for Blacks and Latinos that will make up a growing share of our workforce in the next 10 years.

You will hear more about these job trends from experts after my talk and ways you can put them to work for you and your students.  The big takeaway here is that the Sacramento Region population is growing faster than any other region in California and we are experiencing a job boom.

Jobs are here – we just need to do a better job of connecting you to them and the skills to get hired.  A lot of terrific job reports can be found on our website.  Look for this image on the home page and click to the underlying information.  We are here to help you.

I want to leave you with five truths we have uncovered from local employers and from leading research.  These truths will help you prepare students for jobs in the future.

First, focus on skills, not titles.  Job titles are in flux.  They don’t predict what an employee will be doing.  Focus instead on building a solid base of skills and fluency applicable to many occupations.  Generalist eager to learn are more hire-able than specialists in most cases.

The second truth is that job ladders are gone.  We are now in an age of job lattice — moving up, across and sideways over the course of our careers.  Skills remain, but as industries merge and re-form and job requirements shift, progress won’t be linear any more.

The third truth we are hearing is that workplace skills are sometimes equal to or more important than technical proficiency.  Adaptability, collaboration, problem solving, empathy, social awareness — these cannot be replaced by machines.  And these New World of Work skills can both be a student’s biggest advantage and biggest deterrent to upward mobility and success.  We need to teach them.

The fourth truth is that we must end the fiction that your education is over once you graduate.  Today global competition and technology change require us all to be lifelong learners.  Curiosity is key in the new world of work.

Last but perhaps most importantly, the fifth truth is that the evolving world of work requires us all must to be entrepreneurs.  A entrepreneurial mindset is more and more vital in the creative destruction underway in our economy.  It’s equally necessary for those filling job openings as those creating their own, Do-it-yourself future, building the next business enterprise.  This is the gig economy imperative.

As the world confronts huge environmental and social changes, California is an ideal place to build a career for students wanting to create the answers to some of societies most vexing challenges.  Not just cures and the latest technology breakthrough, but how will we feed the next billion?  How can we make our communities more resilient to fire?  Make water go farther for more people and grow more crops for a better life.  The answers will come from your students.  We have the jobs for them, and the opportunity is here to make the world a better place.

Thank you.”

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Bill Mueller is Valley Vision’s Chief Executive.

What Are You Thankful for in 2018?

As each year comes to a close, Valley Vision staff reflect on what we have been thankful for over the past year. It’s an annual tradition, and we are excited to share our reflections with you. Thank you for continuing to support and collaborate with us!

  • Chloe Pan: I am thankful for community and being able to witness all of the love people have for those around them. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Far and away, the best prize that life has to offer is a chance to work hard at work worth doing. And I would add that what makes work worth doing is getting to do it with people that you love.”
  • Bill Mueller: I am thankful for the next generation of problem solvers who are tackling our biggest challenges. The future is in great hands, with a growing crowd of people locally who really care about equity, economy and the environment, and are working in our community daily to do something about it.
  • Jennifer Romero: “I am thankful for family, friends and loved ones near and far, who continue to support and love me during my very hectic culinary endeavors.  I am also thankful for my beautiful wife and all that she does for us, and our furry babies, Max, Marley and Belle!”
  • Yzabelle Dela Cruz: There have been many people and experiences throughout this year that have added a wealth of love and insight to my life. I am grateful for the health of my family, friends, and colleagues, and the ability to share these connections and experiences with people who offer such kindness and support.
  • Tammy Cronin: Family, friends, good health, prosperity and abundance, kindness and generosity.
  • Ruben Moody: I’m thankful for the people around me who continue to drive me forward. They help me create opportunities to evolve and develop as a professional and a person.
  • Debbie Aubert: Being cancer free!
  • Sonia Duenas: 2018 has been a big year of change. I’m grateful for my expanding family, good health, new friendships, and the opportunities that lay ahead. Change is good.
  • Alan Lange: I am thankful to be done with our office hunt. The search was long. The options were many. Very glad we landed in such a great space. And I am also grateful for the many wonderful years spent at the former location.
  • Trish Kelly: Grateful for ongoing love and support from friends and work colleagues as my family experienced loss of loved ones this past year; grateful to be part of a community that is responding so deeply to support those experiencing the devastation of the fires; and grateful to do work that is dedicated to a healthy and sustainable future for the region.
  • Adrian Rehn: I am thankful for the increasingly small differentiation between friends, family, and colleagues. The people I have collaborated with over the past year are all of the above.
  • Evan Schmidt: My family’s health and well-being, good friends and community, and meaningful work that challenges and excites me.
  • Meg Arnold: I’m grateful for Valley Vision’s great new office space, which has enhanced the funkiness of the old office’s brick walls by adding many windows and copious natural light! I’m also grateful for Alan’s steady and quiet hand during the moving process, and for the three great colleagues with whom I share our office “pod.”
  • Emma Koefoed: Thankful being able to move to Midtown this year. Thankful for having the BEST POD EVER.
  • Robyn Krock: There are so many who need a hand right now, I am grateful that I am in a position to be able to help others.

Featured Image Credit: Chantel Elder

Valley Vision Staff Cook Meals for Camp Fire Victims

In the immediate wake of the Camp Fire, several organizations arrived in Butte County to support those facing life with an overwhelming amount of uncertainty. World Central Kitchen, founded in 2010 by Chef José Andrés, was one of the first organizations on scene providing support. For the last several weeks, chefs around California and beyond have rallied to leverage commercial kitchen spaces in making a difference.

World Central Kitchen (WCK) made headlines previously when disaster hit Haiti and Puerto Rico, as well as during the Mendocino Complex and Carr Fires earlier in the year. They have established a reputation now as the tenacious non-profit known for being the go-to organization to feed thousands in the wake of natural disasters. When it became apparent the Camp Fire was going to be yet another wildfire for the record books, WCK made its way up to Northern California to set up a facility. With Paradise only a short drive away and so many people affected, the staff at Valley Vision immediately wanted to find a way to help. In less than a day Project Associates Sonia Duenas, Yzabelle Dela Cruz, and myself registered as volunteers and made our way to Chico, California the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

We arrived in Chico around 11 am and immediately took notice of the blackened hills and fire lines coming right up to the freeway pavement. The smoke was heavy, and not much could be seen past the few cars in front of us. In both directions we passed more than a dozen Cal Fire Trucks, dusty and grayish-red as they returned back down Highway 99, horse trailers packed with animals being transported to makeshift animal shelters, Red Cross disaster vans, pedestrian vehicles noticeably loaded with supplies, bags of clothing, and food, and regular families probably leaving the only home they’ve known. It was a leveling experience just coming into the area. However, once we arrived at the WCK headquarters, the tone instantly changed. What a few moments ago felt so dire, was replaced with a bustling group of cheerful and smiling WCK volunteers that immediately welcomed us and directed us to a station. The Red Cross had just arrived to pick up what was probably lunch, and there was a line of people loading up cambros and sack lunches into the disaster vans. After a quick tour of the facility and run down of tasks to be completed, we made our way across the parking lot to the kitchen to help prep food for the dinner shift. Chef Dominic Orsini, head chef from Silver Oak Winery, greeted us at the door and immediately led all three of us outside to a table with 5 large boxes of Spanish onions that needed to be sliced up for dinner.

“Can you cut onions?”

Slightly intimidated we each quickly grabbed an onion, rubbed off the outer layer of dried peels, sliced off the nubby little ends, and julienned the little herbaceous plants as fast as we could.

“Great! Get started”. And like that, we were off.

For the rest of the day, we were flying around the kitchen, working alongside the many other World Central Kitchen staff, the Silver Oak Kitchen team and other volunteers. As Kerrie Jacobson, a representative from Chef Tyler Florence’s team, was moving back and forth hastily making chimichurri sauce for the dinner meal and simultaneously making batches of quinoa, several of us were outside braising beef chuck on large paella pans. Time flew by as we shared stories about where we were from and why we had come to participate. We met several amazing people including Carrie, a massage therapist who had driven all the way from Santa Rosa to lend her hands, and Joe, a Red Cross organizer who had flown in from Connecticut to help with the relief efforts. Together we were able to prepare over 2,500 dinner meals for Camp Fire victims.

Returning to the car covered in sweat and kitchen debris, we couldn’t help but feel completely humbled and inspired by our time spent with World Central Kitchen. As we pulled out of the parking lot, we watched as the Red Cross vans departed down the road with the meals for delivery, hopefully to bring some comfort to those in need. The experience was one of a kind, and aside from the unfortunate circumstances, Sonia, Yzabelle, and I were grateful that we were able to participate in something so impactful.

Emma Koefoed is a Valley Vision Project Associate contributing to the 21st Century Workforce and Food and Agriculture impact areas. 

What Are the Region’s Five Most Important Transportation Investments?

In January, Valley Vision reported that 93% of local residents said that transportation is of critical importance to business and job growth in the region. The poll result was part of the ongoing survey research of resident attitudes that Valley Vision conducts with the Institute of Social Research at Sac State.  Our latest opinion survey is now out on resident attitudes about what it’s like to live and work here.

Local residents overwhelmingly get the jobs-transportation link, knowing that we have to make 21st Century-minded investment decisions that better connect existing job and education centers and provide people choice in how they get around.

In a letter sent this week to the leadership of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG – the body that decides our transportation investments), Valley Vision’s Board made this case drawing from our own transportation research and work, facts and evidence from the Brookings Institute, McKinsey & Company, and regional as well as local economic development organizations and experts.

Traffic in Sacramento
Image credit: Greg West

The letter states that advanced economies are clustered in cities today, large and small.  It is in these built-up areas where there is a concentration of firms, investment capital, labor, and schools and universities, working together on technologies, cures, products, and services. Cities are where jobs are located. So it makes the most sense to direct the limited dollars we have in investments where the existing jobs and people are, not to where they aren’t.

To support inclusive job and business growth in the Capital Region, Valley Vision’s Board said unanimously that we must prioritize fixing and maintaining what we have. Next up is increasing mobility access and use by making our different transportation systems work better together across city boundaries with technology and governance improvements. Lastly, we have to make careful and strategic investments that connect existing job and education centers to improve opportunity for all, not just some.

So if there’s only so much taxpayer money to go around and we want a healthy economy that is inclusive and doesn’t leave anyone out, where should we invest?  The answer is pretty simple. Valley Vision’s Board came up with what we believe are the “Big Five” priorities.

As numbers one and two, we must find a solution that breaks the traffic gridlock on Highway 50 and Highway 80, which are the backbone that links our region’s largest job centers. We lose millions of dollars in productivity when people are stuck behind the wheel, and we make air quality far worse. Goods movement and commerce are blocked. These conditions impact everyone’s lives, directly and indirectly.

Number three is making transit work for all people – for working professionals and people who do not have any other option but public transit to get to work, school, or services. It makes little sense to have so many transit agencies in our region. Further, it is overly complicated and, in some cases near impossible, to get between cities or across our region by bus, light rail, or bike safely, conveniently, and on time. This is a government efficiency problem as much as an infrastructure investment opportunity that continues to block people from jobs and educational opportunity and slows economic activity. Great strides are being made today by RT and other agency leaders, but an inclusive economy that engages all communities, especially the disadvantaged, requires us to act with urgency.

Sacramento Regional Transit in motion
Image credit: Carlos Eliason

Number four is improving connectivity between Sacramento and the Bay Area. This will require vision and investment that goes beyond business-as-usual. Commuter train service and bus rapid transit should be actively advanced and expanded, in addition to Highway 80 capacity improvements. Being better connected to the world’s epicenter for technology is a wise, long-term economic investment strategy and provides job and business growth opportunities to existing and new firms important to all communities.

Number five is improving connectivity and public investment in and around Sacramento International Airport. This is our gateway to the world. Look at any other metro and their major airport is the hub of their transportation and job network.  Access, opportunity, and growth – core tenants of economic inclusion – are served by public and private investment here.

It’s hard to imagine any issue today getting agreement from 93% of the general public. But the importance of transportation to growing jobs and opportunity here in this region is a no-brainer.  Let’s all make sure when the SACOG Board meets next on December 20th that our elected leaders are prioritizing the sort of investments that better link existing job and education centers.

To learn more about this, we hope you take part in the public forums and input sessions for the 2020 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, now in development.  Key decisions are coming up in the months ahead and making your voice heard is vital to building a community we all want to live in, both now and in the future.

Bill Mueller was Valley Vision’s Chief Executive.

Featured image credit: Jason A. Knowles

Why Election Results and Facts Matter to the Future of This Region

Last week’s election was another defining moment for California.  While electoral votes are not fully counted, we now have a new Governor-elect with an expansion agenda intended to grow social, economic and environmental programs. In addition, new investment commitments were made to increase affordable housing and voters agreed that paying for mobility and road improvements is worth higher gas taxes at the pump.

Closer to home, the election results showed once more that the four-county Sacramento Metro Area is a region divided – a microcosm for the state and nation at large.  Two indicators:  the vote for governor, and the vote for Proposition 6, the statewide measure to repeal the gas tax.

If the election for governor was up to just Placer and El Dorado County voters, John Cox would have won by a landslide, prevailing over Lt. Gov. Newsom with 59% of the vote in both counties. Yet in Sacramento County voters supported Newsome 55% over 44% for Cox, and in Yolo County, the margin was wider: 66% for Newsom and 34% for Cox.

The vote for Proposition 6 tells a similar story. The gas tax repeal was backed strongly by Placer and El Dorado County voters, with 57% in favor.  Yet in Sacramento County voters said “no” to the repeal by a 53% to 46% margin.  Yolo County voters were more emphatic, voting 65% against repeal, with just 35% in favor.

Results like these should remind us all that California’s Capital region is diverse; its voters politically distinct in outlook; and that the political divide is not just across the US but, for us, is just a 45-minute drive in any direction.  This is important to know for political, government, business, or civic leadership agencies like Valley Vision as we conduct our daily business to make this region more prosperous, just and sustainable.

How do you govern in times of sharp disagreement?  You start with facts.  For you cannot facilitate understanding or agreement among varied interests if there’s not agreement first upon the nature of the problems that you collectively face.

In the week following Thanksgiving, Valley Vision will release the results of our latest scientific opinion poll that reveals resident attitudes about what they value (and not) about our quality of life in the Greater Sacramento area.  Working with the Institute of Social Research at Sacramento State, we asked nearly 1,000 local residents how they feel about homelessness, poverty, their chances at upward mobility, education, health care access, and more.  We also asked tough questions about whether they feel included in their community or not, and whether we should embrace the present boom in this region, or preserve the lifestyle we have come to value.

We trust that these scientifically-derived results that reflect the voices of local residents – rich and poor, urban and rural, old and young, White, Black, Latino, Asian and more – will arm the elected officials lucky enough to lead us with the knowledge and insights to bring us together to focus on the issues that residents prioritize as most important to their lives and wellbeing.

It’s part of the value proposition that Valley Vision brings to you, and to those governing.  We appreciate your support, and all our thoughts and prayers at Valley Vision are with the families confronting the Camp Fire and other catastrophes across California.

Bill Mueller was Valley Vision’s Chief Executive.

SB-1 Is Rebuilding the Sacramento Region

From its very beginnings to the modern day, California has always been a land of opportunity that attracted those with a pioneering spirit. Yet for all of our strength, ambition and innovation, it’s incongruous that 60% of our roads require rehabilitation and that a state that ranks as the world’s 5th largest economic powerhouse can – at the same time – rank 48th in the nation when it comes to the condition of our highways.

SB-1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, helps solve this under-investment by bringing necessary resources to rebuild California’s roads and failing infrastructure. The 12-cent gas tax increase, which went into effect in November 2017, is estimated to provide $54 billion for transportation infrastructure repairs across the state over the next 10 years. In the Sacramento region alone, our cities and counties expect to receive $1.1 billion of these funds for local repairs and improvements, with further investment going to highways, bridges, and other state-operated infrastructure that we use every day.

The state’s under-investment in infrastructure in recent decades was the inevitable result of the fact that the gas tax established in 1990 was not indexed to inflation and has not increased since 1994. In the nearly 25 years since then, the purchasing power of the funds from that tax has diminished, creating a wide gap in investment. Two other factors further stress this situation: first, increases in fuel efficiency mean that vehicles consume (and pay gas tax on) less fuel per mile driven; and second, the state’s population continues to grow, increasing use and wear on our infrastructure. SB-1 effectively addresses the shortfall created by all these factors.

Key regional projects like the Highway 50 corridor enhancements between Sacramento and Placerville, the Highway 65 Interchange in Placer County, and the City of Sacramento’s Grid 3.0 project, have all been made possible because of continued SB-1 funding. The measure also allows for investment in smaller projects that would otherwise be overlooked. Among the SB-1 projects set to benefit Woodland is a much-needed redesign of West Main Street, including new bike lanes, sidewalks, and better access to transit.

The Sacramento Regional Transit District, the region’s largest and most utilized transit service provider, providing over 90% of the ridership in the region, relies on SB-1 investment to introduce new programs, expand routes and improve services that the region’s growing population needs and deserves. The $6 million designated annually to SacRT in formula funds is already expanding the popular SmaRT Ride on-demand microtransit service and boosting frequency of light rail service.

Additionally, SB-1 makes it possible to compete and win grants by filling the funding gap. Most often the state and federal policies require a dollar for dollar local investment match. Earlier this year, Sacramento Regional Transit was awarded $84 million out of $400 million needed to modernize its light rail system, including the purchase of low-floor vehicles, double tracking of light rail line between the Sunrise and Historic Folsom stations, increasing service frequency to 15 minutes between Folsom and downtown Sacramento, and planning for peak time express trains once double-tracking is complete.

Simply put, SB-1 funding is enabling local and statewide improvements, which will enhance regional connectivity and improve quality of life for those who live, work, stay and drive in the Sacramento region. Via Proposition 6 on this year’s ballot, voters will determine whether SB-1 will continue to deliver the transit and road improvements that our communities need. Investing in expanded and innovative transportation programs that reduce road congestion, improve mobility and quality of life, and serve a growing population will allow for cities and regions to compete globally.

Bill Mueller was Chief Executive of Valley Vision.

Valley Vision Cohosts Americas Competitiveness Exchange 10

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.

South Sacramento Prioritized for Cap & Trade Investment

At the end of September 2018, the California Air Resources Board unanimously approved South Sacramento-Florin as one of 10 communities statewide for air quality monitoring, positioning us favorably for clean transportation investments to mitigate pollution!

The Sacramento region’s Cleaner Air Partnership has been building momentum for this decision since January by holding over 50 in-person meetings with elected officials and decision-makers in the Capitol and at CARB, and organizing with local air quality advocates and community leaders. Now, the Sac Metro Air District will work with the community to develop an effective emissions reduction program.

We encourage you to read both the CARB Press Release and the Sac Metro Air District Press Release for additional info. View the video of the September 27th session to see the Cleaner Air Partnership’s all-star delegation in action!

“We are extremely pleased CARB selected a Sacramento community to be a first-round priority when implementing the monitoring component and community engagement requirements of AB 617. Through this additional monitoring we will be able to more accurately assess how air pollution affects our most disadvantaged communities,” said Sacramento City Councilmember Larry Carr, who represents parts of the selected area. “This new information will set the stage for what I hope will be new measures by the Sac Metro Air District to reduce emissions including investments in the community for cleaner cars and trucks.”

The Sac Metro Air District is currently seeking South Sacramento-Florin residents, businesses and others to serve on an Air Quality Steering Committee to help create a Community Air Monitoring Plan. The Air District is accepting applications through November 9th, and hosting a community meeting on Thursday, November 1st at the Southgate Library. More information is available on the Air District’s Community Air Protection Program web page.

For questions about getting involved in the Cleaner Air Partnership, please email Adrian Rehn or call (916) 325-1630.

Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Manager overseeing the Cleaner Air Partnership and Valley Vision’s online communications.