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What Are You Grateful for in 2019?

As each year comes to a close, 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 for continuing to support and collaborate with us!

Sonia Dueñas: “I am grateful for good health, friends and family, and to work amongst an awesome team.”

Isa Avanceña: “Grateful to work for causes I believe in and people I admire; to live in a city I love; and for every moment I get to spend with family, friends, and loved ones.”

Bill Mueller: “I’m most grateful for 15 years with the best board, staff team, and regional partners that have transformed thousands of lives for the better.”

Trish Kelly: “I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with my committed colleagues and partners who are dedicated to making the region healthier, more equitable and a great place to live; for new opportunities working in partnership with other regions and the State on inclusive growth strategies; and as always for my family.”

Yzabelle Dela Cruz: “I am thankful for opportunities to do meaningful work, a space to go home to every night, and people and pets to love!”

Ashley Spencer (Align Capital Region): “I am grateful my heath and the ability to move, challenge and strengthen my body and mind. My girlfriends who are truly like sisters I never had, Pete and the life we are building together. my sweet little nephew who makes the holiday season that much sweeter.”

Alan Lange: “Family and friends top my list. But my not-so-obvious point of gratitude goes to a competitive Sacramento Kings squad. Nothing better than being in Golden 1 Arena during the closing minutes of a close game!”

Houa Vang: “I am thankful for the abundance of love and support from my friends and family throughout my life thus far. I am also thankful for working with a team who is passionate in making the community a better place.”

Adrian Rehn: “I am grateful for all of the things I have been given by others this year – it’s hard to believe that I deserve these opportunities.”

Jaqueline Chavez (Thousand Strong Intern): “I’m grateful for my family, friends, and all the opportunities I have been blessed with this year.”

Evan Schmidt: “I feel very fortunate to live the life that I get to live: having a loving and supportive family, working on topics that I care about with smart and supportive colleagues, and living in a community that I love, alongside good friends and neighbors.”

Meg Arnold: “I’m grateful for sailboats, goldendoodles, soup, haircuts, and chili (both vegetarian and non) – and also for the confidence of the Board and staff as I move into the Interim CEO role at Valley Vision in 2020.”

Emma Koefoed: “Friends, family, and health!”

My Growth at Valley Vision

I first applied to be a Valley Vision intern through La Familia’s Thousand Strong program. Initially I was unsure because I did not fully understand what Valley Vision did and almost mistook it for an optometrist. However I found out it was a job that would not require me to be on a desk all day answering phone calls and organizing files. It was more than that, so I decided to apply and find out what Valley Vision was really about.

When I went to my interview I talked with Valley Vision staff and became so much more interested in the job after I found out what they do and what I would be doing. As a Valley Vision Intern you are not just answering phone calls and organizing files, you get to be part of the big picture. So far as a Valley Vision Intern I have been able to help with events, be part of meetings and develop my work ethic. During my first week I learned that so much actually goes into planning an event. It’s not like a party where you just get food and invite your friends over, you need to look at things like budgets so you can get a venue and food as well as all the supplies you need and scheduling everything at a time that works for most people. A lot goes on behind the scenes for projects – it’s not as simple as it seems.

After joining Valley Vision I also developed many useful skills. I have learned how to use digital systems that I do not typically use but that will be useful for my future. I am also treated like an adult and expected to act like an adult which helps develop my work ethic. Through my experiences here I have learned that no matter how stressful and annoying school is, it is teaching me skills that I will need to have for a good majority of jobs. Things like presentations and projects are preparing me for the real world because lots of jobs will require me to be comfortable giving speeches and presenting. Also, all that writing that I do will be very important for when I am writing proper emails or using good communication skills in general. Joining Valley Vision, in the beginning I did feel a bit inexperienced but ready to learn. After working here for a bit I have discovered that all the things I have learned at school are useful for my work.

Jackie feels that working at Valley Vision has taught her the value of continuing her education.

Valley Vision also administers a bunch of massive projects and creates immense changes in our region. The work that is done here is not something quantitative, it is a long process that all starts with a proposal. I have had the privilege to read some proposals as well as sit in on important meetings. Valley Vision creates the foundation for massive projects and builds them up, and as a Valley Vision employee you get to see all of that. What really makes Valley Vision so enjoyable is that there’s always something new, you aren’t always working on the same thing, but rather everyday there is something new to look forward to and you can find projects you really love and want to work on.

Although I have not worked with Valley Vision for long and still have a long ways to go, I have and will continue to learn so much and become a much more efficient person with my work. I feel that in the short amount of time that I have worked here I have been given various diverse tasks that will help develop not only one skill but multiple skills that will mold me into a better person.

Jaqueline Chavez is Valley Vision’s Thousand Strong Intern, brought to us by the City of Sacramento through a sponsorship from Verizon.

Roger Ruvolo Is Wrong About the California Economic Summit

Key points:

  • The State of California lacks a coordinated policy framework to support and invest in California’s 15-18 economic regions. This is the main deliverable of this year’s California Economic Summit.
  • New York’s Regional Councils have proven effective over the past eight years at creating jobs and economic opportunity using a bottoms-up, regionally focused strategy. Let’s borrow a page from their playbook.
  • The Summit will be what we make of it. Let’s have the courage to set aside our differences and work together.

Last week the assistant editor for the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, CA, Roger Ruvolo, wrote an opinion piece called “How Coastal Elites Pat Inlanders On the Head.”  The timing coincides with this week’s California Economic Summit in Fresno. Governor Gavin Newsom is due to give a major economic address there. 

Mr. Ruvolo contends that central planners in Sacramento are bent on fixing one-size-fits-all policies firmly across the state – that the Economic Summit is political staging for already-existing projects like High Speed Rail “that misuses gas tax money.” What really ails Inlanders the most, says Ruvolo, is a local land use pattern that discourages dense downtown economic centers, which tend to spark new business connections and deal making, knowledge sharing and product innovations. Ruvolo implies the State is not helping Inlanders here, citing the work of economist Chris Thornberg.

Ruvolo’s message could easily be dismissed as just another political rant that is all heat and no light. Yet his core message is worth paying attention to for those who attend the Summit. After all, no one could be blamed for being a bit skeptical about a State that grinds on as economic conditions have worsened for one in six Californians; a State that has been known to be disinterested in practical policies that encourage business growth and job creation for all. Could this time be different?

After 10 years of working directly with State and local policy makers, and 20 years in the private and public sectors before that, I feel that this time is different.

California currently lacks a coordinated policy framework for investing in individual regions.

One size does not fit all. Policies that activate downtown LA cannot possibly be made to work in sparsely populated Markleeville in the remote Sierras. At 40 million people and 164,000 square miles, our State is simply too big and diverse for one-size-fits-all economic policies. I believe we all have learned this lesson the hard way – look at urban and rural poverty levels currently. Thankfully, the California Economic Summit and its leaders start with this basic understanding – it’s the bedrock upon which all other conversations are being advanced. Check out the newly released Summit 2019 Playbook to see for yourself.

The much harder job facing the Newsom Administration and lawmakers will be constructing a coordinated policy framework that respects and aligns with individual regions and their economic aspirations. Depending on how you count, there are 15-18 economic regions in the State, necessitating a framework that is adaptive and scalable. In past years the State had something close to this, and made strategic investments in our workforce system which we still benefit from, for example. But nothing like a comprehensive, regions first, bottoms-up policy framework exists today. Yet this is the primary deliverable at the 2019 Economic Summit – to leave with early agreement around a regionally-focused economic framework that is driven by local leaders and supported (vs. directed) by the State. The good news is that there is practical inspiration for how the State can do this at the level we need. Take New York State, for example. 

Ten years ago, New York was falling behind economically, poverty was rising, and the State invested little in high-growth innovation industries or supporting business start-ups. So in 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 regional councils to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth in their region. Each Council created their own economic playbook informed by data and evidence, built from the ground up by business, education, local government, and community-based organizations – not by central planners. The State provided regional actors parameters for performance, participation, and desired outcomes. New York’s Governor and Legislature, knowing that these job growth strategies came with local buy-in and a lot of consideration, then put the weight of the State government behind them. After seven annual rounds of funding, over $5.4 billion has been awarded in performance-based grants and tax credits to these 10 regions, plus targeted investments from aligned State programs. More than 220,000 jobs have been created or retained since the program launched. Future funding rounds are focused on unmanned systems and preparing people for the future of work.So it can be done: regional groups that represent broad-based economic, social, and environmental interests can work closely with State government to achieve measurable economic results that transform lives.

The 2019 Summit is the start to a regionally-focused framework for economic growth that is driven by local leaders with State support.

Here in Sacramento, we have a six-county-wide inclusive growth strategy that’s been in the works since the Brookings Institute provided us a wake-up call about several underlying weaknesses in our local economy. Our response was built with input from business, government, education, labor, and community-based groups and championed by Valley Vision, GSEC, SACOG, and the Metro Chamber. Core features include focusing on building a current and future workforce fluent in digital skills, placemaking investments like Aggie Square and the California Mobility Center, innovation centers that can generate thousands of new jobs, and ensuring job-creating mobility infrastructure investments to move people and goods around the urban core and beyond.

Our Regional Playbook will be unveiled at the Summit. And we aren’t alone. Riverside and Fresno, as well as coastal areas like the San Francisco Bay Area, LA, and San Diego are each advancing their own regional playbooks that leverage unique local assets and economic strengths. Now what we need in 2020 is a policy framework at the State level that can unleash each region’s economic potential, using locally-built economic strategies designed by people and groups who have a big stake in their success. Like New York, some State funding to back up these regional job strategies are high on the list for Sacramento and other regions. The pay off? Greater employment, more tax revenue, reduced social service needs, and an improved quality of life for all Californians.

This week’s Summit in Fresno will be what we make of it.  We can do the easy thing, like criticizing “coastal elites” and “central planners” who we judge don’t understand our communities. Or we can do the hard thing – that is, to summon the courage to use the Summit as a place where we all set aside our differences and find agreement to act boldly together on a bottom’s up, regionally-driven, inclusive growth strategy that fosters economic opportunity for all. The choice is ours.

Bill Mueller was Valley Vision’s Chief Executive through January 31st, 2020.

Leaping from Visioning to Visualization

Taking a major shift in a new direction is never easy, but major shifts can be a catalyst toward progress and the pursuit of big goals. This we know from our work at Valley Vision, where our purpose is to unite the region and to build the necessary energy and scale to overcome the system-sized problems we collectively face. After five and a half years at Valley Vision, I am taking a major leap in the pursuit of big goals.

It’s been an honor to have worked at Valley Vision. Nowhere else would I have had the opportunity to help impact policy, community, and economic development priorities across such a breadth of issue areas important to the Sacramento region. I’ve worked on interesting and challenging projects related to clean air, resilience and sustainability, broadband access and adoption, workforce development, and mental health, to name a few. It’s been an honor to be part of an organization that values collaboration, diversity, and evidence-based decision making. It’s also been an honor to be part of a team of colleagues who are driven, connected, and visionary.

Tammy taking Breathe California Sacramento Region’s Clean Air Pledge in 2018.

As this chapter at Valley Vision comes to a close for me, I am excited to build new skills and explore opportunities in the new world of work. Valley Vision’s work in preparing the 21st Century Workforce has highlighted the importance of building digital skills and upskilling as the future of work continues to unfold. Now is the time for me to pivot into a new opportunity to build skills in data analytics and visualization. As a first step in this journey, I’m attending a six-month intensive bootcamp starting this month! As I begin my new journey and say farewell to colleagues and friends at Valley Vision, I’d like to thank you all for the awesome, interesting, and challenging learning experience my time here has been.  In particular, my thanks go to Trish Kelly – a Woman who Means Business, recipient of the Golden Bear lifetime achievement award for economic development, leader, mentor and friend – for making my time here both rewarding and unforgettable. I look forward to following all that Valley Vision and our partners achieve for the region in the future. I also look forward to our paths crossing again soon along the way.

Tammy Cronin was a Valley Vision Project Leader working in the 21st Century Workforce and Broadband Access and Adoption impact areas. She can be reached at

Technology for the Food and Ag Economy

Farm-to-Fork Live! is broadening across the region… [it is an] opportunity to show the ag-tech and food-tech assets that we are growing in our community.” City of Woodland Mayor Xóchitl Rodríguez

part i: introductions to ag and food technology innovation in the region

On a balmy August afternoon, Valley Vision — together with Woodland Community College and AgStart — hosted “Farm-to-Fork LIVE! Technology for the Food and Ag Economy.” The event was the Season 1 finale of Valley Vision’s Farm-to-Fork LIVE! series, which features conversations on a range of topics, with leaders who are shaping the future of Farm-to-Fork in the Capital Region.

The event kicked off at Woodland Community College with welcome remarks from Woodland Community College President, Dr. Art Pimentel, and City of Woodland Mayor Xóchitl Rodríguez.President Pimentel highlighted Yolo County as a major agricultural area for the entire region, as well as the College’s role in preparing the region’s youth for the future and ensuring that there are opportunities for them to enter the workforce once they graduate. Mayor Rodríguez likewise emphasized food and agriculture as the base of the community, with food products being one of its top priorities.

Attendees listen to innovative Ag Panel at Farm-to-Fork Live! at Woodland Community College.

Following these welcome remarks,
Gabe Youtsey, Chief Innovation Officer at the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, provided an overview of global trends in food and agriculture technology. Youtsey drew attention to the serious threats facing sustainability in agriculture — climate change, resource challenges, shrinking wilderness, a projected increase in food demand. One of the ways to address these threats, Youtsey asserted, is to pluck at the so-called “low-hanging fruit” in food and agriculture, such as making use of robotics or growing food indoors. In addition, there needs to be an agriculture innovation system in California that brings in and hosts new people; opens up the space for different disciplines to get together and understand each other; and considers how to develop the workforce and its entrepreneurs.

The focal point of Part I was a panel discussion with food and agriculture leaders Dr. Martin Ruebelt, Head of Global Consumer Research and Development at Bayer Crop Science andDr. Amit Vasavada, Chief Technology Officer of Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc. Trish Kelly, Valley Vision’s Managing Director, rounded out the panel as its facilitator.

The panel began with self-introductions and overview of their respective companies – one a global life science company and one a home-grown company establishing a global presence. Bayer Crop Science harnesses cutting-edge agricultural and environmental innovations, in pursuit of “Science for a Better Life.” The company strives to deliver solutions that help maximize farm yields, secure harvests from devastating disease and pests, and keep living spaces healthy and vibrant.  In the same respect, Marrone Bio Innovations creates products from microorganisms isolated from samples collected from unique niches and habitats such as flowers, insects, soil and composts. Their proprietary technology enables them to isolate and screen naturally occurring microorganisms and plant extracts to identify those that may have novel, effective and safe pest management or plant health-promoting characteristics.

Led by Kelly, Dr. Ruebelt and Dr. Vasavada discussed the most recent technological advancements in food and agriculture; the implications of these advancements on individuals and society as well as the industry; and the region’s role as one of the world’s hubs for food and agriculture innovation.

on the market rationale for operatilng in the region.

Dr. Vasavada explained that one of the reasons Maronne continues to expand its research and development operations in the region is the education pipeline available at the University of California Davis. UC Davis, one of the leading agricultural universities, provides Maronne with interns who are a perfect fit, many of whom return to work fulltime for the company after graduation. Dr. Ruebelt echoed this sentiment, describing the region as a powerhouse for academia, industry, and farmers to come together. He pointed out that people in the region have a passion and understanding of agriculture, having either grown up immersed in it, or gone to school for it, or perhaps both.

on emerging opportunities in the food and ag industry.

Dr. Vasavada submitted that artificial intelligence (AI) and sustainability are at the forefront of food and agriculture innovation. Additionally, he reflected on how to make use of data and information obtained in the field so that farmers can benefit. Dr. Ruebelt highlighted consumers’ desire for delicious, high-quality, organic food, and developing AI and robotics to address through the roof labor cost.

on current innovation relating to food and ag products.

According to Dr. Vasavada, the focus is likely to be on non-animal based products, such as almond milk and impossible meat. For Dr. Ruebelt, innovation in food will have a lot to do with the creation of new products enabling automation, in order to cut down labor and automize the process of growing and harvesting produce. Genetics can be controlled, but the real challenge in food growth is controlling the environment, especially because of the effects of climate change.

on regional support and the growth of the industry.

Dr. Vasavada emphasized regional partners need to help bridge the conversation between the people developing technology solutions for farmers and the farmers themselves. Additionally, they should fund students and give scholarships. For Dr. Ruebelt, regional partners need to continue the great effort of educating people on the advancements in agriculture, emphasizing how it is changing and evolving to address issues such as water quality, how to store energy, and how to feed people. This includes bringing science, technology, engineering, and math into schools early on.

part i: wrap-up

In their closing statements, Drs. Vasavada and Ruebelt reiterated the need to use technology in order to minimize inputs and maximize outputs, as well as the importance of sharing ideas, recognizing that one company cannot provide everything. The incredible ecosystem of food and agriculture players and partners in the region should be utilized to the fullest extent. The panel finished with an open forum, with questions and conversations that touched on information sharing; the accessibility of technology to small farmers; urban agriculture; and addressing ethical considerations related to new technology and processes.

Part I concluded with a brief presentation by John Hodgson on the proposed Woodland Research and Technology Park — a new technology hub going through the planning process in the City of Woodland, intended to serve an array of research and technology companies interested in locating and growing near U. C. Davis, and other research and technology institutions within the Sacramento region. 

part ii: the entrepreneur spotlight and reception

It’s not just an office; it’s a family.” Anat Bujanover, Saturas USA, Inc.

Part II of the event was an opportunity for attendees to tour AgStart in Woodland and hear from entrepreneurs about their respective technologies, and the ways that AgStart and other partners have helped them expand their capabilities and the reach of their companies.

AgStart, is a non-profit business incubator that is accelerating the growth of innovative food and agriculture technology companies, and strengthening the region’s innovation ecosystem.  Its network-centric incubation model offers mentorship and connections, providing access to resources that new companies need to thrive. Through Economic Development Administration funding support, AgStart is a partner with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Verde Innovation Network (The VINE), facilitating a statewide network of incubators and accelerators. AgStart Sponsors include Bayer Crop Science and HM. CLAUSE.

AgStart Program Director Leanna Sweha gave an overview of AgStart’s missionKen Hiatt, Assistant City Manager of the City of Woodland, communicated Woodland’s natural resources and culture of innovation have shaped the future of food and agriculture for over a century. He also highlighted The Food Front — a movement dedicated to keeping Woodland at the forefront of food and agricultural responsibility by cultivating existing relationships and warmly welcoming new ones. Supervisor Don Saylor, of District 2, Yolo County, elaborated on Woodland and UC Davis’ extensive network of collaborators, not just in the region, but in several other parts of the world as well. AgStart’s President John Selep introduced some of AgStart’s entrepreneurs and underscored the importance of their work in advancing food and agriculture technology in the region and around the world:

Anat Bujanover, General Manager of Saturas USA, IncSaturas, an Israeli irrigation company, is making its first USA home in Woodland at AgStart.  Eighty percent of farmers irrigate their trees without any scientifically-based information. This causes water waste, affects the quality and quantity of the fruit, and reduces profitability. Although stem water potential (SWP) is scientifically recognized as the most accurate measurement of water status in plants, famers today can only use a manual, labor-intensive procedure for SWP measurement for optimal irrigation. Saturas’ SWP sensor-based precision irrigation system provides a solution that combines accuracy, ease of use, and affordability. It involves embedding sensors in the trunk, which provides direct contact with water tissues for accurate and continuous water status measurement.

Dr. Fatma Kaplan, Chief Executive Officer of Pheronym. Pheronym is a Davis-based ag biotech start-up that relocated to the region from Florida; it develops nontoxic solutions for plant protection. It is a tenant in the UC Davis-HM. CLAUSE Life Science Innovation Center. Without pesticides, there would be 50-80% crop loss globally, representing billions of dollars of financial loss to producers. Farmers have to use pesticides, but toxic chemical pesticides are being removed from the market. Nemastim™, Pheronym’s patented beneficial nematode conditioner, provides a safe and effective way to direct beneficial nematodes to attack target insects in a “pack,” resulting in a 5X insect kill rate as compared untreated nematodes. Pherocoat™, its patented seed treatment, directs plant-parasitic nematodes away from healthy roots

Daniel Cathey,Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Inputs. Daniel is a UC Davis graduate and home-grown entrepreneur. Inputs is an online agricultural marketplace which helps farmers obtain the best prices for their inputs while providing broader market reach, shorter sales cycles, reduced costs, and increased sales for retailers. Inputs addresses key pains facing growers and retailers, while bringing added value to both sides of the marketplace.

All three entrepreneurs noted the value they receive from being part of the region’s innovation ecosystem – the access to rich resources through UC Davis, AgStart, HM.CLAUSE, farmers, other companies, local jurisdictions, network partners supporting the food and ag economy, and overall community support. Attendees then had the opportunity to converse with one another while enjoying a selection of locally-sourced wines and snacks. 

Valley Vision is grateful to its partners for the opportunity to collaborate in bringing Farm-to-Fork to the forefront of community discussion and engagement. We look forward to continuing our work in this area, and we hope to see you at Season 2 of our series!  If you’d like to receive updates about future events, we invite you to subscribe to our Food and Agriculture newsletter.

Look for information on next Season’s Farm-to-Fork Live Series!

Isa Avancena is Valley Vision Project Associate supporting our Innovation & Infrastructure impact area, as well as an Executive Assistant to Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller, and Managing Director Trish Kelly.

Wildfire Preparation and Air Monitoring Efforts Heat Up

On Friday, August 30th in Sacramento, local leaders heard new eye-opening statistics about the state of California’s forests. Compared to last year’s 1.2 million acres burned in wildfires across the state, this year has been far less destructive, with less than 5% of 2018’s fire-scarred acreage burned so far in 2019. With under four months to go before 2020, there is hope that we can continue to manage wildfires at the current pace and save lives in the process.

Every three months, the Valley Vision-managed Cleaner Air Partnership gathers business leaders, agency representatives, environmental advocates, elected officials, and others to discuss pressing topics in the air quality space. On August 30th at the Sacramento Regional Builders’ Exchange (SRBX), 55 attendees had a conversation about the State of California’s wildfire preparation efforts and received an update on implementation of Community Air Protection efforts (also known as AB 617) in the South Sacramento – Florin area. A full video of the gathering can be viewed here.

The meeting kicked off with an update from Pat Shelby, a resident of the South Sacramento community where Florin Road crosses Highway 99. This community faces deep environmental inequities related to air pollution in particular, and last year was designated one of ten AB 617 implementation communities across the state. AB 617 (also known as the ‘Community Air Protection Program’) empowers residents to take ownership of air monitoring and community investments meant to alleviate environmental injustices. Currently, Pat serves as Vice Chair on the Community Steering Committee which is guiding deployment of air monitors and working toward a Community Air Monitoring Plan, in partnership with the local Sac Metro Air District, to be informed by the monitoring data. The Committee meets monthly and the public is encouraged to attend. You can find more information, including an upcoming meeting schedule on the Sac Metro Air District website.

A Steering Committee of South Sacramento – Florin residents is guiding clean air investments to improve air quality and to alleviate environmental injustices.

A panel of wildfire and forest management experts then took the stage: Supervisor Brian Veerkamp, representing the County of El Dorado; Evan Johnson, Executive Officer at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and head of the Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery; John Melvin, Staff Chief for Resource Protection & Improvement at CAL FIRE; and Matthew Reischman, Assistant Deputy Director for Resource Protection & Improvement at CAL FIRE. Matthew provided the following eye-opening wildfire statistics from January 1st to August 26th:

  • In 2018, there were 5,300 fires across the State
  • In 2019 so far, there has been a total fire count of 4,200 fires, which is shaping up to be a similar total to 2018
  • In 2018, 1.2 million acres burned statewide
  • So far 2019, only 55,000 acres have burned (27,000 acres in the state responsibility area, and 28,000 on federal land)
  • Typically, CAL FIRE keeps 95% of wildfires on state-managed land to 10 acres burned or less

Of course, this begs the question – why are we in such better shape this year compared to last? Panelists provided a number of reasons for the improvements. This year Governor Newsom and the Legislature provided CAL FIRE with additional fire suppression resources and aircraft to combat fires. Our state continuously setting records for its worst historical fire season over the past five years has resulted in a deeper awareness of catastrophic wildfire and the danger it poses. Two “wet years” following an extended drought period increase health of trees and surrounding vegetation. Deeper snow pack combined with late spring rains have shortened the fire season, and we have been lucky with a comparative lack of high winds so far this year.

But luck isn’t enough, and state agencies and localities are moving rapidly to build resilience and to prepare. Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-05-19 on January 9, 2019, which directed CAL FIRE, in consultation with other state agencies and departments, to recommend immediate, medium and long-term actions to help prevent destructive wildfires. CAL FIRE identified 35 priority fuels reduction projects across the state to be completed before the end of 2019, a map of which can be found here.

Evan Johnson’s Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery authored a final report that includes recommendations to revise existing utility liability provisions, establish a wildfire fund, and take action on cost recovery and wildfire insurance.

El Dorado County Supervisor Brian Veerkamp and a panel of forest management experts provided an overview of state and local wildfire abatement efforts.

The State of California is also in the process of pulling together a shared stewardship agreement with the federal government. CAL FIRE, the Governor’s Office, and U.S. Forest Service Region 5 officials are in talks to finalize this agreement, which will outline responsibilities of the state and the U.S. Forest Service. It will include everything from fuel break work to capacity-building and finding new uses for wood products. Workforce development and new strategies to elevate rural economies are deeply interwoven with this process.

Supervisor Veerkamp affirmed the need for homeowner education. In 2018, the State codified Public Resources Code 4291, which includes mandates for properties on forested or mountainous lands. Unfortunately, only a small minority of El Dorado County residents are aware of these laws. In line with PRC 4291, El Dorado County passed a mandatory vegetation management ordinance which crosses property lines – with vegetation required to be kept at a minimum of 100 feet from structures that will burn.

In August, the Governor announced Listos California, a new $50 Million statewide effort to build resiliency from the ground up in vulnerable communities at high risk for wildfires and other disasters, with Valley Vision serving as the support team.

John Melvin summed it up well – “the state has committed $200 Million toward wildfire preparation every year for the next five years. Can we continue to spend $200 Million annually to do this work?” In order to continue to treat overgrown forests at risk of wildfire and to ensure markets for the debris that is generated, commercialization becomes a priority and an avenue to real change. If we work together to find innovative solutions, perhaps we can make certain that this work gets done.

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

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

Preventing Displacement in the Future of Work

The future of work will not arrive all at once, with a thud and a sudden robot takeover. Rather, incremental changes will gradually affect how work is organized and the mix of jobs in the economy. Of course, this is already happening. Technologies, like automation, artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and more are giving rise to new occupations and phasing out old ones. McKinsey Global Institute issued a new report, The Future of Work, in July 2019 describing a nuanced picture of how different geographies, occupations, and social demographics will be impacted by these changes to work as a result of technological disruption.

  • They found that for different geographies, the size and economic engine of a community makes a huge difference in how significantly job displacement impacts that area. 25 mega-cities, or the nation’s largest cities with the most dynamic economies, like San Francisco, Chicago, or Atlanta, house 96 million people and have generated most job growth since the Great Recession. These same cities could capture 60% of US job growth through 2030.  To contrast, 54 trailing or more mid-sized cities, such as Yuba City, El Paso, Texas, or Flint, Michigan and roughly 2,000 rural counties, which collectively house 78 million people, have shrinking workforces, lower educational attainment, and higher unemployment. These cities are positioned for modest job gains, but rural counties could see a decade of flat or even negative growth.
  • Some occupations are at high risk for displacement while others will change and grow. Office support, food service, transportation and logistics, and customer service roles are at high risk of displacement in the next round of automation. At the same time, the economy will continue to create jobs, particularly roles in healthcare, STEM fields, and business services, as well as work requiring personal interaction. These changes will be uneven with new jobs appearing in some place and not others – there will be challenges in addressing these mismatches in different localities and workers will need help gaining new skills.
  • Labor market outcomes already vary across demographic groups and automation could amplify these patterns. Individuals with a high school degree or less are four times more likely to hold highly automatable jobs than those with bachelor’s degrees. Hispanic and African-American workers may be hit the hardest, with up to 12 million displaced. Nearly 15 million jobs held by young people could be lost, requiring new actions around creating career pathways for today’s students and young workers. Workers over 50 hold an additional 11.5 million at-risk jobs. Finally, middle wage jobs may shrink as growth concentrates at the high and low ends of the wage scale.
Valley Vision and SETA are partnering to prevent displacement of high-risk occupations.

Where is the Sacramento region in all of this? In the McKinsey research, metropolitan Sacramento is considered a stable city – in league with other comparable cities such as Kansas City, Fresno, Stockton, Birmingham, Alabama, Indianapolis, Indiana, and many others. These cities fall between the growth of mega-cities and the risk of trailing cities and rural areas. The Brookings Institution categorized us similarly when they did an economic assessment of our region last year and came to some similar findings about our region’s need to prepare workers for a digital future. Brookings noted that we are lagging in our attainment of digital skills. The need for digital skills is increasing significantly at all job levels, but our workers are behind in the attainment of digital skills and there are disparities across demographic groups in learning these skills, with Hispanic and African-Americans falling the furthest behind.

All signs point to the need to address these realities today. Valley Vision has been actively working to create dialogue, alignment, and action to prepare us for a digital and automated future for our regional employers, education systems, and communities. We are excited to announce a new effort to address regional Future of Work challenges. Valley Vision is working with the four Capital Region Workforce Development Boards, including the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA), Golden Sierra, Yolo County, and North Central Counties Consortium to develop our own regional analysis of high-risk occupational profiles. Much like the McKinsey report outlined, different occupations and demographic groups will be impacted differently by job displacement due to automation and other technologies. We will create a much deeper understanding of how Sacramento will be affected by these differences by defining and quantifying high-risk occupations in this region. We will be able to pinpoint the risk that our region faces when it comes to displacement and use this research to develop lay-off aversion, education, and job training strategies. This cutting-edge research will provide valuable insight and help us move past our worries about the future and move towards taking action to improve our opportunities and economy.

Valley Vision has already been active with Future of Work issues and our new project will get us to the next level. Some of the key actions we’ve taken so far:

  • We have been working with the four Capital Region Workforce Development Boards on a Future of Work initiative to understand the shape and dimensions of these changes in the Capital region since 2017. Starting with forums in Yolo, El Dorado, Yuba, and Sacramento counties, Valley Vision reviewed the preeminent research from across the country exploring these changes in the nation and used the findings to create priorities with community partners from business, education, workforce, and others.
  • In May this year, we worked in partnership with the regional Workforce Development Boards to create the Future Focus event – bringing a national futurist speaker to the region to address the coming challenges.
  • We have initiated a Digital Skills Initiative to address the gap in digital skills and ready workers for the future. Through this work we are developing strategies to prepare the workforce for the future of work as part of the regional Prosperity Strategy in partnerhship with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, and the Sacramento Metro Chamber.
  • As part of our Digital Skill focus, we are part of the Sacramento Digital Inclusion Coalition to expanding digital equity in the region.

The Future of Work will change the dimensions of our economy and impact the opportunities throughout our nation and region. In the next few months, Valley Vision will be sharing a great deal of information about how we can best prepare for this disruption. To keep up with Valley Vision’s work, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Senior Director working on the Public Opinion Surveying initiative and projects in the Healthy Communities and 21st Century Workforce strategy areas.

Age Matters Across the Issues

From the Research Unit: What are the core issues across age demographics in the Capital Region?

Age matters when it comes to our day-to-day experiences and the perspectives that we hold. Valley Vision’s Research Unit is developing a series of research briefs profiling the unique views of different age demographics by drawing from our public opinion polling series.  We have been conducting public opinion polls, in partnership with Sacramento State, Institute for Social Research (ISR) since 2017 – looking at Capital Region residents’ priorities, values, experiences, and preferences on Civic Amenities, Transportation, Quality of Life, and the Environment. For our upcoming research profiles, we’ve pulled out data points from each age demographic to dive deeper and look at how our polling data relates to other research for each generation. We will be exploring the generations, defined as: Gen Z and Millennials (aged 18-38); Gen X (aged 39-54); and Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation (aged 55+). Here are some samplings of age-related issues that we will analyze with our upcoming research profiles.

According to our Livability Poll, Gen Z and Millennials are oriented towards housing affordability and access to opportunity when determining where they want to live. When asked their top considerations in their choice of residence, Gen Z and Millennials cited “it is an affordable place to live” (54%), “access to high quality jobs” (50%) as the most important factors. Additionally, Gen Z and Millennials are the most mobile, saying that they are most likely to have moved within the last three years and are most likely to move within the next three years when compared with other generations. A recent study by The National Association of Realtors looked at where Millennials want to live across the nation. They found that the most popular city for Millennials in California is not Sacramento, not San Francisco, not LA, but… (wait for it)….Bakersfield. Why? Because Bakersfield is the most affordable metro in the state. What can Sacramento learn? We will have to earn Millennial and Gen Z’s residency (and prevent their flight to Bakersfield) by providing affordable neighborhoods and employment opportunities. 

Photo credit: The Katchet Life. Mural by Tysan Throbe

Our polls show that Gen X, now in their late 30s to early 50s, are oriented towards family amenities – like high quality and nearby public schools, parks, and youth programs. Gen Xers in the Capital Region prefers suburban communities more strongly than other age demographics and are more likely to participate in local community activities like art shows and youth sports. In our expert roundtables about housing and livability, participants agreed that meeting the needs of families downtown is key to keeping our downtowns vibrant. This is consistent with other research findings. Designing for children translates to designing people-friendly spaces that are walkable, safe, and attractive, according to CityLab. With the City of Sacramento Unified School District in financial crisis, can we ensure that downtown remains a viable location for families now and in the future?

Those 55 and over are also a significant portion of the population with their own unique perspectives and needs. As featured in a recent Sacramento Bee article, by 2030, the 60-and-over population will be 40 percent larger in California than it is now, according to the California Department of Aging. Seniors will be a larger share of the population than kids under the age of 18 by 2036, the state projects. Additionally, a recent homeless count found that one in five homeless individuals in Sacramento county are 55 or over. This is highly concerning and heartbreaking, especially with the unique health care and other needs of the elderly. Our polls show that those 55+ are more likely than other generations to move because they are looking for cheaper rent (15% vs. less than 10% for other generations), and are looking for a variety of housing choices (41% want a greater variety compared to 27% or less of other generations). How do we ensure that our communities are properly caring for the unique needs of our growing senior population?

In order to build equitable, prosperous, and sustainable communities now and in the future, we must take into account the unique needs across generations. These issues and more will be further explored in the coming months as we dive deeper into the age demographics of our four public opinion polls to date. Stay tuned!

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

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Senior Director working on the Public Opinion Surveying initiative and projects in the Healthy Communities and 21st Century Workforce strategy areas.


Fighting Fire with Innovative Partnerships

In 2019, wildfires continue to threaten our quality of life here in California. Annual wildfire-related deaths grew tenfold between 2016 and 2018. Toxic smoke from these fires threatens public health and economic activity. Fire suppression, past logging practices, and climate change have turned forests into vast thickets of tinder, ripe for the next devastating mega-fire. And the fires are getting worse.

It’s critical that decision-makers see and understand this problem – and potential solutions – firsthand. On June 28th, The Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), our region’s transportation and land use planning agency, hosted an excursion for regional elected officials and partner agencies to learn about wildfire and forest management projects across El Dorado County. The day-long tour was organized by David Shabazian, project lead for the Rural-Urban Connections Strategy (RUCS), and an important accompaniment to SACOG’s toolset for boosting rural economies and preserving natural lands.

El Dorado County Supervisor Brian Veerkamp, a fifth generation county resident and former fire chief, guided our tour bus past expansive thickets of brush on our way north from our launch point at Apple Hill past Coloma and Georgetown. Supervisor Veerkamp acknowledged that many residents use these small trees and underbrush to maintain privacy, but affirmed that the biomass “needs to be removed in order to protect us all.”

Our first stop was at the UC Berkeley-run Blodgett Forest Research Station, where Station Manager Dr. Robert York steered us through several sections of forest where researchers test controlled burning, vegetation management, and approaches to regrowth across nearly 4,400 acres. For over 50 years, research at Blodgett has been largely funded through the annual sale of timber harvested sustainably on its grounds. It is the only research site of its kind in California, and has produced over 400 publications on fire ecology, atmospheric chemistry, hydrology, and more.

The King Fire in 2014 scorched over 97,000 acres of El Dorado County forestland.

In 2014, the King Fire burned nearly 9% of the total area of El Dorado County. Our second stop on the tour was to a sobering viewpoint of the King Fire “burn scar” further along Wentworth Springs Road, where the soil is gray and blackened trees dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. Soil scientist Marie Davis explained the devastating after-effects that fires have on watersheds, like nutrient-rich topsoil getting washed into rivers, which slows recovery and clogs up dam infrastructure.

Our final stop was at Big Hill Lookout northwest of Kyburz, where we were treated to a view of SMUD’s Upper American River Project, which generates hydropower via an extensive series of lakes, dams, and powerhouses. The project generates 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year – 15% of Sacramento County’s total power demand.

There are other innovative forest management efforts right here in our region that serve as important models for replication or expansion. The French Meadows Project brings together the Placer County Water Agency, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, County of Placer, American River Conservancy, and UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute to restore forests and protect water supply on 27,000 acres of mainly U.S. Forest Service-owned land in Placer County. The project, nested within the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative, is funded by a shared investment from the federal government through the Forest Service, state government through the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and local sources like PCWA, the County of Placer, and private donors. French Meadows’ unique partnership and governance model is allowing the restoration project to advance rapidly to an implementation stage and serve as a model for accelerating ecologically-based forest management across the Sierra Nevada.

Big Hill Lookout near Kyburz was a great viewing place to see the network of lakes and dams that make up SMUD’s Upper American River Project.

Oregon-based Blue Forest Conservation has also introduced a unique partnership and financing model to fund a forest restoration pilot project in 15,000 acres across the North Yuba River watershed. Blue Forest and the World Resources Institute developed a Forest Resilience Bond powered by private capital, which funds the upfront costs of restoration while the Yuba Water Agency and others reimburse investors over time. The result of this financing model is a $4.6 Million project that can begin implementation rapidly with in-kind permitting and planning support from Tahoe National Forest personnel. Both the French Meadows and North Yuba River projects benefit from new collaborations between partners that haven’t historically worked together, unique and flexible financing models that allow for earlier implementation, and the latest scientific findings about treating forests in an ecological manner.

Thanks to David Shabazian for organizing the tour, as well as his team at SACOG who helped put the excursion together – Lynnea Ormiston, Christina Lokke, Rosie Ramos, Renée DeVere-Oki, Kacey Lizon, and CEO James Corless. Thanks also to the tour sponsors – Sierra Nevada Conservancy, SMUD, El Dorado Irrigation District, and Sierra Pacific Industries. To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

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

Coast to Coast: Chloe Heads to Graduate School

It’s a stale joke now, but I’ll be honest – the first time I heard Bill mention Valley Vision when I was in high school, I thought he provided eye care services. When I was corrected and told it was a nonprofit, I still thought it was a nonprofit eye care organization. Who knew that I’d later be inducted into the Valley Vision family and actually become proficient at explaining what Valley Vision is about (to the various people who call the office asking to speak to an optometrist, no less).  

But alas, all good things must come to an end. I’ll be leaving Sacramento soon to receive my Masters in Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School to continue my education in International Relations for Humanitarian Aid and Human Security. As excited as I am to be starting this new chapter of my life in Boston, it’s a bittersweet goodbye. Every experience I’ve had at Valley Vision has reinforced the fact that there are so many people around us not only to help, but also who are dedicated to helping others.

I got to sit down with dedicated Old Sacramento Waterfront stakeholders who spent hours around a table brainstorming how to improve the district and support local businesses. I helped organize a conference for 200 people who were passionate about leveraging funds for Opportunity Zones. I attended a national summit, representing the Sacramento region and the EPIC Trail to learn about equitable development practices to improve residents’ quality of life across the country. I engaged with statewide economic development leaders to create a regions-up inclusive economic strategy with Lenny Mendonca, Director of GO-Biz. Just recently, I even got to contribute to the early stages of a new California For All campaign to improve disaster preparedness across the state with the Governor’s Office and California Volunteers. 

But how is a tiny team from Sacramento trying to enact systemic change and make a dent in these big problems? 

Well, some days it can feel like it’s a lot of talk. You go from meeting to meeting and wonder if you’ve actually helped anyone. On top of that, you might not have the perfect solution, you definitely can’t do it alone, and big ideas just take a lot of time and money that you don’t always have. Even in the best case scenario, you may not see change come about until decades later and people will have long forgotten about your contributions. But it doesn’t matter. We aren’t motivated by shiny awards and we aren’t easily discouraged. Our mission is to improve people’s quality of life and I can guarantee that we all have this dogged determination to make it happen. That’s what Valley Vision is about.

This vibrant region is filled with people who are devoted to growing the food we eat, improving the quality of air we breathe, insuring the success of local businesses, and providing care and services to those in need. There are so many compassionate individuals here that made me realize that this is truly work worth doing and I will forever be grateful to them for instilling in me this community-based mindset that I will take abroad. No matter where I go, the love I have for this region and this city will come with me.

Chloe Pan was Executive Assistant to Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller and Project Lead for the EPIC Trail.

My Valley Vision Experience

Mekdem Wright served a 12-month term as a Student Board Fellow with Valley Vision while pursuing his MBA at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, through the GSM’s Nonprofit Board Fellowship Program. He has recently graduated with his MBA and completed his board fellowship, and reflects on the experience here.

This past year with Valley Vision has been an invaluable experience for me. I’ve learned about the responsibilities of nonprofit board service and developed an understanding of how to manage and operate a nonprofit. I’ve learned an effective approach to economic, environmental and social progress. I’ve connected to this community – my community.

Learning Valley Vision’s Collective Impact Approach – My fellowship began with a one-on-one board orientation with CEO Bill Mueller and included a crash-course in who Valley Vision is, what they do, how they do it, and why they do it. He taught me their “Collective Impact” approach – how they connect and engage the regional ecosystem to mobilize towards economic, environmental and social progress. Wherever there are gaps in these change efforts, Valley Vision seeks not to fill the gaps themselves but instead to pull and “stitch” the regional network together, working through collaborative cross-sector partnerships and coalitions. They always have a positive exit strategy in mind, intending to eventually hand-off the work to others. This was profound to me at the time and counter to most of the conventional business school teachings I was receiving. In my time with Valley Vision, I saw this theory in practice time and time again and the success it produced. Collective Impact has now become my default approach and way of thinking about change.

A Seat at the Table – As a Board Fellow, I was humbled and honored to have a seat among the top CEOs, chancellors, presidents and executives of the region’s anchor institutions. We came together over (yummy!) food and drink to discuss important issues in the community including:

  • the Aggie Square Innovation Hub and improving connectivity between UC Davis and industry,
  • K-12 education in Sacramento County,
  • safety and equity in the Sacramento region in light of the Stephon Clark tragedy, and
  • regionally-driven, state-wide inclusive economic development strategies.

The insights I gained from these discussions were extremely valuable in developing my own understanding of effective strategies and tactics for regional change and the challenges and barriers that come with them.

Photo Credit: Brian Baer, California Rice Commission

Connecting to Valley Vision’s Network – As a backbone organization creating collective impact, Valley Vision is connected to a powerful leadership network that starts with its board of directors and expands out to over 6,000 leaders across Northern California. As a board fellow I had the privilege of accessing this network and developing my own personal network. Most notably, I helped Valley Vision to conduct a Wildfire Smoke Impacts Assessment which involved having one-on-one dialogue with top leaders from the region’s businesses, schools, universities, utilities, and governments.

I’ve grown to call this Capital region my home since moving here in 2016, and my experience with Valley Vision has played a big part in helping it to feel like home. Valley Vision has helped me to build my professional network, better understand the community, and embed myself within the community. I’m unsure where my next step will take me, but I hope to remain a part of this community and continue to help to make it more equitable and livable in whatever capacity I can.

Lastly but certainly not least, I want to thank all the passionate and dedicated staff at Valley Vision – my friends, mentors, and fellow champions of change. You are all truly heroes and continually inspire me with the work you do and how you do it.

Mekdem Wright served a 12-month term as a Student Board Fellow with Valley Vision while pursuing his MBA at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, through the GSM’s Nonprofit Board Fellowship Program. He has recently graduated with his MBA and completed his board fellowship.

Promoting Opportunity for All Californians

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Mueller was Valley Vision’s Chief Executive.

Featured photo credit: Habitat for Humanity