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Cap-to-Cap Returns to D.C. – A First-Timer’s Experience

After over two years of a mostly virtual work environment, I didn’t quite know what to expect from the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s annual week-long Cap-to-Cap program. Not only would it be my first Cap-to-Cap experience, it would also be one of the first few times since March 2020 that I would be interacting with folks face-to-face, instead of Zoom square-to-Zoom square. In conversations with “veterans” (those who’ve attended prior Cap-to-Cap trips), I gathered that it was going to be a whirlwind week of events, meetings, and huddles — with few chances to catch a breath, and many opportunities to connect with regional and federal leaders.

To be sure, our region’s annual delegation to D.C. is a force – The Chamber’s Cap-to-Cap program has been happening nearly every year since 1970, representing the largest and longest-standing delegation of its kind. In that time, Cap-to-Cap has driven steady and consistent advocacy, ushering significant advances for business and community development, an inclusive economy, and a vibrant, healthy and connected region.

This year, Valley Vision staff played an active leadership role in Cap-to-Cap’s policy advancement. We Co-Chaired or served as Issue Experts on the Air Quality, Economic Development, and Food and Agriculture teams, and participated in the Workforce and Education team. On each team, we shaped policy papers and communicated critical regional issues to federal agencies and our elected officials, as well as continued building a network of relationships with federal legislative and agency representatives that continues throughout the year and brings added benefit to the region.

It was an honor to be able to champion our region side by side with local elected officials and jurisdictions, foundations and nonprofits, utilities, healthcare providers, industry representatives, among many others. And the running joke — that of course we all had to fly clear across the country to meet people from our own region — certainly has some truth to it. Because being in our nation’s capital, against the backdrop of Capitol Hill and the national monuments, with the common goal of elevating the needs and priorities of our region, brings us all together in an exceptionally meaningful way and gives us the opportunity to connect with folks who we don’t regularly cross paths with back home. 

The Cap-to-Cap Air Quality team meeting with Senator Feinstein’s staff on Future Mobility and Wildfire Resilience issues.

I’m especially grateful to have participated in the Cap-to-Cap program at such an important time for our region. New, unprecedented investments in regional economic recovery — financial commitments to infrastructure, economic, environmental, and community resilience through both state and federal government channels — present our region with the opportunity to rebuild and grow sustainably, with a commitment to community and equity at the center of it. These include the Community Economic Resilience Fund (“CERF”), a one-time use of State general funds that will distribute $600 million to regions across California to support inclusive and low carbon economic development; a $6 billion investment in California’s broadband infrastructure and enhancing internet access for unserved and underserved communities; and billions in American Rescue Plan Act funds distributed through the Economic Development Administration for advancing high-growth sector and workforce priorities, just to name a few. We’ve certainly got our work cut out for us, to ensure that our region makes the most of this once-in-a-generation opportunity. 

Championing our region to elevate its challenges and successes, breaking bread with regional change-makers, making my way around Capitol Hill — my first Cap-to-Cap experience was one for the books, and I’m already looking forward to the next one!

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

Isa Avanceña is Valley Vision’s Manager of Research and Policy.

#Elevate Success at the EMERGE Summit

“Be vulnerable,” advised Metro EDGE’s 2019 Young Professional of the Year, Verna Sulpizio Hull. As the Welcoming Speaker for the 2020 Metro EDGE EMERGE Summit, Hull offered a much needed reminder for me and other Summit attendees to remain open to new things. After all, it was clear to everyone that this year’s EMERGE Summit was different: the world was in the middle of a pandemic, and so Northern California’s largest conference for emerging leaders had to go virtual. Nevertheless, with this year’s theme as #Elevate, that did not stop the Sacramento Metro Chamber Foundation’s Metro EDGE from organizing an impactful 2020 event for young leaders throughout the Sacramento region.

On the morning of September 17th, four of my Valley Vision colleagues and I tuned in to the EMERGE Summit, exchanging remarks via our group chat and excited to interact with the event’s virtual format. The day’s speakers and breakout sessions were to be presented through an event and conference app, which immediately allowed us to engage with emerging professionals via virtual networking and the event’s main page. As described by Valley Vision Project Associate Houa Vang, “I was skeptical at first because this was my first time attending a virtual conference, but was taken aback on the superb coordination and transitions between speakers, music during breaks, and breakout sessions.” Project Manager Grace Kaufman further said, “The sessions were thoughtfully designed, the eclectic array of speakers were inspiring, and the mix of local music in between sessions kept me glued to my screen and engaged for the entirety of the conference.” 

One of those engaging speakers was Unseen Heroes’ Roshaun Davis, a brand development professional whose steps to building community helped me see the importance of nurturing in my work. Followed by keynote speaker and multimedia journalist Marianna Sousa, the event continued to bring attention to equity and social healing, which I couldn’t help but see as very fitting with recent events. “Restoration before reputation” stated Sousa, as she went on to explain the importance of self-care and addressing trauma as young professionals. The year 2020 had brought a global pandemic, social unrest towards racial injustice, and many other stressful events that I saw deserved a critical eye on how we took care of ourselves and our communities.  

Tashina Brito, Chair of this year’s EMERGE Summit.

As the day unfolded, engaging speakers were interwoven with insightful breakout sessions on topics such as data challenges with Pantelis Loupos and design thinking with Samantha Contreras. My third breakout session was on moving racial justice forward with Jackie Cole and others from Fresno State, SACOG, and California Coalition for Rural Housing. I was glad to see that EMERGE Summit addressed the issue of racial justice head on with a session such as this, while having speakers who were committed to the issue. Overall, EMERGE’s 2020 breakout sessions covered a wide range of interesting and relevant topics. “Regardless of where you were on your career path or the particular field you were interested in, there was a session for you.”

In closing, the EMERGE Summit left my Valley Vision colleagues and I motivated to continue our work throughout the region. Our motivation was captured well by Tucker Bryant’s inspiring spoken word at the end of the Summit, “Dear 2020.” “This isn’t a quarantine; this is a hibernation,” was a hopeful verse that stuck with me as my colleagues and I continued to navigate our roles as emerging professionals in a rapidly changing world. As described by Project Associate Isa Avanceña, “The spoken word at the end of the Summit expressed so eloquently the emotional toll that this pandemic has taken. More importantly, it highlighted the resilience that our communities are demonstrating as we weather the storm. It was the perfect “mic drop” ending to an already incredible day.”

My colleagues and I were very fortunate to have had this experience and would like to express our gratitude to the Metro Chamber and its event sponsors for organizing an impactful virtual conference as an epicenter for young professionals to exchange ideas, learn from each other’s experiences, and be inspired to shape the future.

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

Jesse Flores is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting the 21st Century Workforce and Clean Economy Impact areas.

Valley Vision Leaders Win Half of the Metro Chamber Annual Awards This Year

In a show of regional unity and strength, four of the eight major achievements handed out by the Sacramento Metro Chamber at its 125th Annual Dinner in January went to people who have been part of Valley Vision’s leadership in recent years.

Trish Rodriguez was recognized as Businesswoman of the Year for her passion in delivering high quality healthcare as Kaiser Permanente’s senior vice president and area manager, and her engagement in many community organizations and change efforts.  She is on Valley Vision’s executive committee and will be Chairwoman in 2022.

James Beckwith was recognized as Businessman of the Year for the success at Five Star Bank as its long-time CEO, his volunteer leadership roles with various nonprofits, including serving as Chairman of the Board for Valley Vision, and the local banks’ generosity in philanthropic causes that build wealth and create opportunity.

This year the small business of the year award went to the boutique creative agency Honey, led by Valley Vision board member Meghan Phillips, who is a driving force helping nonprofits grow stronger and is one of the region’s biggest promoters our farm-to-table heritage.

Former Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller won the Peter McCuen Award for Civic Entrepreneurs.

Bill Mueller won the Peter McCuen Award for Civic Entrepreneurs for the economic, social, and environmental change efforts he championed with others and sometimes led while Valley Vision’s CEO over the past decade.

“We are so proud of each of these leaders and how each of them, in their own way, continue to collaborate with others to build a better future for our communities, especially those most in need,” said Meg Arnold, Valley Vision’s Interim CEO.  “We were thrilled to have our volunteer and executive leadership so well represented this year.” To learn more about the awards, visit

Photo Credit: Tia Gemmell

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.

Farm-to-Fork LIVE Travels to Washington D.C.

This year, Valley Vision and Honey Agency hosted a special Farm-to-Fork-Live event in Washington, DC as part of the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s annual Cap-to-Cap (Capitol to Capitol) program. Through our partnership with Visit Sacramento, Farm-to-Fork-Live D.C. showcased the region’s special assets and innovative approaches on critical food and ag system issues to both local and national leadership.

Farm-to-Fork-Live is a speakers series program managed by Valley Vision and Honey Agency as part of the region’s Farm to Fork program. This year we took the show on the road to Washington, that included a speaker panel and reception held at the beautiful Whitten Building atrium at USDA headquarters.

More than 70 representatives from federal agencies, congressional offices and Cap to Cap participants – including many local elected officials – heard about the priority policy issues carried by the Cap-to- Cap Food and Ag Committee to DC; how the local partners are pushing forward solutions that will improve the viability and sustainability of our food and ag economy and can inform other communities around the country; and how we can work with our federal partners and congressional delegation to move the needles on priorities. Our policy priorities this year are: accelerating ag technologies through R&D and improved rural broadband infrastructure and access, especially given the low levels of connectivity across the region; training the next generation of farmers and farm managers through apprenticeships and other creative programs; given that the average age of a farmer is almost 60 years; and facilitating institutional procurement of local, healthy foods for our schools, hospitals and other institutions, which also support local growers and the food economy through Farm to School and other USDA/federal programs.

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations: Ken Barbic, welcomed the group and Bill Mueller, CEO, Valley Vision, framed the importance of the issues and the work being done. Meghan Phillip, Owner of Honey, moderated the panel of experts that included Brandon Minto, UC Davis, David Ogilvie, Silt Winery and Wilson Vineyards, and Trish Kelly, Valley Vision.

Each guest received a special Farm-to-Fork Live bag filled with products from the Sacramento region. A big thank you to all the companies that helped contribute these items including Raley’s, Visit Sacramento, California Rice, California Walnut Association, California Almond Association, and Vacaville Fruit Company.

This event was made possible by our presenting sponsor UC Davis. With additional support from Foster Farms, and partnering organizations including the Sacramento Metro Chamber, Visit Sacramento, and Silt Winery.

A special thank you to Bryan Zulko, National Director- Communities at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Jim Barham, USDA Rural Development agricultural economist and food systems specialist, and Tricia Kovacs, Acting Associate Deputy Administrator at USDA Agricultural Marketing Service for their support in planning this event.

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

My First Cap-to-Cap: A Whirlwind 5 Days in D.C.

I’ve heard a lot about “Cap-to-Cap” from colleagues, friends, and others since moving to Sacramento nearly five years ago. I’ve heard that it’s a massive undertaking to secure funding and advance policy to improve our region. I’ve heard that it’s the best networking opportunity around. I’ve heard that it’s a rite of passage for Sacramento’s rising leaders. The reality is that it’s all of those things…and more.

The Metro Chamber’s annual “Capitol-to-Capitol” program is the premier opportunity for the Sacramento region to come together to inform federal investments and policy to benefit our communities. It’s been organized by the Metro Chamber every year since 1970. Next year happens to be the 50th Anniversary.

I served as one of four co-leaders of the Air Quality team (one of 11 issue-focused teams such as workforce development, food and agriculture, and more), which included 22 regional air pollution regulators, business leaders, environmental advocates, and elected officials. The Cleaner Air Partnership, the unique public-private coalition managed by Valley Vision in partnership with the Sacramento Metro Chamber and Breathe California Sacramento Region, has managed the Cap-to-Cap Air Quality team’s efforts since 2007 and helped us all make significant strides toward cleaner air. Our “asks” in 2019 were communicated through two comprehensive Issue Papers (on clean transportation and forest management/wildfire) which guided each of our appointments, and which can be accessed on the Valley Vision website.

The Cap-to-Cap Air Quality team had 20 advocacy appointments over 2.5 days

I am awed by the effort it must take to pull off Cap-to-Cap. The Metro Chamber staff scheduled hundreds of meetings beyond our team’s 20 advocacy appointments with federal elected officials, committee staff, and agency representatives. In the interest of giving Cap-to-Cap newbies and interested parties a glimpse of the day-to-day happenings of Cap-to-Cap, here’s an attempt to recap each day’s events as they unfolded. Here goes:

Saturday, May 4th: Saturday is the main departure date for most of the Cap-to-Cap participants. I had an early morning flight from Sacramento International Airport which must have had 100 Cap-to-Cappers on it! Flying to the East Coast is always strange because you lose hours of your day, but the Metro Chamber has a cleverly organized welcome reception that kicked off right as we arrived at the classy Mayflower Hotel from the Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. Festivities ensued and there was much discussion of our anticipated events and meetings. A few of us younger folks went to a nearby shindig at a bar courtesy of the Metro Chamber’s young professionals group, Metro EDGE, which was also a blast.

Sunday, May 5th: Remember how a few of us went out for drinks the previous night? On Sunday, we had an 8:30 AM meeting of the Cap-to-Cap Steering Committee, made up of Metro Chamber leadership and the co-leads of each team. An 8:30 AM Eastern start time is equivalent to 5:30 AM Pacific, so suffice it to say, it was definitely a coffee morning! There was a FOX40 crew onsite to cover the program, and Air Quality team co-lead Meg Arnold filmed a TV spot about our wildfire and forest management efforts in 2019. Much of my day was spent running errands to prep for the following three days of advocacy – including multiple FedEx trips – before taking an all-delegation photo inside the Mayflower’s hallways. In past years this photo has been taken on Capitol Mall, but rain was a factor. Cap-to-Cap Chair Mac Clemmens of Digital Deployment then hosted a Chair’s Reception on the rooftop of the beautiful 101 Constitution building, with epic views of the Capitol.

Monday, May 6th: The first day of meetings on Capitol Hill kicked off with a welcome breakfast and remarks from Cap-to-Cap leadership, Congressman Ami Bera, and a very special guest in Amy Walters, National Editor of The Cook Political Report. Amy delivered some incredibly savvy political analysis, including Election 2020 predictions, before our 22-member Air Quality team departed for our first meetings via the legendary Washington, D.C., Metro transit system (thanks SacRT for those Metro passes!). Over the course of the whirlwind day, our team held 30-minute meetings with Congressman Ami Bera and his staff; the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests & Public Lands (Minority); the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change (Majority/Minority); the Office of Congressman Tom McClintock; Congressman John Garamendi; the Environmental Protection Agency – Office of Air and Radiation; the Office of Senator Ed Markey; and with Congresswoman Doris Matsui and her staff. Whew! From there, I booked it to the special Farm-to-Fork Live event at USDA, which was organized by Valley Vision and Honey Agency to elevate our region’s food and agriculture leadership at Cap-to-Cap. That evening, Woodland City Councilmember Tom Stallard led nearly 50 Cap-to-Cap delegates on a legendary 3.5 hour walking tour of Washington, D.C.’s monuments and war memorials. This tradition started at Cap-to-Cap 1996 when Tom and now-SMUD Board member Rob Kerth went on an evening stroll to talk through some confounding transportation funding issues, and ended up walking the entirety of the Mall past all of its various monuments. It has been a tradition ever since! I have to say the most powerful monuments to me are the Korean War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial, but all are spectacular, especially when lit up at night.

Woodland City Councilmember Tom Stallard’s nighttime monuments tour was truly outstanding

Tuesday, May 7th: Tuesday morning began with the Congressional Leadership Forum hosted by Congresswoman Doris Matsui. The keynote speaker was a true icon – Madeleine K. Albright, the first female Secretary of State under President Clinton. She was razor-sharp as she took on topics such as globalism, international trade, defense, and more and answered audience questions. From there, we departed for the Hill (again on public transit) for a series of impactful meetings with the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (Majority); the Office of Senator Kamala Harris; the Office of Congressman Doug LaMalfa; the Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein; the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests & Public Lands (Majority); and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry & Natural Resources. A highlight was in the hallway of the lively Dirksen Senate Office Building, where political nerds like me geek out. Senator Mitt Romney and company apparently walked right behind me as I was fumbling around with my smartphone, and less than 10 minutes later Senator Tim Kaine sped past me as he talked to reporters. It’s really cool to see these people in action, and I got a solid video of the brief encounter. After a long second day of meetings the team headed back to the Mayflower Hotel to get ready for the Delegation Gala, the classiest event of the program. By this time, my nicest suit was getting a workout! The gala itself was held at the International Spy Museum’s slick new location, which was not yet open to the public and had breathtaking views of D.C.’s utilitarian skyline. I would be remiss not to include the excellent video from Presenting Sponsor Western Health Advantage, with a nice cameo by Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller toward the end. Eating, drinking, dancing, and chatting ensued and it was a great way to ‘cap’ the program.

Wednesday, May 8th: Wednesday at Cap-to-Cap is generally the short day for meetings on the Hill. Most folks fly home on this day, with a few staying in D.C. to do more exploring, visit friends and family, or hold additional meetings. Program Chair Mac Clemmens hosted a Cybersecurity Briefing in the morning with prominent defense experts as well as Congressman John Garamendi in his capacity as Chairman of the aptly-named ‘Readiness Subcommittee.’ A key takeaway – your smartphone is likely your least protected device, so you should do everything you can to secure it! The Air Quality team had meetings with the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions as well as the U.S. Forest Service Office of Legislative Affairs later in the morning. Both went very well and generated a great deal of follow-up activity, as with our other meetings. I had some precious downtime between our last meeting and my departure flight back to the West Coast, which was used for some much-needed email catch-up and honestly a nice nap.

Reflecting on the whirlwind five days I spent in D.C., I am thankful to Valley Vision for giving me this opportunity not just to attend Cap-to-Cap, but to co-lead a high-performing team in my first year participating. It is experiences like these – connecting with new people, navigating a new geography, and being faced with entirely new situations that fosters personal growth and self-awareness.

The Mayflower Hotel’s downstairs bar was the scene of much late-night planning and networking

2019 Cap-to-Cap Chair Mac Clemmens did an outstanding job and set the stage for 2020 Co-Chairs Kierstan DeLong and Brian King to be successful in leading the program’s 50th Anniversary, with Sutter Health leading the sponsorship charge. I’d also like to thank Michael Faust, Susan Harris-Brazelton, and the amazing Metro Chamber staff who put in so much work to ensure a successful program – CEO Amanda Blackwood, Khaim Morton, John Jacobs, Andrea Ellinghouse, and particularly Chloe Park for scheduling meetings across all of the teams. You guys rock! If you’re interested in attending next year, I hope to see you there!

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.

Keep Manufacturing Close: A Brooklyn Tale

Is manufacturing dead in America?  Have all the good “blue collar” jobs been exported to low-cost countries, never to return?

News reports are full of stories about the loss of manufacturing jobs, but the truth today is something different.  During the past eight years since the global recession, manufacturing has bounded back strongly, gaining 1.1 million jobs to reach over 12 million today – many based in California.  Companies are bringing manufacturing back home for reasons of quality and creative control.  According to the Institute for Supply Management, 17 of 18 major manufacturing industries have been in “growth mode” in recent months.

Manufacturing is vital to a healthy economy not just because it has the single highest multiplier of any economic sector, generating $1.81 in output for every dollar invested, or that every direct manufacturing job supports another four.  Perhaps even more important for a middle-weight economy like Sacramento’s is that manufacturing occupations pay better than other working-class fields, averaging $57,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; are plentiful in our region, and with the right training, people can get on the highway from poverty to opportunity relatively quickly.

World-renowned fashion designer Nanette Lepore made a compelling case for keeping manufacturing close during the 2018 Study Mission program to Brooklyn, hosted by the Sacramento Metro Chamber.  Brooklyn is seeing a manufacturing resurgence, chiefly with small, creative enterprises that leverage technology, local supply chains, and modern tools, like 3-D printing, to knock down traditional barriers to entry.

After years in Manhattan, Lepore is now operating from Brooklyn where the city is using their building codes to protect and preserve old warehouses as manufacturing sites and directing infill housing elsewhere.  You can’t have all the beauty of fashion, art, or design without making room for the grit that builds it, said Lepore.  Developers of the Brooklyn Navy Yard are breaking up massive buildings into smaller 500, 1,000, and 1,500 square-foot individual business sites to match the needs of smaller manufacturing enterprises with great success.  Hyper-localized is the new story, we heard.

Keeping manufacturing close allows for improved creative control over the result, Lepore continued.  You don’t have to wait days for proofs or early runs to know whether you hit the mark.  Quality control is also dramatically increased when cycle times are shortened by hours or thousands of miles, reducing the margin for error.  “Speed to market and proximity to suppliers also are big advantages in today’s economy,” Lepore said.

Could we be returning to the past?

Six hundred years ago, humanity finally left the dark ages thanks to the rebirth of the arts, learning, and invention.  Historians point to the epicenter being places like Florence, Italy, where small, open-stall shops lined bustling city streets, bringing together clothiers with fine artists, cobblers, metal workers, sculptors, and machinists of all kinds, collaborating and borrowing from each others’ innovations.  Those were the days of Leonardo Da Vinci.  That close-knit manufacturing community launched the renaissance, and later the scientific revolution that would lead to the discovery of new cures, new frontiers, and improve living standards for millions.

In the greater Sacramento area, manufacturers like Siemens Mobility and Tri Tool have come together to form the Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Initiative (SVMI), with Valley Vision as their host organization.  Their aim:  to partner with educators to build the talent pipeline for in-demand manufacturing jobs in places like South Sacramento, Rancho Cordova, and Woodland.  Research shows the Sacramento Region is home to over 2,700 manufacturing companies – half of which have fewer than five employees – in fields ranging from machine shops, food processors, and breweries to medical device companies whose technologies are being used around the world.  There were 10,000 job postings for manufacturing positions in the Sacramento Region in the past 12 months, a massive gap and growing opportunity which area employers are eager to fill.

Brooklyn showed us a glimpse of Sacramento’s future.  Let’s build it together.  To get involved, please contact SVMI’s Dean Peckam or read more about the Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Initiative.

Bill Mueller was Chief Executive of Valley Vision.

Air Quality Team Makes Moves at Cap-to-Cap

As usual, the Metro Chamber’s annual Capitol-to-Capitol program was jam-packed, tightly-scheduled, well-run – and very large. This year’s delegation numbered 375, including the business community, local electeds, nonprofit leadership, and representatives from our academic institutions.

The Air Quality team’s seventeen members took an equal number of meetings in two-and-a-half days, with plenty of bike-share commuting as well, despite this being one of the chilliest and rainiest Cap-to-Caps in memory.  The four issue papers we “carried” (on federal funding, forest resilience, biomass, and broadband access) were well-received by the majority of our regional Congressional delegation, as well as by Senators Feinstein and Harris.

More challenging was our conversation with the Environmental Protection Agency, which focused significantly on vehicle emissions standards and the importance of not weakening the Clean Air Act, given all the benefits it has brought to the nation since its inception. Administration appointees debated with us the significance of vehicle emissions and particularly the issue of California continuing its higher standards.

Our discussion with the Majority staffer for the Senate’s Committee on the Environment and Public Works featured a slightly broader range of topics, with two pieces of welcome news and one piece of less ideal, though unsurprising, news. We learned that cuts to EPA’s budget are “not a high priority for many in Congress; that’s more the Administration,” and also that the Committee’s Republican Chair and Democratic Ranking Member are jointly sponsoring a bill that would fund the Diesel Emissions Reductions Act (DERA) at its statutory maximum of $100M. The not-surprising topic was that of CAFÉ  standards (vehicle emissions standards), where our team’s strong points in support were acknowledged but met with a “we’ll have to agree to disagree” response.

As one final note, we were fortunate to benefit from two strong “freshmen” members of the team, who each set a high bar. Alberto Ayala of the Sacramento Metro Air Quality Management District was an able leader of “sub-team Ayala,” while Breathe Board member Paul Adams of Capital Public Radio arranged a special side-tour of the NPR headquarters for Cap-to-Cap attendees.

All in all, it was a successful Cap-to-Cap and the Air Quality team enjoyed a fun and impactful time in D.C. We are all looking forward to next year!

To keep up on the latest Valley Vision and Cleaner Air Partnership news, our research findings and analyses, and personal commentary and thoughts by those on the staff team, sign up for our Cleaner Air News and Vantage Point email newsletters!

Meg Arnold is Managing Director of Valley Vision, leading the Clean Economy and Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategies.

Rural Broadband a Top Priority for Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue

On Wednesday, April 18, the 2018 Cap-to-Cap Food & Ag policy team had the opportunity to meet with Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. The meeting, secured through the leadership and persistence of Linda Budge, mayor of the City of Rancho Cordova, was held Wednesday morning at U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters, located in the historic Agriculture South Building in Washington, D.C.  Mayor Budge and Secretary Perdue are former high school classmates, having attending high school together in Georgia, Purdue from a local farming family and Budge from a military family. The two have remained in contact over the years.

The Food & Ag team was there to talk about several policy priorities for the greater Sacramento region including rural broadband, forest management, conservation, and expanding support for and access to healthy foods for the hidden hungry, including college students and working families.

On the issue of rural broadband, Secretary Purdue noted that the lack of “e-Connectivity” is the top issue he hears about wherever he visits, most recently Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. Purdue believes “e-Connectivity is the number one issue holding the [U.S.] ag industry back.” In fact, after meeting with our team, the Secretary was launching the first of a series of national listening sessions on improving e-connectivity in rural America, along with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai and a coalition of industry leaders. (The Food & Ag team held a meeting with the Chairman’s office earlier in the week on the same topic).

Relaying to Purdue the challenges from a California perspective were third generation Clarksburg farmers, David and Phil Ogilvie. David shared his personal story of his ability to apply modern farming techniques to drive efficiencies in water use on several of his fields through sensors and remote irrigation management with an iPhone app. Due to lack of broadband access, he isn’t able to deploy the technology on all of his fields. His farm in Clarksburg is located is a community less than a fifteen-minute drive from the California State Capitol. Unfortunately, lack of broadband access in rural areas of California is not an issue unique to Clarksburg. In fact, as a whole, the region has relatively poor grades for broadband infrastructure.

The world views California as leader in technology and innovation. However, we are not leading in terms broadband speed and access. Many rural residents are disconnected from the many benefits of e-connectivity, including opportunities for distance learning, expanding global markets for small businesses, connecting to information on employment and job applications, and accessing telemedicine for improved health.

Fortunately, there is growing awareness of the importance of broadband as a critical utility for 21st Century competitiveness. As affirmed by Secretary Perdue, it’s time to build a 21st Century Highway of Connectivity. We can look to models from the past that have expanded utilities such as electricity and telephone service to all for ideas. Solving the problem will require creative partnerships between federal, state, local government and private partners.

The Connected Capital Broadband Consortium is working with partners and stakeholder across the region to elevate the importance of this issue and to help fill our broadband infrastructure gaps. Together, we can envision the future-ready e-connectivity infrastructure we need for regional prosperity and competitiveness. Let’s work together collectively tackle the challenge!

Tammy Cronin was a Valley Vision Project Leader working in the 21st Century Workforce and Healthy Communities strategies.

Braving the Maze at State Leg Summit

I shouted “Hooray!” as I finally emerged from the elevator in front of Kip Lipper’s office in the California State Capitol. I learned the hard way that Kip’s office is in the older “historic” section of the Capitol building, and requires entry using a different elevator and set of stairs than the newer “Annex.” Suffice it to say, the secrets of the Capitol building began to reveal themselves to me on the afternoon of Tuesday, March 13th.

The 2018 State Legislative Summit was a window into the Capitol lifestyle that so many of my friends and colleagues live and breathe, but one that has remained mostly unknown to me. Organized by the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce, ‘SLS’ (as it is known) is a day of meetings with the Sacramento region’s state-level elected representatives, staff, and consultants about policy issues that matter to our region.

I served on the Air Quality team this year, advocating for vital investments in clean air, transportation infrastructure, watershed protection, and more, alongside leaders from Valley Vision, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, SMUD, Union Pacific Railroad, and other members of the Cleaner Air Partnership.

Valley Vision’s Meg Arnold and Adrian Rehn

The day kicked off with a brief program focused on the statewide housing crisis with a number of powerhouse speakers. Eleni Kounalakis, candidate for Lieutenant Governor and former Valley Vision board member, spoke concisely about issues including affordable housing finance and rent control. She challenged many in the room to think differently about solutions to the housing crisis, but did it in a way that was unifying at the end of the day. University of California President Janet Napolitano talked about the power of the UC system to shape the state narrative around housing, and brought up the important issues of workforce development and the serious lack of “workforce housing.” Jeff Michael with the University of the Pacific shared some excellent insights on the new federal tax bill and how it could affect our region’s housing market, as well as the possibility of redevelopment funds coming back to California under a new Governor. Assemblymember Jim Cooper facilitated a rockstar panel as well – it really was a fantastic program!

Lunch was followed by the real meat of the event – select appointments with a bipartisan group of our region’s elected leadership in the Capitol building. Setting aside Kip Lipper’s office in the older part of “The Building,” the rest of the appointments (as well as the restrooms!) were much easier to find. By the way, I’ll never get used to calling it, “The Building.”

Our conversations at SLS went incredibly well – perhaps unsurprisingly, everyone cares about air quality! Our team listened as much as we spoke – gleaning knowledge from those in the room, following up about relevant issues or initiatives, and taking copious notes about general (but critical!) insights about the processes that guide decision-making in the Capitol.

Huge congratulations to Anna Ballard of Intel, who did an excellent job as 2018 SLS Program Chair, and the whole team at the Metro Chamber for making this year’s event possible. I know how much of a team effort that was – thank you all! The State Capitol building will always be a maze to me, but these organizers of State Legislative Summit made it a truly a-MAZE-ing experience. I’m already looking forward to SLS 2019! My homework until then: get to know that “historic” side of the Capitol like the back of my hand. Oh wait, I’ve never noticed that birthmark before…

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

A New Beginning for Patrick Guild

Experts in All Things is something that Evan Schmidt and I started one day as a way of messing with our co-workers. It is a very real research organization (similar, but far superior to Valley Vision) that exists to learn a creepy amount about the behavior and mannerisms of our coworkers. We would put on comical glasses and then present our observations to the staff as some kind of roast and tribute to our colleagues. It is some kind of weird joke/serious birthday present that lets them all know that we are scrutinizing them heavily and we know little things about them – like how many times they got angry in all of 2016, or what kind of insane snacks they ate at their desks. It sums up my time at Valley Vision perfectly. It’s nerdy, but it’s fun and informed, and it pushes just the right amount of buttons.

But what kind of person would do that for fun?

Is it the same kind of person that would show up to an office everyday to do research projects and create large presentations/documents/media products on frustratingly slow Internet? Or the same kind of person that would choose to work in a building with no windows and bad a/c, that backs up to a busy alley, and is next to a recycling center where glass is being shattered ALL. DAY. LONG?

It’s exactly that kind of person.

As I found out after three years in that weird, stressful, fulfilling, confusing, and challenging environment, there are a lot of incredibly smart, dedicated, and compassionate people in this region that will deal with those conditions. There are people that are more than willing to show up day after day to work in any conditions necessary to make the Sacramento Capital Region the most livable region in the world. They’re doing it for those who live here now, and those whom will live here next. And it’s not only the people who work in that building – it’s the people who visit that building. It’s the lawmakers, the business leaders, the organizers, the activators, and the influencers. It’s the company that Valley Vision keeps.

Patrick racing to pick up cotton balls with a plastic spoon while blindfolded

But in the process of becoming the people that we want to be, we have to do some jumping around, and it’s time for me to go in a different direction. In December, I accepted a role with the Metro Chamber Foundation as a Program Specialist working on the Thousand Strong internship program and the Metro EDGE young professionals program. When I was made aware of the opening, I knew that it was the perfect opportunity to use the skills I’d developed and relationships I’d formed to pay back the greatest gift I’d ever been given – the opportunity that comes from internships. I started as an intern with Valley Vision, and worked my way to Office Manager/Executive Assistant/Project Lead/Handyman/Director of Office Hijinks. It gave my ambition direction, and set me on a path of continual improvement and exploration. It got me in front of the right people and changed the way I think.

So that’s a wrap. My time with Valley Vision has come to an end. In the last three years there, I learned how to balance work and life by completing my Bachelors in Business from Drexel University while working fulltime. I learned about leadership as a Fellow of the Nehemiah Emerging Leaders, Class VIII, and how to manage up by being the boss’ assistant. I’ve booked a thousand meetings, and I’ve rocked ‘em all. I’ve been a guest speaker, been on review panels, written grant applications, travelled for work, burnt the midnight oil, rubbed elbows, and accidently unloaded the contents of a Lagunitas keg all over the office (long story). I’ve conquered old fears, developed new anxieties, and have had an endless amount of other new experiences.

While I am not now, nor will I ever be an Expert in All Things, I am somewhat, kind of, a little bit, experienced in some things, and that’s because I had the good fortune of being part of the Valley Vision family.  Thanks for everything.

Patrick Guild was Officer Manager/Executive Assistant at Valley Vision from February 2015 through January 2018.

Growing Entrepreneurial Communities

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

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

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

Some of the key take aways from the gathering:

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

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

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

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