As the Governor and Legislature jockey over a “jobs agenda,” a bipartisan state commission has delivered a key building block for what could be the foundation of a new state economic development effort.

The Little Hoover Commission last week recommended the state re-create a high level economic development effort that can market the state, assist businesses wishing to locate or expand in California, and coordinate a statewide strategy of economic development strongly influenced by successful local economic development efforts. (The report can be found here. And a further disclaimer: I am a member of the Commission.)

After an exhaustive investigation and several public hearings, the Commission found the State is juggling a diffused collection of economic development activities, generally without authority. This has created numerous problems, including a void in leadership and accountability that diminishes California’s ability to coordinate activity and shepherd resources, a lack of capacity to promote, guide or align delivery of services, and a absence of an obvious point of contact in Sacramento for businesses, local economic development organizations or even other state-level actors to learn about and access state economic development programs, or find help to resolve permitting issues or navigating regulations.

As Bill Allen, president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation told the Commission: “There will be a global economic recovery. The question is, will California get its fair share of that recovery? As presently organized, staffed, planned and budgeted, I don’t believe we will.”

Key recommendations from the Commission are:

1. The state must create a high-profile office for economic development.
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development should bring together the critical functions of existing state economic development entities.

2. A series of Action Teams must be created within the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Led by a team leader within the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, with other staff pooled from existing departments and program areas based on their expertise, the teams 1) must respond reactively to businesses interested in expansion or relocation, 2) must reach out to large and existing businesses, and the economic development community, to monitor local needs, and 3) need to help businesses navigate permitting and regulatory issues.

3. A policy unit must be created within the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to develop a statewide vision for economic growth.

4. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development must serve as an advocate for big-picture prosperity and economic growth. State elected officials should take heed of this report and the thoughtful recommendations. This may be exactly the low-cost, high-value investment upon which Democrats and Republicans can agree.