Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom doesn’t want the issue of jobs and the economy to belong exclusively to the GOP. Republicans have railed about an unfriendly business environment in California for years. With jobs now the number one issue for California voters, Democrats are paying attention to the issue – but none, it seems, more than Newsom.
With his business background and not a lot to do as Lt. Governor, he has taken hold of the jobs and economic development issue and danced with it into the spotlight.
Yesterday in Los Angeles, Newsom convened a Town Hall meeting on economic growth and competiveness. He wasn’t alone, as two Democratic bigwigs who have also spent time on a jobs agenda, Senate pro-tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez, joined him along with a number of other legislators, including Republicans Nathan Fletcher, Cameron Smyth and Brian Nestande.
Newsom has presented a 38-point action plan on economic growth and development. His goal is to have an annual summit on economic development that includes regionally developed plans.
The LA event was co-hosted by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC).
LAEDC President Bill Allen sat down for a conversation with Newsom praising the Lt. Governor for setting an agenda for all to follow.
Newsom said he is trying to find common ground with Republicans, that a job plan was not a Democratic plan or a Republican plan. Seeking to improve the job situation in California with a 12% unemployment rate – Newsom said the Milken Institute estimated the real unemployment/underemployment rate is actually closer to 23% — is good politics for an ambitious politician with few job requirements.
But, it is also good policy.
While national and international aspects of the great recession buffet California, the state can take measures to improve the business climate. Forty-eight other states in the union have lower unemployment rates than California.
Newsom tossed out some general and specific ideas in his conversation with Allen:
- Follow an Ohio model of accessing capital for companies with good ideas that need to get from a place of opening their doors to being on solid financial footing.
- Create a system of regional decisions for economic development. Avoid one-size-fits-all solutions.
- Improve the skills of an educated workforce, Newsom calling education the “secret sauce” in an economic revival. He pointed out that there are thousands of jobs available in the LA area but that they require specific skills.
- Return manufacturing, much of which has been lost to California in the last decade. “We got to get in the business of building things”.
Newsom wants the Democrats to have ownership of the jobs issue along with Republicans who have traditionally been associated with that issue. In the time of staggering unemployment that is a good political move, but also one that could result in important changes for a state trying to shake off the chills of an economic fever.
It also gives the Lt. Governor something important to do besides checking on the health or whereabouts of the governor every morning.