With 38 million people and the eighth largest economy in the world, California has the resources to achieve great things for its citizens. But we don’t always use those collective resources to our advantage. Besides the obvious political differences between Republicans and Democrats in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., we allow long standing geographic differences to undermine the development of plans to maximize the vast and diverse human and physical resources of our great State. These regional divisions go unchallenged, in part because we do not take the time to understand the resources and aspirations of the rest of the State, and how we can all benefit by working together rather than rallying the troops to compete with each other.

This week, a class of 21 business and community leaders from Los Angeles and Northern California will be in San Francisco, Oakland and the Silicon Valley for the first session of California Connections — an exciting new bridge-building program sponsored by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Southern California Leadership Network, an affiliate of the Chamber.

The three-day agenda in the Bay Area will feature conversations with leaders, including:

Mark Yudof, president of the University of California
Jean Quan, mayor of the City of Oakland
Steve Falk, president & CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
Carl Guardino, president & CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group

Also engaging in discussions about the economy and politics of the Bay Area will be leaders in public transportation, private sector shippers that utilize the Port of Oakland and three CEO’s from growing Silicon Valley companies. Rounding out the program will be case studies on community policing, dealing with homelessness and urban core revitalization.

During 2012 California Connections will sponsor four more three-day visits to the Central Valley, San Diego, Orange County/Inland Empire and Sacramento. Each trip will have the same goal, to familiarize Los Angeles leaders with the assets of our great State and the opportunities to work together and learn from each other.

There is no limit to what can be accomplished for the citizens of California if our diverse regions recognize their collective assets and work together rather than competing with each other. That focus would enhance the economic opportunities and quality of life for all regions of our State. The alternative is to watch the California dream deteriorate as regions try to leverage each other for a shrinking piece of the global economic pie. California Connections is about shared aspirations and building collaboration. It’s a model for success.