In a state as large and diverse as California, a one-size-fits-all economic strategy is a tough sell.

The state’s distinct regions better understand the strategies that best fit their local needs, assets and opportunities. At the same time, state government can provide the tools and capabilities to help regional leaders work together, put those tactics into action, and scale them up. 

It’s an encouraging sign of progress to see this shift in economic development built into new legislation introduced this year in the California State Legislature.

This regional-approach to problem-solving is the foundation of the California Economic Summit, in which California Forward’s (CA Fwd) vast network of public, private and civic leaders work year-round to identify and move forward strategies for inclusive economic development. Late last year, attendees of the Summit identified economic planning recommendations and implementation strategies that were prime for legislation. 

Regions Rise Together

Introduced by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (32nd District), AB 3205 establishes the Regions Rise Grant Program in the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) to provide regions a pathway to collaborate and develop inclusive regional strategies for economic prosperity. The legislation incentivizes local government, private businesses, nonprofits and philanthropy to work together to address a region’s most pressing challenges, while putting their unique capabilities and assets front and center. 

“California rises when we lift up all communities throughout the state,” said Assemblymember Salas (D-Bakersfield). “AB 3205 drives our communities together to create innovative solutions to tackle the barriers that prevent inland California from experiencing the health and prosperity our Golden State experiences in other regions.”

The grant program will help inform and guide the state’s policies, priorities and actions towards creating inclusive economic growth that will allow all Californians to prosper.

Announced at the 2019 Summit after years of planning, Fresno’s D.R.I.V.E Initiative showed that regions can successfully work together to create strategies that strengthen and grow their regional economy when an investment in capacity building is made with the support of regional leadership.

“AB 3205 is needed to drive cross-sector collaboration for the development of real and inclusive regional economic growth strategies that can inform statewide policies and be brought to scale,” said Ashley Swearengin, president and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation and member of CA Fwd’s Leadership Council. “We know that model works here in the Central Valley and it’s important to give all regions of the state an opportunity for sustainable growth that can benefit all Californians.” 

Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts 

Another new piece of legislation — and a priority action of the Summit’s 2020 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity — is aimed at improving a powerful economic development tool that communities and regions can use to fund much-needed affordable housing and housing related  infrastructure, like transit, school facilities, parks, and other facilities that make up community spaces. 

State Senator Ben Allen (26th District) introduced SB 1389, which revises the Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District (EIFD) law. EIFDs were created to boost community economic development by capturing and using the growth in local economies for various projects. Under the old EIFD statutes the participants were limited. 

SB 1389 opens the door for cities, counties, school and community college districts to create an intergovernmental finance structure known as a Public Investment Authority that can ultimately bring to scale the types of investments communities need to thrive. The intent is to incentivize and expand the ability of local and regional governments to make tax revenue producing investments that will increase economic development in a specific region.

“California must do more to help local governments and community partners in securing alternative financing tools to support the development of needed infrastructure,” said Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica). “Desperately needed investments in housing, transit, and more will be catalyzed in our communities by this legislation.”

These two legislative bills are examples of how planning and implementation tools identified at a regional level, through efforts like the Summit, can be moved forward at scale by the state. CA Fwd is encouraged that the Summit’s priorities founded on a regions-up approach are making their way into state legislation.

 Join us in supporting AB 3205 and SB 1389.