Reporting

March 13, 2012 by Ed Coghlan

Bay Area economy aims to stay unique

When other Californians look at the San Francisco Bay Area economy, they see a very diverse and robust engine.

And Bay Area business leaders plan to keep it that way.

"We need to take more responsibility here in the region by defining the priorities for the Bay Area," said Sean Randolph, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute told a Regional Forum meeting this week.

The San Francisco meeting was one of fourteen regional meetings being held around California in advance of the first California Economic Summit that will be held in Santa Clara on May 11.

University of California Professor Laura Tyson focused the discussion on some of the main areas that will be explored at the Summit: workforce development, improvement in infrastructure, regulatory reform and encouraging innovation.

While the Bay Area's economy is doing very well, Steve Levy, the director of the Center of Continuing Study of the California Economy emphasized that the issues at the Summit are critical to sustaining the growth. The Regional Forum attracted a capacity crowd, that had some strong ideas about how to spur growth in California.

When they were asked how to get more benefit from public investment, more than 9 of 10 said that higher education, the UC system, the CSU system and community colleges, were the best way to achieve that benefit.

Like the other regional forums, a majority thought that transportation infrastructure was a top regional priority.

Organizers agree Summit participants should reflect the diversity of California by age, gender, employment and ethnicity. We urge Californians to get involved and become part of this process in their regions.

Another topic that surfaced at the San Francisco meeting was how to streamline the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) process without sacrificing the environmental quality that it is designed to protect. Environmentalists who attended the San Francisco meeting agreed that streamlining is possible. A representative from the California Conference of Carpenters urged action as well, saying that the current process is too easily manipulated.

And that has been a common theme at the five regional forums that have been held so far. Expect the CEQA process to be one of the topics at the statewide Summit.

The result of the regional forums will be the development of a set of "signature initiatives" that will become action items at the Summit. And when we say action, we mean just that. Californians are ready for some action to improve job creation and competitiveness in the state.

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