Paradigm shift

Jeff vonKaenel

This recession is an equal opportunity one; it impacts the entire community. Workers lose their jobs. Business owners downsize or add the word “former” to their title. Property owners see their most valuable asset go underwater. Government employees get hours cut back; students have their tuition raised. The list goes on and on.

What to do about it was the focus of the Sacramento Metro Chamber’s recent 16th annual State of the Region Forum.

As opposed to the Republican presidential candidates and many other chamber organizations across the country that believe the best way to stimulate the economy is to give tax breaks to rich people and remove social programs, the Sacramento chamber presented ideas that actually made sense.

The first question posed was: Why is Sacramento suffering more than other parts of the state and country? Since World War II, our state government has been growing. The increase in jobs in this sector and a corresponding increase in construction jobs helped build Sacramento’s economy. However, the recession has dramatically reduced the number of state jobs, hitting Sacramento hard.

So, the natural question is: How can we create new jobs? Most new positions in the service and retail sectors have little impact on the local economy. For instance, a new supermarket will not increase Sacramento jobs. It will just steal food sales and jobs from other supermarkets in Sacramento. A new solar equipment manufacturing plant that sends its products worldwide, however, will bring new jobs to the region. Those new employees will need to buy food, clothing and other products, so these new jobs will generate an increase in other local jobs.

To address this challenge, the Sacramento Metro Chamber is teaming up with Valley Vision, a nonprofit regional planning group; the Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization, a nonprofit that recruits businesses to the area; and Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance, a regional technology incubator.

After assessing our regional strengths and weaknesses, this team plans to identify industries that can thrive in Sacramento and compete in the world economy. Two leading contenders are green technology and agriculture. Once the industries have been identified, we must all make a joint effort to support development in these sectors. Our educational organizations, government and the private sector must all work together on this. This is our best shot at attracting new industries and creating new jobs.

The recession is a communitywide event. If Sacramento is going to grow its way out of it, then that will be a community-wide event, too.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.