Reporting

May 28, 2013 by Susan Lovenburg

Road to the Summit: North State economy not just timber & fishing

The twenty Trinity Coast civic leaders who gathered in Weaverville last week heard that the economy of California's North State region is changing. Timber and fishing no longer dominate, now jobs are found in the production of specialty agriculture foods and beverages, diversified health care, niche manufacturing, and building and construction.

Over the past fifteen years, these industry clusters or "targets of opportunity" contributed 39 percent of the jobs and 53 percent of the wages in the region's private sector.

"There's real opportunity for residents in these areas," said Jacqueline Debets, economic development coordinator for Humboldt County.

The North State economy is shifting from a resource base to a knowledge base. "The most important thing we can do to promote our economy is change how we think, talk and act," said Debets. "We are no longer about dead trees and dead fish. We have a compelling new story to tell."

Access to capital is key in this new environment. "There are thirty-four ways to access capital alive and well in the state of California and most people don't know about them," said USDA Rural Development state director Glenda Humiston.

She pointed to the work being done by the California Economic Summit's SMART Capital team and the report by the California Financial Opportunities Roundtable that included a detailed survey of funding opportunities. (Read our blog and find a link to the report here.)

Maintaining roads, bridges and other infrastructure has also been flagged as a top priority for every region again and again at the 16 Regional Economic Forums taking place now across the state now. Shasta was no different.

And that's because transportation projects mean dollars down the road. Dan Wayne from the Shasta Regional Transportation Authority highlighted a study being done now to make the case for aligning transportation spending with economic development. The report by the North State Super Region, due in the fall, will show how key construction projects, like widening the I-5 corridor, will affect the region's economy now and well into the future.

The leaders at the forum identified other priorities to boost the region's economy: increase investment in career technical education, expand broadband access, modernize the California Environmental Quality Act and streamline the regulatory process, promote high-tech business incubators, and support advanced manufacturing initiatives throughout California. 

They also embraced the idea of "working landscapes," one in which rural lands are managed to benefit both rural and urban populations. Top priorities in this area were increased investment in rural and natural resource-based economies and watershed improvements to increase water supply, improve habitat and reduce fire damage.

Forum organizer Kathy Moxon of Redwood Coast Rural Action encouraged Shasta Cascades forum participants to attend the 2013 California Economic Summit in November.  "It's easy for the rural voice to get lost.  Bringing regional voices together makes our story stronger."

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