It’s not sexy to talk about a weak local economy as a vital regional issue. It’s much easier to scream about whether citizens should vote on a downtown arena for the Kings.
But transforming Sacramento’s economy is a vital conversation ignored at our peril. There is nothing more central to our quality of life than becoming a place that creates real jobs that put people back to work. Massive service cuts around the region are the result of flat tax rolls. The city had to raise taxes to put cops back on the street. What’s one of Sacramento’s big growth industries? Hospitals. The region is getting older, grayer and sicker.
That’s not sustainable economic growth and it’s not the kind of imagery you’d want to define your region.
The truth is, the economy is not coming back in Sacramento right now – not really. That was the unmistakable message delivered Tuesday at California State University, Sacramento, , where analysts from the Sacramento Business Review laid out a sober economic forecast for 2014.
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Sacramento is not in a regional free fall as it was in the catastrophic winter of 2008, when the American economy had crashed. There are positives, such as fewer distressed home sales and increased stability in state government.
But real job growth? Nope. Stronger lending by banks to promote growth? Not much.
It’s in how to address these issues that the conversation always breaks down.
On Tuesday, the analysts at Sacramento Business Review – led by Sanjay Varshney, dean of the College of Business Administration at Sacramento State – laid out an incisive economic analysis for Sacramento.
It’s long past time to use the information.
Sacramento needs to bring together its heaviest hitters – its CEOs and its biggest political leaders – to sell Sacramento. Those parties largely sit out strategic planning undertaken by the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce and nonprofits working on economic development. These groups aren’t doing a bad job. Sacramento simply needs more.
Until the people with the ability to cut checks are at the forefront of the conversation, Sacramento will remain a consumer community as opposed to one that creates things. Where are Sacramento’s major employers? Where are all the bank leaders? Where is Mayor Kevin Johnson?
One of the positives in the region as laid out by Varshney was the prospect of the new downtown arena as a catalyst. For those who doubt this, I have a number – 40,000. That’s roughly how many construction jobs were lost in Sacramento since the great crash, according to the Sacramento Business Review. If Johnson could throw as much passion into helping diversify the economy as he did into retaining the Kings, there’s no telling what he could accomplish.
This conversation needs to grow. Job growth. Capital. Investment. Varshney and his group laid out what’s missing and have been nailing the forecast for years. How about acting on it?