California Forum

Investments like Measure U are a surefire way to boost Sacramento’s economy

UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May and Mayor Darrell Steinberg announce the hospital campus in Oak Park as the site for a new tech and innovation hub to be called Aggie Square.
UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May and Mayor Darrell Steinberg announce the hospital campus in Oak Park as the site for a new tech and innovation hub to be called Aggie Square. Sacramento Bee

Recently, Sacramento leaders commissioned the Brookings Institution to understand why our region is behind in growth, prosperity and inclusion. Their assessment exposed critical trends – a lack of access to job hubs, a growing digital skills gap, and a lack of tradeable sectors – that require the immediate attention of our community’s leaders.

Thirty-four percent of the region’s residents struggle financially, while 16.2 percent of eligible workers are not in the workforce. The report suggested one solution – building an advanced, inclusive economy.

An advanced economy means tradeable sectors – those that export products around the world and bring new wealth into the market – are thriving. As a result, downstream jobs are growing, and Sacramento residents have clear workforce paths to join the prosperity.

To grow an advanced economy, public and private sector leaders must work together to invest in the competitiveness of our region. The more competitive we are, the more tools we have to attract and grow industries that lead to wealth creation. Smart investments in economic development will translate into tradeable sector growth in food and ag, health and life sciences, and newer industries for the region, including renewable energy, mobility, and automotive technologies.

Across the country, public investments that drive growth, when matched with private dollars, are a proven way to increase economic activity. In Orange County, residents passed a half-cent transportation-dedicated sales tax to support infrastructure, investing $293 million to improve access to John Wayne Airport. This resulted in the creation of more than 43,000 jobs and a $6 billion economic impact to the regional economy.

Though Sacramento International Airport is outperforming John Wayne Airport by 25 percent, we aren’t seeing 40,000 jobs around our airport because we haven’t invested in a measure to take advantage of our airport’s successes.

Texas is known for poaching thousands of California jobs, made easier as 576 Texas cities have sales taxes dedicated to economic development. These dedicated economic development funds have allowed Texas and many states across the country to build advanced economies – and it’s time that Sacramento residents consider making a similar investment.

The time to act is now. Aggie Square is one of the most important initiatives in our region’s history, increasing the economic impact of UC Davis, driving jobs and investment into the tradeable health and life sciences sector, and creating workforce pipelines for residents. This is only possible with public and private investment.

As Sacramento considers Measure U, a sales tax that can be leveraged for projects like Aggie Square, it’s our opportunity to align public investment with a proven economic model. Similar to Aggie Square, the University Science Center in Philadelphia estimated that the economic impact of the businesses generated by the park have directly supported 42,021 jobs and almost $9.4 billion in economic activity.

The University of Arizona Science and Technology Park supports 6,494 jobs in the park, translating to 14,332 jobs in Pima County and $2.7 billion in economic activity. These proven economic impacts can be delivered in Aggie Square, if given the early support necessary to succeed via public and private investments.

Public investments in economic development are proven to shift the economic trajectory of regions like ours. The Brookings assessment exposed the urgency.

Sacramento’s leaders have committed to prioritizing economic development for future levies like Measure U. Now, Sacramento’s residents must decide if building a prosperous economy is worth adding a half-cent to our Measure U sales tax. The evidence is clear – it’s time we make this investment in our region’s future.

Barry Broome is CEO of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, which does not take political positions. This is his personal view. Reach him at bbroome@selectsacramento.com

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