Editorials

New leaders take helm of region’s job recruitment

Waiter Hang Gao prepares for lunch at the recently opened Izakaya Daikoku restaurant at 19th and S streets in Sacramento. The economic comebacks in California and Sacramento have produced a rush of new restaurant openings, accompanied by hiring of restaurant staff.
Waiter Hang Gao prepares for lunch at the recently opened Izakaya Daikoku restaurant at 19th and S streets in Sacramento. The economic comebacks in California and Sacramento have produced a rush of new restaurant openings, accompanied by hiring of restaurant staff. rpench@sacbee.com

This is a time of great transition for economic development in the Sacramento region – and a real opportunity to up our game and achieve the more diverse mix of well-paying jobs that everyone wants.

The Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization – which has led job-recruiting efforts for 40 years – is about to go away. It is merging with a new group, the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, created by local CEOs who believe their involvement will boost job-recruitment success. Clearly, the council will be in control, taking over SACTO’s staff and headquarters on Capitol Mall.

SACTO members are voting by mail on the merger, a process that closes Monday. The boards of SACTO and the new council have already signed off; SACTO President Barbara Hayes stepped aside. The council’s first permanent CEO – Barry Broome, who is transitioning out of a similar post in Phoenix – plans to be in Sacramento next week and be in the job full time by early February.

The Sacramento Metro Chamber is also getting a new leader. Peter Tateishi starts Jan. 17, moving over from the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange and replacing Roger Niello, who tried to engineer a consolidation with SACTO in 2013 but was rebuffed.

Tateishi says he’ll collaborate with other economic development groups; the new council has to be a key partner. He and Broome should have each other on speed dial.

Broome comes to Sacramento from the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, a model for the new group here. He was introduced to local CEOs by Mayor Kevin Johnson, who got to know Broome through the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Johnson called Broome’s hiring “a home run.”

His close relationship with the mayor could be a double-edged sword. It’s good that he can work well with the leader of the region’s biggest city. But he also needs to be independent of Johnson, a polarizing figure for some.

In a phone interview with a Sacramento Bee editorial board member, Broome said he’s a big fan of Johnson’s but will strive to build strong relationships with mayors, chamber of commerce leaders and higher education officials across the region. “I’m my own guy,” he said.

While he’ll have a far smaller staff and budget than in Phoenix, Broome has some resources and support at his disposal. The Sacramento council is starting with a budget of $1.7 million, thanks to pledges from local CEOs.

(The McClatchy Co., The Bee’s parent company, is among the local companies that put in $100,000 annual pledges; Pat Talamantes, McClatchy’s president and CEO, is on the council’s board.)

Broome also has a blueprint to work from, one that business leaders across the region helped draft. The Next Economy’s goal is to add 35,000 jobs and $5.3 billion beyond expected growth by 2018 in the six-county region. It is a common playbook to broaden the job base beyond state government and construction – vulnerable to boom and bust – by boosting business “clusters” such as health care, clean energy and agriculture and food.

Broome said that while Next Economy is a strong foundation, he plans to sharpen it with his own “street smarts and expertise” and present a work plan to his board by May.

According to Broome, he has his work cut out because Sacramento, though it has lots of potential, “is not a ready-to-go market” and because California has an anti-business reputation in some quarters.

He should know. In his nine-plus years in Phoenix, some of Broome’s biggest wins came from raiding California. In November, for instance, he persuaded Zenefits, a booming online human resources company based in San Francisco, to expand in Scottsdale, where it plans to hire 1,300 workers.

Broome pledges to be a “straight shooter” who encourages an “honest conversation” on economic development here. Now, he’s got to follow through.

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