New crop of young leaders emerges in Sacramento

Michael W. Marion
Michael W. Marion

For far too long, Sacramento was known as a city whose leaders were seemingly against everything and where nothing ever changed.

It is time we retire that way of thinking forever.

We are embarking on a new era in California’s capital. Once slightly embarrassed to be known as a “cow town,” we now take pride in the forward-thinking “farm to fork” slogan. It’s a movement that demonstrates how Sacramento has come to embrace its rich agricultural heritage with a flair unlike any previous time.

From our farmers markets to our restaurants to our craft brewers, we have come to own our foodie culture. But that “new era” needs to be much more than something that excites our taste buds.

With the construction of the new downtown arena and redevelopment of abandoned warehouses and blighted streets, we have taken ownership of past misdeeds and are doing something about them. We no longer drive by and hope something happens. Instead, we have replaced apathy with opportunity.

Sacramento has many people who are determined to change the overall culture. There are many established leaders in our community, but in 2015 we’re turning more and more to young professionals to help lead the way.

Many of the under-40 leaders are members of Metro Edge, a young professional organization launched in 2009 by the Sacramento Metro Chamber. Although members of this ambitious group come from a myriad of business, public and nonprofit sectors and have diverse backgrounds and education levels, they have shared a common goal from the very start – working together to ensure the Sacramento region has a dynamic future.

More than 500 of the best and brightest of the capital region’s young leaders are part of Metro Edge, and the numbers continue to grow. The same can be said for other young professional organizations throughout the region. This group is expanding not only in size, but in strength. Whether through politics, charitable efforts or purchasing power, the influence of young professionals will be dramatically felt in 2015.

We understand that to make the region what we want it to become, we must have a central city that is vibrant, and we must be the ones who work to make it happen. The neighborhoods, the restaurants and the jobs are only going to improve and expand if we make the effort to change. We must become dedicated ambassadors of that change.

It starts with recruiting recent college graduates and 20-somethings attracted to the Sacramento region because it offers vibrant neighborhoods, safe parks, unique arts and entertainment options, and most importantly, valuable work. In turn, we must continue to show local entrepreneurs as well as national companies that the Sacramento region is a place where they will find an educated, highly skilled workforce.

Supporting the growth of local organic food producers, improving housing options and diversifying the job base are large tasks. But no longer are we simply waiting for someone else to get it done. We are taking on the responsibility.

Not all of our initial ideas and efforts may prove successful, but no longer will we find it acceptable to throw up our hands and walk away. That’s the “old” Sacramento.

The “new” Sacramento will face the challenges as we all head into this next exciting phase in our region’s transformation. The theme for 2015 is “Own It” – your career, your city, your future.

Michael W. Marion, executive director and associate vice provost of Drexel University Sacramento, is chairman of Metro Edge.