California’s economy can be boosted by investing in workforce

Respiratory therapy students Eliana Arroyo-Canella, left, and Kristina Rozynski, center, learn from Bonnie Hunt, professor and program director at Modesto Junior College.
Respiratory therapy students Eliana Arroyo-Canella, left, and Kristina Rozynski, center, learn from Bonnie Hunt, professor and program director at Modesto Junior College. TNS

You may have read the headline: California’s business climate is dead last among the nation’s 50 states.

To borrow a phrase from a rental car commercial, let us just say: “Not exactly.”

Chief Executive magazine said that CEOs favor states with fewer regulations. No surprise there. We won’t argue that California’s regulatory system couldn’t use changes.

But dead last?

How then would you explain the Kiplinger Report estimate that California is on track for the ninth fastest percentage for job growth among all states in 2016? No state in the Union will produce as many new jobs – an estimated 374,000, on top of the 439,000 created in 2015.

Kiplinger says that California’s job growth will be fueled particularly in technology and life sciences. We also know that our leadership in the environmental sciences, manufacturing, tourism and entertainment are drivers of this dynamic, diverse economy.

You hear it all the time: Our taxes are high. There’s no arguing that.

However, these same CEOs who rank us poorly also indicate that the quality of workforce is just as important – in some cases more important – than tax rates. While we have much more work to do to prepare our workforce to compete globally, it is clearly a California strength. We are pleased that the Legislature is poised to add $200 million to the state’s workforce training efforts.

We are co-chairpersons of the California Economic Summit, which will be held in Sacramento this December and will promote the need for increased workforce investment to prepare for fast-changing 21st century jobs.

California’s advantages – in addition to our size, our proximity to world markets and, yes, our weather – include an education system that delivers one of the best workforces in the world. The University of California, the California State University and our 113 community colleges are all part of the summit and are developing policies to train the 1 million more skilled workers our economy needs.

The summit has a goal of widening the workforce pipeline and closing the looming “skills gap” by aligning the state’s training and education programs with the needs of employers.

We also have the challenge of finding these workers a place to live. That’s why the summit has issued the challenge to build 1 million more homes. With housing supply far below demand, the summit is leading a comprehensive effort aimed at reducing costs and increasing supply.

These are some of the fundamental issues facing California as we continue to grow, and they have attracted the attention of many different groups. What makes the summit unique is its collective focus on finding solutions that meet the “triple bottom line” – growing the economy, improving environmental quality and increasing opportunity.

For California to thrive, we must continue to improve, invest and innovate. We look forward to welcoming more leaders from every region into our coalition in the year ahead, and to work together to achieve a shared and sustainable prosperity.

Laurie Madigan is a partner at Madigan Consulting in San Diego and can be contacted at Bill Mueller is CEO of Valley Vision in Sacramento and can be contacted at They are co-chairpersons of the California Economic Summit Steering Committee.