Late last month the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce hosted an Economic Development Briefing with local and state leaders to discuss efforts to grow business and create more jobs for the region. The briefing highlighted local efforts to create a stronger local economy and featured Mike Rossi, Senior Advisor on Jobs and Business Development to Governor Jerry Brown, Assemblymember Jose Medina, Riverside County Workforce Investment Board chair Jamil Dada, Riverside County Assistant Executive Officer George Johnson, and Riverside City Manager Scott Barber.
In his initial comments, Rossi stated that California is getting stronger in attracting new investment and encouraging more businesses to relocate or expand their operations in the state. He also noted several examples of California businesses leading the charge in growth through technology including Apple, Zappos, and Facebook. However, Rossi also recognized that several challenges still exist and the state could do more to encourage new development and expedite the regulatory and environmental review process.
Assemblymember Medina noted that while California has many positive elements, the state faces several new challenges in an ever evolving economy including developing a stronger workforce and creating a smarter regulatory framework. As a former educator, he noted that education from K-12 through community college and higher education is an important component for economic development. He stressed that state funding for the UCR School of Medicine remains his top priority as a means of stimulating job creation, specifically in the healthcare industries.
In his comments, Dada stressed that the workforce investment board system is an effective way to re-train working adults to meeting the needs of the modern economy. Johnson and Barber also called for greater reform of the environmental review process to allow greater development and opportunities to attract new business.
In reference to modernizing the environmental review process outlined under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the panelists agreed that addressing environmental concerns are important but that the process has become vulnerable to exploitation by parties more interested in slowing the development of a specific project over mitigating environmental impacts. They stressed the need for stricter deadlines for outside input and reduced duplication of general analysis studies.