BEVERLY HILLS—In the present economic crisis, California has been hit harder than other states. Texas, a state of similar size, has an unemployment rate of 8 percent, while California weighs in at 12 percent. In response to current trends, professionals in both the public and private sectors met in Beverly Hills this past week to identify the various factors keeping California from recovery and to recommend solutions.
Called the “State of the State,” the conference was sponsored by the Milken Institute. Delegates formed numerous panels to address different issue categories such as education, housing, small business and manufacturing.
The diversity of participants resulted in diverse responses to a variety of economic considerations and brought the best of each individual’s background to the forefront of discussions. While no transcripts are available, summaries of the event are accessible on the Milken Institute’s website.
Some participants focused on the regulatory climate and the high cost of doing business. CEO of Ace Clearwater Kellie Johnson proposed sweeping reform of California’s regulatory bureaucracy, cost-benefit analysis of new regulations and suggested that old rules be reevaluated.
Other discussions focused on education and the competitive advantage of specialization in an increasingly global marketplace. Theodore Craver Jr., CEO of Edison International, committed to provide funding for community colleges willing to train engineers. In a second presentation, Kellie Johnson emphasized the shortage of workers with the skills required to fit her openings and advocated a return to vocational education with community colleges at the center.
In addition to education and the regulatory environment, delegates discussed the impact of tight credit—resulting from credit rule-changes—on small business vitality. Recent figures indicate that small businesses account for roughly 60 percent of new jobs. Consequently, delegates unanimously agreed that small business empowerment should be a part of any constructive economic solution and proposed creative financing as a means of getting around new financial hurdles.
In a segment entitled, “Advice from Leading CEOs: How to Fix California,” Theodore Craver identified the California budget deadlock as a prime obstacle to economic recovery, saying that such “uncertainty” is the enemy of growth.
California’s political deadlock was addressed at length later in the conference by panelists including political consultants and members of academia. Panelists expressed hope for bipartisanship and civil discourse but differed as to which political candidates they believed possessed these qualities.Panelists did agree that any political leaders would need to reach across the aisle to resolve urgent matters such as the budget.
The solutions offered at the “State of the State” conference are not necessarily the only solutions to California’s economic crisis. But for anyone interested, the Milken Institute offers diverse ideas from qualified individuals.
For more information about the Milken Institute and the “State of the State” conference, visit milkeninstitute.org.