Our region has faced unique challenges in this recession. Construction and state government—two of our largest sectors—have shed thousands of jobs. We need to develop other employment sectors to lead our economic recovery. Our new economy must be more efficient and create environments in our region that are more cost-effective places for private industry to grow. Our draft Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (MTP/SCS) is looking at how to do more for our transportation system with fewer resources and plan strategically for the needs of our region going forward.

In order for our region to move ahead, private business and government must come together and align their limited resources for a strategic recovery effort. In October, the Metro Chamber Study Mission visited New Orleans, recently named by Forbes the “Biggest Brain Magnet” of 2011 and the number 2 “Best City for Jobs”. I’m inspired by the entrepreneurial model of the Idea Village in New Orleans that has helped bring about this economic renewal. Idea Village is fundamentally an educational and support program for entrepreneurs bringing expertise, financing and the innovative ideas of research, academic and young, creative thinkers together to foster new start-up businesses—and new jobs. Idea Village represents an environment in which knowledge and innovation came together to foster entrepreneurial activity. Over the past five years, New Orleans has given birth to a new level of community collaboration including strong business leadership and a new economy.

Our region’s key civic organizations—the Metro Chamber, Sacramento Area Commerce and Trade Organization (SACTO), Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance (SARTA) and Valley Vision—are partnering to address the challenges the recession has created in our region. They launched Next Economy: Capital Region Prosperity Plan, a private sector effort to create effective strategies and joint action to drive new job creation, investment, and innovation. I am a member of The Next Economy Leadership Committee, along with business leaders from social media, agriculture, law, engineering, and higher education. This work is the first step in reducing our unemployment rate of almost 13 percent, and in parts of our region more than 20 percent. The Next Economy is looking at our region to identify emerging clusters. From start-ups to large corporations, from agriculture and education to life sciences and clean technology, we need to focus our collective energy to find a path forward. Analysis of past and projected economic performance metrics and identifying industries and clusters with potential for growth based on economic performance, workforce demands, economic base, and other factors will inform the Next Economy effort.

While our present financial times are challenging, the work being done in this partnership between business and government in our region shows future promise for a region that has the economic diversity and prosperity we imagine in the vibrant communities our region has envisioned. Starting with an effort to listen carefully to what business needs, hold a seat at the big table of business for start-up company leaders, and explore ways for public and private sectors to form new ventures, we can foster a better place to retain and grow business in our region. Our focus will be unique.

Much research remains to focus these efforts and determine which of these clusters may emerge as a new catalyst for economic growth and job creation in our region. Parallel to the Next Economy’s research, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) will also be finalizing the MTP/SCS. Aligning these public and private efforts will position our region to move forward with vital communities to live and work. I encourage you to get involved in the future of our region.

Visit www.nexteconomycapitalregion.org to learn more about the project and their next meeting on February 17, from 9 – 11:30 am at the Folsom Community Center, 52 Natoma Street.

About the Author 
Susan Peters is a Sacramento County Supervisor