An array of business and other leaders put into high gear an ambitious effort Friday, hoping to succeed where the state's politicians have failed -- implement strategies to help remedy California's moribund economy.
The first California Economic Summit, attended by more than 500 in Santa Clara, also drew some political heavyweights who acknowledged that means other than depending on Sacramento are needed to extract California from its economic mire.
The organizers of the summit have taken a grass-roots and regional approach through a series of smaller group meetings leading up to the summit. Among the key speakers was Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who applauded the concept, primarily because of the state's complexity.
"One size does not fit all," Newsom said in an interview with this newspaper. "There is no one California economy. It is the sum total of local economies."
The lieutenant governor acknowledged that the tangle of competing political views at the Capitol has irked business executives and local officials in California.
"They have had enough," he said.
The group is moving to demand that California address a few key issues, including infrastructure upgrades, efforts to spur innovation and increasing access to capital. A final report isn't due until mid-June.
"We believe that continued success requires public and private sector leaders taking signature actions that simultaneously promote economic vitality, equality of opportunity and environmental quality," the group stated. "We know that these signature actions must promote skilled human capital, efficient regulation and modern infrastructure." These goals are "prerequisites for attracting the private investment that generates quality jobs," the group stated.
Some local business officials embraced the concept of the summit, whose leadership group is co-chaired by Laura Tyson, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers with President Bill Clinton, and George Shultz, former secretary of state with President Ronald Reagan.
"Dialogue is always good, but what matters is where this dialogue goes," said Carl Guardino, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. "Everyone wants to move from rhetoric to results."
Business executives in the South Bay generally are too busy running complex enterprises to spend time arguing without the prospect of results.
"I believe today will bring some results," Guardino said.
Linda Best, president of the Contra Costa Council in the East Bay, said she is encouraged with the culmination of the series of grass-roots meetings in Friday's summit.
While numerous meetings were held leading up to the summit, the reality is that the summit is itself only another step in the process, she added.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Best said. "We have to get that message to Sacramento."
Gov. Jerry Brown's primary adviser on jobs, Michael Rossi, also attended. Rossi painted a picture of a California whose economy has begun to mend itself. The housing meltdown, mortgage implosion and financial crisis combined to hammer the state.
"We are on the path to recovery," Rossi said. "But we still have 2 million people unemployed."
Rossi argued that naysayers shouldn't be too quick to shove California onto the proverbial ash heap of history.
"We hear a lot of California bashing lately," Ross said. "But it is still the place where dreams are made, a place where everyone wants to be. I just hope that no one loses faith in the California dream."
Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at Twitter.com/george_avalos.