By David Benda, Record Searchlight, July 2011
For much of his 30 minute presentation Wednesday, Jack Stewart of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association used numbers and anecdotes to cover familiar territory:
California doesn’t get it when it comes to economic development; the capital’s hostile attitude toward business and onerous regulations continue to be job killers.
But Stewart, a lobbyist who immerses himself in the politics of job creation, said pro-business leaders might have a surprising new ally in Sacramento.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, with whom Stewart didn’t think he had anything in common before the Democrat took office, is shaping an economic development plan to grow jobs.
Stewart told business and community leaders at the annual Economic Development Corp. of Shasta County investors breakfast that it’s the first time in some dozen years that an elected politician is taking job recruitment seriously.
Newsom is scheduled to unveil his economic development plan Friday.
“He is very focused on creating an economic strategy in California,” said Stewart, who has headed up the CMTA since 1998.
In April, Stewart traveled with Newsom and others to Texas to learn about the success of the Lone Star State’s job recruitment program.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has become a folk hero for people like Stewart as he’s marketed his state as a low-cost and business-friendly alternative to California, which is fertile job-hunting ground for Perry.
Texas has added 929,000 jobs since 2001, while California has lost approximately 635,000 manufacturing jobs in that same time, Stewart said.
Answering questions after his speech, Stewart told the story of Perry sending programmed cellphones to CEOs in California with a simple message: “If you’re interested in growing your business, please call me. I’m here to help.”
“They’re doing something right down there,” Stewart said of what he dubs the “Texas miracle.” “Gov. Perry will go anywhere, any time, to try to recruit companies into Texas.”
Perry has taken the state’s regulatory process and managed it himself, Stewart said.
Stewart acknowledged that many of Texas’ new jobs are low-paying minimum-wage positions.
“The fact is people have jobs,” Stewart said in an interview after his presentation. “Wouldn’t you rather have somebody working with a job?”
Wednesday’s event was sponsored by the Record Searchlight, which is an EDC investor.
EDC President Mark Lascelles followed Stewart with an update on his organization’s job recruitment efforts. Lascelles’ organization also unveiled its new website at www.shastaedc.org, which features
a link that details the local, state and federal incentives available to employers.
When he started in September, the EDC was talking with two companies about relocating to Shasta County. Today, Lascelles said, the organization is in discussions with 18 firms.
In addition to meeting with Newsom, Lascelles has met with Stanford Research Institute President Kurt Carlson and plans to meet with UC Davis officials next month to look at research and business opportunities.
Lascelles emphasized that it does no good to belabor California’s regulatory environment.
“Unfortunately, we can’t avoid it. We have to deal with it,” he said.