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Economic councils look at benefits of HSR for Central Valley and Bay Area

Economic councils look at benefits of HSR for Central Valley and Bay Area

New study will explore opportunities for expanding, deepening Bay Area, Fresno, Central Valley megaregion connections

@TheSunGazette

SAN FRANCISCO – Despite the politics and the cost of California’s High Speed Rail project, the potential benefits that lie ahead for the Central Valley are undeniable. And now that infrastructure for the rail is going up all over the Valley, interested parties are looking into exactly what those benefits might be.

High speed rail is expected to shrink the time it takes to travel between the Bay Area and the Central Valley from more than three hours to less than one hour when it is scheduled to begin service in 2025 between Fresno and San Jose. That has huge implications for housing, transportation and workforce development across the megaregion and promises to bring exciting new economic opportunities to Fresno and other parts of the Central Valley.

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute and Central Valley Community Foundation announced last week the launch of an in-depth study to examine Fresno’s important role in the fast-emerging Northern California megaregion and how the arrival of high speed rail over the next decade will dramatically accelerate economic connections between Silicon Valley and the broader Bay Area and the state’s fifth largest city.

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“Fresno and the broader Central Valley are key players in developing a broader megaregion strategy,” said Micah Weinberg, president of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. “As county and other regional boundaries blur with the emergence of the megaregion, it’s imperative that we get a handle on what that future looks like and the infrastructure we’ll need to put in place to support it. We can act now to address these issues or confront chaos later. The Central Valley Community Foundation is an important and indispensable partner in making that happen.”

The study will focus in particular on strategies Fresno and other Central Valley cities can pursue to leverage high speed rail and other economic and demographic changes within the megaregion to boost their own economic prospects. While the 10 percent economic growth that Fresno has enjoyed since 2011 matches the national average, it has lagged cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles where the rate has reached 26 percent and 16 percent, respectively. Expanding the Central Valley’s participation in the megaregion economy, attracting new business and elevating its workforce to meet the needs of employers will also be a focus of the study.

“Improved economic and infrastructure connections between the Silicon Valley/Bay Area and the Central Valley is good, not just for our regions, but for the entire state,” said Ashley Swearengin, President and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation. “We are pleased to launch this work with the Bay Area Council and to explore meaningful ways to create new economic opportunities for Central Valley residents, businesses and communities and relieve pressure on the congested Bay Area.”

The study is part of a much broader, long-term effort the Bay Area Council is leading to bring together top business, government and other civic leaders from the Bay Area, Central Valley, Sacramento and Monterey regions to develop a unified, integrated vision for guiding future planning for the megaregion around such issues as housing, transportation and workforce development.

Driving the Council’s intense focus on the megaregion is the Bay Area’s meteoric economic growth over the past decade combined with an historic housing shortage and affordability crisis. In search of more affordable housing, record numbers of Bay Area workers are being forced into longer and longer commutes from the Central Valley and Sacramento that are putting increasing pressure on an already overburdened and congested transportation system. At the same time, the Central Valley is eager to accelerate economic development opportunities that the megaregion offers and prepare its workforce.

The study with the Central Valley Community Foundation is one of several activities the Council is leading to bring greater attention to megaregion planning. The Council is also working closely with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the Greater Sacramento Economic Council on megaregion issues, including investing in better rail connections along the I-80 corridor and promoting the capitol city as a destination for businesses looking to start and expand outside the Bay Area.

The Council is also convening a series of meetings in 2018 to begin a dialogue with government, business, nonprofit and academic leaders on the future of the megaregion.

About the Bay Area Council Economic Institute The Bay Area Council Economic Institute is a public-private partnership of business, labor, government and higher education that works to foster a competitive economy in California and the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland and Silicon Valley. The Economic Institute produces authoritative analyses on economic policy issues affecting the region and the state, including infrastructure, globalization, energy, science and governance, and mobilizes California and Bay Area leaders around targeted policy initiatives. Learn more at www.bayareaeconomy.org.

About the Central Valley Community Foundation Central Valley Community Foundation has been a trusted partner in philanthropy in the Central Valley for more than 50 years. Our mission is to cultivate smart philanthropy, lead, and invest in solutions that build stronger communities. Learn more at www.centralvalleycf.org.

About the Bay Area Council The Bay Area Council is a business-sponsored, public-policy advocacy organization for the nine-county Bay Area. The Council proactively advocates for a strong economy, a vital business environment, and a better quality of life for everyone who lives here. Founded in 1945, the Bay Area Council is widely respected by elected officials, policy makers and other civic leaders as the voice of Bay Area business. Today, more than 300 of the largest employers in the region support the Bay Area Council and offer their CEO or top executive as a member. Our members employ more than 4.43 million workers and have revenues of $1.94 trillion, worldwide. Learn more at www.bayareacouncil.org.

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