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State controller: Central Valley could become tech hub for water-saving technology

State Controller Betty Yee delivers her keynote speech during the Central Valley Venture Forum at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016.
State Controller Betty Yee delivers her keynote speech during the Central Valley Venture Forum at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. jwalker@fresnobee.com

California State Controller Betty Yee was in Fresno on Thursday encouraging Central Valley entrepreneurs to build a healthy business community in the Fresno area that would rival other well-known technology and science hubs in the state.

“You don’t need to be Silicon Valley to look for opportunities,” Yee said as the keynote speaker for the Central Valley Venture Forum, an annual conference for businesses and investors that was held at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District.

The event is a collaboration between the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Fresno State Craig School of Business and the Central Valley Fund. It allows entrepreneurs an opportunity to network and learn from angel investors, venture capitalists, business and banking leaders, and elected officials.

Showcase participants include: Hive Concepts, Nano Hydrophobics (Best of Show award), Opcondys, SocialMime, WISErg.

Five start-ups also made presentations at the event to a panel of investors in bids for the title of best in show and prospective investments in their businesses.

Yee, whose job is to manage the state’s money and to make sure its bills are paid, shared with attendees a positive report on California’s economic recovery and its future, which is projected to have some job growth, wage increases and increased consumer confidence next year.

But some factors stand in the way of building healthy business communities, she warned, such as the lack of affordable housing in relation to jobs and the lack of access in some communities to the internet, which is considered a tool people need to be successful in the local economy.

The Valley, however, is a desirable place to live because home prices and land prices remain low and the possibility of creating partnerships between businesses, schools and government agencies is high. And the agricultural resources of the region set it apart from the rest of the state, she said.

There’s so much that comes out of this region and so much promise that can still come out of this region.

Betty Yee, California state controller

“I’ve always considered the Central Valley as the heart of the state of California,” Yee said. When you look at “what makes California thrive, there’s so much that comes out of this region, and so much promise that can still come out of this region.”

Yee contends that the Valley could lead the creation of more water-saving technology.

She offered some ways to achieve success. First, is to focus on what Yee calls “our human capital.” That means to “train and attract top talent” for your company. Second is to invest in school science and technology programs and apprenticeships to fill the green jobs of tomorrow.

The Central Valley “has shown to have the guts, the drive and the desire to put in place the structures needed for success.”

BoNhia Lee: 559-441-6495, @bonhialee

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