The California Economic Summit is being held in Fresno this week for the first time, and its theme is “Regions Rise Together.” The idea is that all parts of the state matter, not just the tech-centric, land-valuable coastal areas, and that being connected is the key ethic guiding California into the future.
“We need an economy that works for all Californians, no matter who you are or where you live,” says Gov. Gavin Newsom on the summit’s website. “The California Economic Summit will be a critical moment for us to come together, across all sectors, and commit to building inclusive and sustainable growth for the entire state.”
Special emphasis is being placed on prioritizing economic opportunities for the Central Valley and Inland Empire area of Southern California — regions that have historically lagged behind coastal communities.
Against this backdrop of forward-thinking ideas, however, came a tough reminder that, here in Fresno, not all parts of the city have risen together, and much more needs to be done to assure economic opportunities for all residents.
Bee data reporter Tim Sheehan recently analyzed state reports and discovered that the so-called “tale of two cities” really does exist in Fresno when it comes to poverty and reliance on government assistance.
Sheehan found that 83 percent of low-income households that get government help are located south of Shaw Avenue, long a demarcation between the city’s haves and have-nots. Other keys:
▪ Out of 120 census tracts in the city, almost half have poverty rates of at least 25 percent, and all but three of those are south of Shaw.
▪ More than half of the tracts have at least a quarter of the households getting food assistance. All but five of those tracts are south of Shaw.
▪ More than 60 percent of the tracts have a median household income less than the citywide median of $48,000 a year. All but eight of those tracts are below Shaw.
Since 2008, Fresno’s economy has seen only a 1.4% growth in its gross domestic product, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Nearly half of residents are struggling to make ends meet, and 70% of extremely low-income households spend half or more of their income on housing, a Brookings analysis found.
New effort started
Thankfully, a new local initiative is under way to build and sustain a more inclusive economy. Called Fresno DRIVE — Developing the Region’s Inclusive and Vibrant Economy — the campaign will be a 10-year effort to move residents from just existing to thriving.
Groups will work to screen a number of proposed projects that together will build a plan to encourage economic mobility, address racial disparities and support a sustainable environment. The plan will focus on three key areas: economic development, human capital and neighborhood development.
Much of that focus will inevitably lead to the parts of Fresno that are south of Shaw, as it should. Really, the lion’s share of attention should be there.
As we head toward the 2020 election year, the offices of Fresno mayor and council member will be voted on in the March primary. Candidates should clearly outline their ideas for raising the quality of life for all of Fresno. If a candidate cannot do that, they should not get any votes.