$14M boosts economic growth in Central Valley

Gov. Newsom’s latest economic endeavor funnels $14 million to the Central Valley’s Job First Collaborative

(Rigo Moran)
Darren Fraser
Published March 12, 2024  • 
1:00 pm

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest move has shined a light on the Central Valley’s economic potential with his introduction of a new state council, which is not only focused on creating more jobs across the state, but on streamlining the state’s economic and workforce development programs to create these jobs faster.

In a March 8 press release, Newsom announced the creation of the California Jobs First Council. He also awarded $182 million in grants to a statewide initiative to accelerate economic and workforce projects across the state, of which $14 million has been allocated to the Central Valley Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Fresno.

The nine-member Council, co-chaired by Dee Dee Myers, senior advisor to Newsom and Director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, and Stewart Knox, Secretary of Labor and Workflow Development, will be tasked with guiding California’s investments in economic and workforce development. 

The Council will focus on creating more family-supporting jobs and on prioritizing sectors for future growth.


As one of 13 economic regions in the state, the Central Valley is a key player in California’s economy. The Regional Investment Initiative (Initiative), formerly known as the Community Economic Resilience Fund, established within each economic region a governance body called a Jobs First Collaborative. The Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) is the Valley’s Collaborative.

In October 2022, CVCF received $5 million during the Planning Phase of the Initiative; last week, CVCF received $14 million of the $182 million in grants. The $182 formed the Initiative’s Catalyst Program.

CVCF has a six-county footprint that includes Fresno, Tulare, Madera, Kings, Merced and Mariposa. Ashley Swearengin is CVCF’s president and CEO. For Swearengin, the creation of the Council is significant.

“It’s a really big deal,” she said. “I’ve been at this for a while and it’s been a while since I have seen a gubernatorial administration stop and say, ‘Hey, we really need our state agencies to be coordinating better. To lift up our regions and make sure we’re helping to create jobs.’ We’re real excited to see it hit.”

Swearengin said CVCF used the initial $5 million to support its planning process, which is ongoing. They also used to fund small profits. With respect to the $14 million CVCF received last week, she said they put out requests for proposals (RFPs) to call for projects.

“We have a local, competitive process we’re going through to help allocate those dollars,” she said.

To date, 85 entities have submitted draft proposals for projects.

Swearengin said she encourages CVCF’s local partners who are involved in the Initiative to keep their eye on the prize.

“And the prize is a large-scale, long-range plan for inclusive and sustainable economic development in the region,” she said. “I think, by order of magnitude, we should be putting forward a plan that argues for tens and tens of billions of dollars of investment for this region.”

The other 12 regions are North State, Capitol, Redwood Region, Bay Area, Orange County, Los Angeles County, Eastern Sierra, Kern County, Central Coast, Inland Southern California and the Southern Border. Each region received $5 million during the Planning Phase and $14 million as part of the Catalyst Program.


The other council members on the California Jobs First Council include the Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, the Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Secretary of the California Health and Human Service Agency, the Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs and the President of the Public Utilities Commission.

In the press release, Newsom said, “California has created more opportunities, more jobs, and more businesses than any other state, but we need to ensure that we’re all moving forward together. Through this new council and these investments, we’re aligning all of our economic resources to create more jobs, faster for Californians in every community.”

According to the press release, the Council will oversee the development of a statewide industrial strategy. This strategy will address business attraction and expansion. The Council will identify sectors in the state that need economic assistance and investment.

“I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to align strategic investments that further economic growth and job creation in every region of California,” council co-chair Dee Dee Myers said.

The Council is part of the state’s broader strategy to prepare students and workers for high-paying careers. To this end, the Council will work with the Council for Career Education to ensure that the Master Plan for Career Education (Master Plan), which Newsom established last year, continues to open career paths and education to all California students, from K-12 through university, as well as to workers hoping to take advantage of career education to advance in the workplace.

The Governor’s press release does not provide specific details about how the Council will streamline state bureaucracy with respect to workforce development. Nor does it fully clarify how the Initiative will jumpstart economic development in each of the 13 economic regions.

The release does state that the $600 million investment supported the creation of Jobs First Collaboratives (Collaboratives) in each of the regions and that these Collaboratives are represented by a wide variety of community partners, including labor, business, local government, education, environmental justice and community organizations. 

The release added that these Collaboratives are in the process of developing roadmaps, including a strategy and recommended series of investments for their regions. For Swearengin, the mandate for CVCF is clear.

“Small grants come and go,” she said, “but we should be really focused on large-scale investment in this region. We’ve been working hard, but we have to swing for the fences for this kind of stuff.”

Darren Fraser