Sometimes quiet persistence pays off. Capping months of work – and proving you can indeed get important things done in a transparent fashion in the Legislature – today the Bay Area Council delivered for our members and our state when Governor Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker John Perez joined our All Members meeting to sign legislation allowing the Bay Area Council to help reopen California’s shuttered foreign trade offices.
At the end of August, the California Senate, by a strong bipartisan vote of 31 to 3, and the California Assembly, by a vote of 74 to 5, approved Assembly Bill 2012. The bill carried (with our appreciation!) by Speaker John Perez was crafted by the Bay Area Council, Governor Brown’s administration and the Speaker to modernize the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and clears the way for the Bay Area Council to operate California’s foreign trade offices in China. The suddenly well-staffed and relatively well-funded GO-Biz will work on permit streamlining, economic development, small business assistance, encouraging innovation and international trade. In addition, two friends of the Bay Area Council were appointed to lead Go-Biz, with Kish Rajan of Walnut Creek as the new GO-Biz Director, and Paul Oliva of San Francisco as Deputy Director of International Affairs and Business Development.
This year, our Executive Committee picked expanding trade between China and California as one of our “Lead” priorities, as well as improving the business climate. AB 2012 is a key step in that process for both priorities. California’s foreign trade offices were closed in 2003 amidst budget shortfalls. Access to China’s rapidly growing markets is vital to California’s economic success. China not only is the world’s second largest economy, but also its fastest growing economy, with an average growth rate of 10 percent over the last 30 years. For California, a state that leads in foreign exports among its U.S. peers, China is a critical player, coming in as the state’s third largest export market behind only Mexico and Canada.
The Bay Area Council will work with other regional and statewide business-backed nonprofit organizations to identify companies interested in selling to Chinese markets, or finding Chinese companies or investors to come to California. This consortium of non-profits will help implement, measure and manage the overall China-California program.
Our lack of foreign trade offices left us as only U.S. state without a broad-based international trade and investment program. This wrong will now soon be righted. While there will be much more to talk about on this issue in the months ahead, the Bay Area Council is very excited to roll out its non-profit, public-private partnership with the State of California to grow trade and business partnerships between California and Chinese companies. Our thanks to Senior Jobs Advisor Mike Rossi, the Governor and their staff of Alexis Podesta, Panorea Avdis and Brook Taylor.