It looks like the Central Valley is finally getting some love from the governor’s office, and the Valley business community is noticing.

Lenny Mendonca, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, met Friday morning in downtown Fresno with about 20 elected officials and leaders in the energy, agriculture and health care sectors. The roundtable was organized by the Central Valley Business Federation, or BizFed.

Tracy Hernandez, founding CEO of BizFed, called Mendonca’s visit “vital.”

Hernandez is one of many leaders who have noticed a discernable difference in how the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom pays attention to the Valley vs. his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown.

“I’d say it’s a day-and-night difference,” Hernandez said. “The voice of the needs of the Central Valley are finally resonating.”

Focus on the Valley

Mendonca told the group that while much of the California’s job growth is happening in the coastal communities, the state’s strongest population growth is happening inland. He added that if the Central Valley can’t be successful economically, the entire state can’t be successful.

As for the state’s $21.5 billion budget surplus, Hernandez said Mendonca wanted the state to be prudent and use it only on one-time expenditures.

Other items of discussion included trade, housing, poverty and CEQA reform. And, of course, water.

Water, Water

Portrait of Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen

“We need better information coming from the Delta so that we are able to have appropriate exports and make this desert bloom in the San Joaquin Valley.” — Ryan Jacobsen, Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO

For Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen, that meant looking at the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

“We need for this administration to truly understand the issues that are going on up there,” Jacobsen said. “We need better information coming from the Delta so that we are able to have appropriate exports and make this desert bloom in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) and state Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) told Mendonca they hope Newsom puts a priority on SB 559, an infrastructure bill that would invest $400 million in the Friant-Kern Canal.

The bill, introduced by Hurtado and co-authored by Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), Arambula and other Valley assemblymembers, passed the Senate 34-3 and will be heard next in the Assembly.

Economic Forum in the Fall

Many of the ideas discussed at Friday’s roundtable will likely be incorporated into the California Economic Summit scheduled for Nov. 7-8 in Fresno. The annual event draws the state’s legislative and economic leaders to discuss solutions for the state’s economic problems.

The event will take place at the DoubleTree in downtown Fresno. The speaker lineup and agenda are expected to come out in August. Note: Darius Assemi, publisher of GV Wire, helped organize the event.

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