Hundreds of decision makers from across California will descend on the Mechanics Bank Arena next month for the California Economic Summit to discuss Governor Gavin Newsom’s climate change goals and its connection to the future of Kern County. as the state’s energy capital.
Not only government officials, but anyone concerned with public policy will benefit from attending the October 27-28 summit to learn more about California’s future in housing, homeownership, energy, business, broadband networks and more. The event will also allow visitors to learn about county culture and generate business for a local hospitality industry hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The summit will feature events with a keynote speaker, called plenary sessions, as well as breakout groups designed to allow local advocates, business owners and others to engage with people intimately involved in shaping the state legislation.
Local leaders throughout the summit will have the chance to directly influence the legislative session, while showcasing the diversity of Bakersfield’s people, geography and economy, said Micah Weinberg, CEO of California Forward, a group defense and event organizer.
“There’s no part of California where people need to go and learn more than Kern County,” Weinberg said.
Newsom’s climate change policy has been detrimental to Kern, said Nick Ortiz, president and CEO of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce. He wants people to understand how the county provides the most renewable energy in the state while producing advancements in renewable energy storage and carbon capture.
Amid Newsom’s advancing climate change policy, there must be an adequate supply of energy, he said.
“(That) doesn’t really exist in state politics right now,” Ortiz added, stressing the value of bridging the Newsom administration’s goals with Kern’s future. Oritz will kick off the summit with a welcome speech.
Weinberg said climate legislation needs to move forward so people have good jobs and good livelihoods. Economic policies must be reviewed to ensure Kern does not fall behind, he added.
The summit also offers a chance to showcase Kern’s ability to deliver products in times of drought through research-driven methods and demonstrate where 21st century lifestyles are coming from, Ortiz added.
Event organizer Weinberg did not lose the summit, which will be held two weeks before the midterm elections in a Republican-dominated district with prominent California Democrats. The summit aims to show that it is possible to have bipartisan conversations during divided time and that work on pressing state issues can be done together, he added.
Common political ground will be on display during a panel featuring the state’s major city mayors – including Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh – and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa talking about the repair California’s infrastructure fast after securing $100 billion from federal and state governments, Weinberg said.
Newsom’s attendance has yet to be confirmed, Weinberg added.
Nick Hill, president of the Black Chamber of Commerce, said he reserved judgment on the summit’s impact on African-American-owned businesses, including the effects of a working session aimed at supporting the entrepreneurship and small business ownership among people of color. He said similar conventions in the past have rarely helped people of color, but even so he promotes the event and lets people make their own decision to attend.
Paul Saldaña, director of the city’s economic and community development department, said he was happy to exchange ideas with other city workers about problems and solutions in their communities. He was also eager to show the progress Bakersfield has made in addressing homelessness, public safety and infrastructure issues.
Sacramento politicians can get informative tours of Kern County’s diverse geography the day before the summit begins. Among several sites are the National Chavez Center, Tejon Ranch, energy sites and aerospace innovation in eastern Kern County.
Attendees will sample local restaurants, breweries and wineries at a downtown street fair, which will close some streets during its opening reception, Saldaña said. Ambassadors will guide them to restaurants featuring their favorite foods and shopping experiences.
For two days prior to the summit, the Kern Community College district will host its own energy summit, with speakers from the Newsom administration and federal energy officials discussing the future of Kern’s economy. , according to Nicole Parra, director of the California Renewable Energy Laboratory. at the KCCD.
A series of environmental bills were signed into law by Newsom on Friday. Speakers at the summit will provide insight into the impacts of the legislation on the Kern economy, how the workforce will face this future, and how universities could adapt their curricula to educate people. students about those needs, Parra added.
Martin Keller, director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will kick off the pre-summit, highlighting the expertise the lab will bring to local energy-focused projects, she noted. Parra pointed to examples such as the carbon capture and sequestration project at Bakersfield College with the Weill Institute downtown solar microgrid project.
Downtown restaurant and business owners have noted that the conventions are helping businesses rebound after a tough few years. They provide a new clientele and prove that Bakersfield can accommodate large conferences.
“I’m excited about that,” said Shawna Haddad Byers, owner of Two Goats & The Goose. “It will be exciting.”
Mexicali Chief Operating Officer Michael Guerra said business had rebounded from levels during the pandemic. However, it has not completely returned to the same level, he added.
Guerra roughly estimated that the majority of revenue increases could be seen on weekdays, as their weekends already tend to be busy. He said if the California Economic Summit attracts customers like the state wrestling championship held in Bakersfield, sales could increase by about 10 to 15 percent on weeknights.
Mayra Chavez, assistant general manager of the Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center, said she expects rooms to be fully booked this week in October. Other hotels will also benefit because the Marriott did not have enough rooms available, and excess summit attendees were sent to other locations, she said.
Ishani Desai can be reached at 661-395-7417. Follow her on Twitter: @_ishanidesai.