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Bakersfield selected to host 2022 California Economic Summit


Next year's California Economic Summit will take place Oct. 27-28 in Bakersfield.

Next year's two-day California Economic Summit — a statewide event bringing together state policymakers, civic leaders, business people and residents often left out of such discussions — will take place in Bakersfield.

The event's organizers confirmed Thursday that the first such conference in Bakersfield has been scheduled for Oct. 27-28, when there will be work groups and keynote speeches addressing some of the most critical issues facing the Golden State.

People involved said that by attracting a conference that has in the past been hosted by bigger cities including Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento, Bakersfield will be given a platform to show off not only a region with substantial economic assets but also its recent collaborative efforts to forge a brighter future for local job creation.

The man summit officials credited with helping bring the event to Kern, Nick Ortiz, president and CEO of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, called the announcement another sign the region is key to the state's current and future prosperity.

"Furthermore, it gives us a platform to inform statewide leaders about our unique challenges in feeding, fueling and energizing the rest of the state, while showing off our vibrant community," Ortiz said by email Thursday.

"I’m extremely proud to be from Bakersfield, to lead one of our key institutions," he added, "and I’m looking forward to introducing a statewide audience to the 'sound of something better.'"

Two years ago, Fresno hosted the event, bringing in 1,000 or more people from other areas who told their hosts they'd driven through the city but never really stopped before to take a look around. There's hope the same thing will happen next year in Bakersfield.

Former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, co-chair of the event's creator, California Forward, said the 2021 California Economic Summit earlier this week in Monterey filled sidewalks and restaurants.

It's a lot of work, based on Fresno's 2019 experience, and there will be money to raise locally if the event is to become a success, she said, but the benefits are substantial.

"Honestly, it sounds maybe a little bit cheesy, if you will, but the fact of the matter is the coastal part of California needs to be introduced to the inner part of the state," said Swearengin, CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation.

The decision to bring the event to Bakersfield, she said, partly reflects Gov. Gavin Newsom's efforts to invite inland California to the proverbial table. But it might not have happened without the work of participants in Kern's B3K Prosperity economic collaboration, which has brought together a broad constituency of local leaders to pursue a shared vision for putting the county's existing strengths to work in creating quality jobs for the future.

"There's no doubt that the work local community leaders have done to organize B3K has absolutely helped to attract the summit of Bakersfield," she said. "The summit coming (to Kern) should be received by residents of Bakersfield as encouragement that people around the state want to come to Bakersfield."

The CEO of event organizer California Forward, Micah Weinberg, put this week's announcement in similar terms. He linked next year's summit to the state's $600 million Community Economic Resilience Fund, or CERF, which is widely expected to offer substantial grants in support of B3K's economic development goals.

Weinberg said by email California Forward will work with Ortiz and the chamber to create what he called an "impactful event" that, like in years past, will move the state forward and bring people together across political ideologies, regions, industries and sectors to change how the state develops policies serving all who live in California for generations to come.

He noted the event moves cities every year to highlight different regions in the state, and added this year's event in Monterey attracted 500 people from outside the area.

"We're looking forward to highlighting Kern County's unique strengths as the leading oil and renewable energy producer in the state, an agriculture powerhouse and a region with geophysical advantages for carbon capture and sequestration," he wrote. "This region, through B3K, can be a model proving that traditional industry sectors can reinvent themselves in a climate-friendly and economically powerful way."

Editor's note: This story has been changed to reflect that the 2022 event will be the 11th California Economic Summit.