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Shasta County, Calif. Hosts Second NACo County Prosperity Summit

Photo caption: during the Shasta County Prosperity Summit, local and regional leaders worked on visioning and brainstorming exercises to strengthen the region's high-tech sector.

The second NACo County Prosperity Summit was held on May 12 in Shasta County, Calif. At this event, 45 county and community leaders convened in the city of Redding to brainstorm creative ways to advance economic growth in the county's growing high-tech and green energy sectors.

Selected through a competitive application process, Shasta County was chosen to host the summit because of local leaders' dedication to equitable development that benefits all of its residents including traditionally marginalized and low-income populations. Shasta County and its partners are also taking a comprehensive approach to economic development, focusing on broadband infrastructure, educational attainment and poverty reduction as key strategies to generate new business and job opportunities while providing new career pathways and skill attainment programs to ready the county's workforce.

Shasta2.jpg A small group brainstorms the viability of new solar energy opportunities to take advantage of Shasta County's abundance of sunny days.

 

The Shasta County Prosperity Summit was co-hosted by the Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency and the United Way of Northern California; both agencies have been working together to build a cross-sector collaborative of individuals and organizations interested in creating lasting solutions that address root causes of poverty issues throughout the region. Shasta County is one of the poorest counties in California: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 17.6% of Shasta County families are below the poverty level, compared to 11.5% in California . To address these staggering trends, United Way and Shasta County developed The Prosperity Initiative a coordinated and inclusive strategic visioning process that includes nonprofits, local government, business and philanthropy working together to create a connected and thriving economy that benefits all residents. Regional leaders used the Prosperity Initiative to help frame the NACo Summit, and will use the summit outcomes to help realize the economic goals outlined in the initiative.

Summit attendees represented city and county elected officials, business owners, local community colleges, state agencies and community-based organizations. When asked to comment on their self-interest for attending the summit, many attendees discussed the need to develop Shasta County into a place where a young, creative and talented workforce can live, work and above all, stay in the community. Several attendees also expressed an interest in increasing STEM education for high school students and women; pursuing trade degrees, certificates and internship programs that connect college students with area businesses; and expanding broadband access throughout the county.

The Shasta County Prosperity Summit was facilitated by Barbara Wyckoff, CEO of Dynamica Consulting . Ms. Wyckoff introduced summit attendees to the WealthWorks framework and walked them through a number of visioning and mapping exercises to strengthen local and regional connections within the county's high-tech sector. At one point, Wyckoff urged participants to "aspire to do no harm," emphasizing that Shasta County boasts various forms of capital that they can leverage and grow, but they should not "drain one stock of capital at the expense of another."

To add local context and describe a grounded application of the framework, Heidi Khokhar of Rural Development Initiatives also joined the event. Ms. Khokhar shared her experience working with 18 communities in the Pacific Northwest that were impacted by the contraction of the timber industry. She recommended that Shasta County leaders help create lasting wealth that is more equitable and inclusive by taking a comprehensive sector-based approach, one that analyzes the full range of capitals and assets utilized and underutilized within a sector.

Shasta3.jpg Attendees spent the day working on intensive exercises to identify existing and underutilized assets. These exercises included creating models of value chains, exploring new stakeholder opportunities and identifying next steps to pursue after the summit.

 

Shasta4.jpg At the event conclusion, summit participants pledged to continue applying the WealthWorks model in other sectors of their economy, and United Way of Northern California will follow up with participants about opportunities for applying the model to the economic development goals identified in The Prosperity Initiative . Wendy Zanotelli, the CEO of United Way of Northern California, offered in her closing remarks, "The WealthWorks model offers our community a new tool and perspective for analyzing emerging sectors in our economy and complements the collective impact approach we are already applying to reduce poverty and enhance quality of life throughout the region."

The next NACo County Prosperity Summit will take place in Scott County, Ky. on Tuesday, May 26.

Interested in learning more about County Prosperity Summits and WealthWorks? Plan to attend NACo's Annual Conference this summer in Mecklenburg County, N.C., which will feature a County Prosperity Forum on Sunday, July 12th from 9am-12pm EDT. To register for the conference, visit naco.org/annual . For more information about the County Prosperity Summits Program, visit naco.org/prosperity or contact Jen Horton at jhorton@naco.org .