Four steps to Sacramento solvency

Put people to work and bring money into Sacramento’s economy

Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno. His column, Greenlight, appears weekly in this space.

It’s becoming painfully obvious that the state and federal governments can’t help us. So we have to help ourselves. By “we,” I mean the 12 percent of people who are unemployed, the small business owners barely keeping their heads above water and the local governments struggling to stay solvent.

The tea party, which has added as much wisdom to economic theory as the creationists added insight to biology, is now running the Republican Party. So the gridlock will get worse.

But the key to local economic development is to either bring in new dollars, or to keep dollars and jobs from leaving the area. Here are four simple steps that can put tens of thousands of our neighbors back to work.

1. Eat more locally grown food. We consume around $1.6 billion worth of food products every year, but only 2 percent of that is grown in the Sacramento region. If we could increase our local consumption to 7 percent, it would bring an additional $80 million per year into the local economy. Do your part! Shop at local farmers markets and ask your supermarket to carry more local products.

2. Local businesses should take advantage of commercial PACE programs. Property-Assessed Clean Energy programs currently existing in Placer County and being considered by the city of Sacramento provide funding for energy-efficiency projects in commercial buildings. This money pays for upgrades such as increased insulation, LED lighting, and more efficient heating and cooling equipment. The money is paid back over time by increases in property tax. But guess what? Business owners’ monthly cash flows actually improve because their savings on energy bills are greater than their increased property taxes. The PACE program could provide a $500 million boost to our local economy, putting thousands of unemployed construction workers back to work.

3. We should lobby to simplify the food-stamp application process. Only about half of eligible Californians receive federally funded food stamps. Other states, such as Oregon, provide food stamps to nearly 90 percent of eligible people. The California Food Policy Advocates claim that if El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento and Yolo counties had 100 percent participation in the food stamp program, it would bring our region an additional $120 million a year. Not to mention that it’s a very efficient way to feed hungry families.

And 4. Buy local. Buying locally made products, or frequenting businesses that keep their profits here in our community, makes a big difference. New and retained dollars are multiplied when individuals pass them on to other local businesses, which in turn pass them on again. Every new or retained dollar creates $5.