Fostering inclusive economic growth that creates opportunity for all has become a defining challenge for many U.S. regions, including California’s Inland Empire. Although the Inland Empire has seen exceptional growth for years thanks to its affordability and proximity to the Pacific Coast, it has hardly grown more prosperous. A series of economic booms and busts have left the region with more residents but fewer good jobs. Many families now struggle to make ends meet. Meanwhile, shifting global trade flows and new technologies may upend several of the region’s most critical industries in the years to come.
As these economic and social trends have grown more severe in the years since the housing bust and Great Recession, they have raised alarm among the Inland Empire’s leaders. Like in many U.S. metropolitan regions today, civic leaders in the region are seeking new strategies, tools, and resources to advance economic opportunity for more workers and families.
This report considers ways in which the Inland Empire can advance economic opportunity by focusing regional growth strategies on “Opportunity Industries”—the industries that concentrate the region’s good jobs and promising jobs. Good jobs provide middle-class wages and benefits. Promising jobs are entry-level jobs that provide career pathways to good jobs. Although promising jobs do not provide the pay or benefits of a good job, they enable an incumbent worker to reach a good job within 10 years.
Overall, the report finds that in order to advance opportunity, the Inland Empire must increase the competitiveness and diversity of those industries that tend to concentrate good jobs. Specifically, the report finds:
- The Inland Empire needs more good and promising jobs than it provides. Over 445,000, or 31 percent, of the Inland Empire’s jobs are good or promising jobs held by workers who do not have a bachelor’s degree. Another 215,000, or 15 percent, are good or promising jobs for high-skill workers who have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, the remaining 784,000, or 54 percent, of the region’s jobs are neither good nor promising, meaning they provide insufficient pay or benefits and no viable career pathway to a good job. This leaves the Inland Empire with a deficit of opportunity—roughly 347,500 of the Inland Empire’s workers who hold one of these “other” jobs need a good or promising job in order to earn a family-sustaining wage. Read more about finding one on page 27 »
- Investing in the competitiveness of certain opportunity industries can increase the region’s stock of good jobs. Industries that trade their products or services with customers outside of the Inland Empire are crucial not only to the region’s economic competitiveness, but also to opportunity. Together, these “tradable” industries, such as logistics, wholesale, and manufacturing, comprise 22 percent of all jobs in the Inland Empire, yet they provide almost 28 percent of the region’s good jobs held by workers without a bachelor’s degree. Other tradable industries, including information, corporate headquarters, and professional services, also concentrate good jobs for these workers and, though relatively small in the Inland Empire, are vital to its innovation, trade, and future growth potential. Read more about finding two on page 30 »
- Providing new types of education and workforce support can improve workers’ ability to obtain good or promising jobs. In the Inland Empire, about 80 percent of workers who do not have a bachelor’s degree will completely switch occupations in order to obtain a good job, marking a significant career change. Successful career changes to higher-paying jobs in the region increasingly require reasoning, creativity, and interpersonal communication abilities. Few career and techincal education programs are designed for these non-linear careers, nor do they tend to focus on important coginitve and social abilities, thus providing an opportunity for higher education to design more impactful training programs. Read more about finding three on page 39 »
- Addressing race and gender gaps is crucial to securing the Inland Empire’s economic future. Education is an increasingly important determinant of a person’s chances of obtaining a good job, yet relatively few workers in the Inland Empire possess a post-secondary degree. Meanwhile, even among workers with the same level of education, chances of holding a good or promising job vary by gender and race or ethnicity. As one of the youngest and most racially and ethnically diverse metropolitan regions in the nation, addressing these disparities is critical to ensuring local workers and families can participate in and benefit from the region’s future economic growth. Read more about finding four on page 48 »
The report’s findings reinforce the challenges the region faces around advancing opportunity. However, the findings also suggest that the region can adapt to change and help more workers thrive. The region faces a deep and interrelated set of issues requiring new multi-dimensional solutions that marshal the tools, resources, and expertise of actors from many different systems and institutions.
The findings point to three strategic objectives to advance opportunity in the Inland Empire:
- Advance the capabilities and competitiveness of local firms in opportunity-rich manufacturing and logistics industries. Firms in these industries may require resources that enable them to develop innovative new products and services, in addition to implementing more efficient processes that reduce costs and improve product and service delivery. Creating centralized expertise and technology can provide a shared resource that increases the capacities of these firms, the capabilities of their workers, and the quality of their jobs.
- Diversify the region’s economic base by developing new technological and industrial capabilities that complement its logistics and manufacturing specializations. The region’s continued reliance on a small set of tradable industries leaves its entire economy vulnerable to idiosyncratic downturns or declines in the competitiveness of these industries. Yet as these industries begin to advance into new products and services, the Inland Empire can encourage the emergence of opportunity-rich industries that complement its existing strengths.
- Connect people to the information, education, and resources they need to obtain a good job now or in the future. As in many regions, the Inland Empire faces deep challenges to ensure that men, women and people of different races and ethnicities enjoy the same access to labor market opportunity. Connecting people to opportunity, especially women and people of color, is paramount to extending and sustaining this region’s economic progress.
Achieving these three objectives will require planning and collaboration on the part of a majority of the Inland Empire’s systems and institutions, including economic development organizations, workforce development organizations, education and training institutions, and—most critically—the private sector.
The Inland Empire’s current advantages and economic momentum afford its leaders the opportunity to chart a new path for the region’s future—one that fosters inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Fortunately, the Inland Empire’s leaders recognize the urgency of the region’s challenges around opportunity and have indicated their willingness to act. But leaders must act quickly. The future of the region’s middle class—and the stability of its economic future—depends on the actions the region’s leaders and institutions take today.
Report Produced by Metropolitan Policy Program