Big solutions for big issues

November 20, 2014

If you ask some of the state’s leading entrepreneurs and politicians how to build a better California, don’t be surprised if their answers are big, really big. Here is the wish list aired during the “Bettering California’s Business Climate” panel, which inaugurated the California Summit. Institute Chairman Michael Milken moderated the discussion. 

Scott Minerd, managing partner and global chief investment officer for Guggenheim Partners: Take advantage of the state’s strengthened economy and low cost of credit to invest $100 billion into a 21st century infrastructure system, from new bridges and highways to water treatment systems and high-speed rail.  He pointed out that infrastructure has been among the best-performing investment categories of the past century. “This would represent a very modest burden, and I believe based on the work I’ve seen, the infrastructure component would pay for itself in increased tax revenues in the short run,” he said.

Kevin de Leon, president pro tempore of the California Senate: Change U.S. immigration policy so that the world’s most talented people can stay in California after graduating from UCLA or Stanford instead of returning home to build the next Alibaba or Baidu. “It’s quite backwards,” he said. “We’re educating the folks who are going to come up with the products elsewhere and sell it to us.”

Sharon Vosmek, CEO of Astia, a nonprofit that supports and invests in women entrepreneurs: Unlock an “underfunded segment that is outperforming its competitors” by giving California businesswomen the same access to capital as their male counterparts. She pointed out that firms led by women across the United States are growing at five times the rate of those led by men, yet women chief executives have access to just 2 percent of the venture capital. “This is a phenomenal opportunity yet to be invested in and yet to deliver outsize returns,” she said. 

Troy Carter, CEO of Atom Factory, an entertainment and artist management company: Fix the regulatory issues that are holding back game-changing companies solving big problems, like improving traffic congestion and air pollution through ride-sharing. “When process gets in the way of progress, it’s time to break some things,” he said. Atom Factory’s investment portfolio includes firms that are rewriting the rules of their industries, like Uber and Lyft, Spotify and Dropbox. He also pointed out that 20 percent of his companies are started by women.