Former President Bill Clinton spoke about the economy Thursday night at a big gathering in San Jose. More than 1,000 lawmakers, CEOs and civic leaders are inside the California Theater.
It was an all-star lineup on both sides of the stage with lots of CEOs and political leaders in the audience, people like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who was on stage, whose remarks the media could not air. But the focus was clear -- how to get the state's economy in growth mode and how to put more people to work. The new CEO of PG&E, Anthony Earley, said job creation would result from rebuilding the state's aging power and gas networks.
"Modernizing and upgrading the electric transmission system alone could create an additional 150,000 to 200,000 jobs every year over the next two decades. Another study projects that investment in gas transmission could support an annual average of over 100,000 jobs," said Earley.
PG&E's CEO said it will take a partnership of policymakers, regulators and local government to make that happen. Another reality check came from Dupont's CEO, Ellen Kullman, who sees a long-term need for scientists, but she's troubled by the low number of students who pursue science, technology, engineering and math.
"Fourteen percent -- we need that number to be 25 percent or 30 percent, and you couple that with the fact that 40 percent of them wander away from that major in their first year," said Kullman.
The conference was produced by the Bay Area Council, a business group made of 274 of the largest companies in the region. It tries to identify pressing needs and issues to support economic vitality. Gov. Jerry Brown was also a keynote speaker.
"We cut the courts. We're probably going to cut them some more. We've got some even bigger cuts coming in a few weeks, so we're cutting, we need to supplement it with some revenue," said Brown.
Clinton's remarks were the most anticipated. He continues to be a thought leader when it comes to big picture issues. He brought a wider perspective about how events this year will shape California's future.
"California will come roaring back, but it will happen faster if we work together, instead of scream at each other. Cooperation works in real life, conflict works in politics, we're never going to get the level of reform we need, until we pull together," said Clinton.
Clinton obviously knew this is a Silicon Valley crowd and he made sure that he was clear that he really supported the type of innovative economy that exists here, the jobs that are being created, and the venture capital that is backing it.