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A California Center: Why Now?

Despite being the world’s eighth-largest economy, California faces serious threats to its economy, including an aging infrastructure, population growth, a growing unskilled and undereducated labor force, a struggling K-12 educational system and an unfriendly business climate.

The California Center is dedicated to measuring, evaluating and analyzing the economic, demographic and social conditions and trends in the state. We propose innovative ideas that will help ensure California’s long-term prosperity to help California’s business and government leaders maintain the states leadership in key industries and improve the quality of life for its residents.

California ranks among the top states in the nation for small-business vitality and entrepreneurial energy. Its universities are global leaders in their ability to deliver commercial applications of laboratory research. Many of the world’s leading high-tech companies were created and maintain headquarters in California (see table below, which shows the nation’s top technology centers). Its major ports are the largest in the country and support growing trade with Asia. Strong demographic ties with Latin America increase the depth of economic and labor links to that vital region. And whether the issue is building a world-class life sciences industry or tackling climate change, California continues to lead the way on many important social, economic and environmental issues.

Yet the future reveals a number of potential barriers to economic expansion and the state’s standard of living (see chart below on Californians with bachelor’s degrees, by ethnic group). the state’s infrastructure hasn’t been seriously funded in decades. Its work force is increasingly unskilled and undereducated. Demographic changes are causing major cultural, economic and political upheavals. And a poor business climate drives industry, jobs and investment to other states.

Index of Leading Technology Centers
Top California Metro Rankings

Rank Metropolitan Area Index
1 San Jose 100.00
4 Los Angeles-Long Beach 40.05
12 Orange County 15.12
13 San Diego 14.69
14 San Francisco 13.68
21 Oakland 11.40
40 Ventura 4.17
44 Sacramento 3.65
63 Santa Rosa 1.61
71 Riverside-San Bernardino 1.37
  Sources:, Bureau of Labor Statistics  

The Milken Institute California Center specializes in:

  • Creating market-based solutions that promote job growth and increase access to capital for ethnic and small-business owners, startups and new technologies,
  • Bringing together the state’s most leaders in business, government and academia to explore new solutions to California’s challenges in forums which include State of the State Conference and a variety of forums and workshops, and
  • Evaluating the state’s economic climate, development prospects and sustainable technology clusters in areas that include infrastructure, health care, clean technology, housing and international trade.

For more information, view a summary of the California Center. For information contact: Ross DeVol, Director, Regional Economics - (310) 570-4615 -