The basis for one of the nation’s most innovative independent telcos was the social needs of a couple of teenage girls. At the WTA 2008 Spring Meeting, Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee explained how over 90 years ago Roseville Telephone (Now SureWest Communications) got its start when a couple of farmers connected their farms with telephones, such that their daughters could talk to each other without having to make the trek between their houses
Whether true or not, this amusing anecdote reinforces the idea that California has been at the forefront of change for a long time. With more than 10% of the U.S. population, changes in California directly or indirectly affect the rest of the nation. Walter spoke of how California is continuing to evolve from the resource-driven economy prevalent at the time of Roseville Telephone’s birth.
Walters spoke of three broad trends that are affecting change in California: the evolving economy, population growth and a shift in culture. California’s economy has shifted from resource-based to industrial to, what Walters termed, post-industrial. This post-industrial economy, really the information economy, is about trade and services. Walters considered the telco audience to be a big part of this economy.
Population growth continues to be a driving factor in California’s development. A high rate of immigration coupled with a relatively high birth rate is the basis for projections that will take California’s population from today’s 38 million to 50 million by the year 2025.
It is not surprising that the California culture is evolving, since half of its births are to immigrant mothers. As Walter pointed out, “We were Kansas.” Walters suggested that California has the most complex society in the history of human kind. This creates unique political situations.
He termed the State Capital as not, “a place of people, but a place of interests.” As a result, there is gridlock on fundamental issues about things, such as land use (vertical vs. horizontal use), water (conservation vs. reservoirs) and education. To some extent, the State budget is in gridlock because of these other issues.
He painted a somewhat pessimistic picture of the political outlook for California, as he lamented that if Schwarzenegger cannot solve these gridlock issues, who can. Maybe it will be 1974 all over again as Walters called former Governor and current Attorney General, Jerry Brown the frontrunner in the 2010 Governor’s race (he will be 72 then, twice his age when first elected).
Gridlock in the legislature will force more legislation at the ballot box via the infamous California ballot measures. Inaction at the State level will force local governments to take responsibility for more and more issues. The bottom line is that doing business will continue to be daunting in California. Thank goodness, we will still have the weather and location.