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East Bay, California: Manufacturing and Transportation & Logistics Partnerships

Elizabeth Sobel Blum

July 2018

About the Next Generation Sector Partnership Model

Next Generation Sector Partnerships are regional collaborations of businesses, from the same industry and in a shared labor market region, that work with education, workforce development, economic development and community organizations to address workforce and other pressing competitiveness needs of a target industry. While the concept of public-private partnerships or even workforce sector partnerships is not unique, Next Generation Sector Partnerships are distinct in three ways: 1) they are industry-driven; 2) they are community supported; and 3) they are comprehensively focused on workforce and economic development. Partnerships launch when industry leaders in one geographic region (such as the East Bay of California) come together to identify their biggest shared opportunities for growth, then prioritize the most important requirements to capitalize on those opportunities. In response, educators, workforce boards, chambers of commerce, community-based organizations and others coordinate with each other and partner with the industry to address these requirements.

The Next Generation Sector Partnership model strongly reflects an “open-source” approach to workforce and economic development. No individual person or organization owns it—industry sector business leaders own it with their community partners. Partnerships act as an operating system by serving as a platform for discourse, analysis, decision-making, coordination and innovation for the benefit of industry, the regional economy that hosts it and the jobseekers and workers who reside in the community.

While it may be counterintuitive to some that industry leaders would work with their competitors, they come to the table because they recognize that some of the industry’s most important requirements for growth and competitiveness span the region and their industry, and issues cannot be resolved independently. For more information about the model, see the Next Generation Sector Partnerships website and the publication “Regional Talent Pipelines: Collaborating with Industry to Build Opportunities in Texas” by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and Center for Public Policy Priorities.

East Bay, California: Emerging and Mature Next Generation Sector Partnerships

The East Bay region covers Alameda and Contra Costa counties—two of the nine counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. Together, they span 1,500 square miles, include the cities of Oakland and Richmond and are home to 2.5 million residents. In 2011, the East Bay’s four workforce development boards [1] partnered with one of their regional economic partners to complete an analysis of the sectors driving their regional economy. This analysis was important because it helped them better understand which industry sectors would be most important to proactively support in their efforts to help the region recover from the aftermath of the Great Recession. It also helped them attract more than $50 million in federal and state workforce grant funds to their region over the ensuing five years. For example, the region’s K-14 educational system received a total of $34 million from the California Career Pathways Trust to develop or expand existing pathways from grades nine through 14 (community college) into high-skill high-wage jobs.

The continued resonance of the original 2011 analysis, amplified by subsequent updates, also helped attract $1 million to develop and support Next Generation Sector Partnerships. Since 2011, five such partnerships have emerged: the East Bay Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (established in 2012), the Biomedical Manufacturing Network (2013), East Bay Transportation & Logistics Partnership (2014), East Bay Information and Communication Technologies Partnership (2016) and East Bay Health Workforce Partnership (2016).

By launching industry-led partnerships in multiple sectors, the East Bay has developed and sustained a new approach to industry engagement. The region is working to overcome perennial challenges such as: the fragmentation of employer engagement efforts; a tradition of serving employers as customers rather than engaging them as partners; and a tendency to reach out to employers to help with grant requirements versus working together to create shared benefits.

Ensuring Industry-Driven-and-Owned Priorities: A Different Kind of Process

In the East Bay, the region’s workforce development boards provided most of the funding for contract positions to serve as facilitators and managers for each of the industry partnerships. Business leaders were brought together to identify opportunities for industry growth and the requirements to capitalize on those opportunities. Businesses were not given prescribed boundaries for their priorities and were informed that there was not a predetermined agenda. Instead, they were told about the opportunity and offered the availability of “civic venture capital” to support industry-determined priorities for growth and competitiveness in ways that benefit companies and communities. Because the initial invitation to participate in these discussions was coming from their peers, or “business champions,” it helped reduce the inevitable skepticism among some companies that previously participated in similar-sounding efforts.

By structuring the process to focus on growth and opportunity, the need for skilled talent to be developed locally emerged as a natural priority for each industry, overlapping with the broader community and the state’s SlingShot priority of income mobility for local residents.[2] Other industry priorities also supported this agenda in that they are intended to provide a continuing catalyst for job growth in these industries. Indeed, each regional industry sector partnership has also chosen a nonworkforce priority—such as business-to-business collaboration, image/public perception/public relations, entrepreneurial support and infrastructure. Importantly, honoring and supporting the variety of industry priorities has been critical to the ongoing engagement of business leaders.

The composition of the industry groups was critical to ensuring industry-driven-and-owned priorities. Filling the manager positions with industry veterans accelerated employer on-boarding and enhanced partnership credibility. Attention was paid to recruiting “civic entrepreneurs” as co-chairs—individuals who are key decision-makers within their companies, passionate about their industries and passionate about their communities. They came to the table with the belief that the success of their company and industry is inextricably linked to the local community. They then identified and helped recruit other civic entrepreneurs into the group. With these ingredients—both the right people and process—each of the East Bay’s industry partnerships have been able to create industry-driven-and-owned priorities for action and sustained the commitment of business leaders over time.

SOURCE: Adapted from the California SlingShot Initiative Promising Practices Profile for the East Bay, California State Workforce Development Board, 2016.

These partnerships also represent a new way of doing business for the workforce, education and economic development partners in the region. Stephen Baiter, executive director of the Oakland Workforce Development Board and one of the key drivers of this new regional approach, explains its value: “We have four workforce boards, 10 community colleges and 37 K-12 school districts across our two counties. By using the Next Gen approach, we’re simplifying the process of working together, focusing our efforts on the key driving industry sectors of our region.”

Streamlining this process is important, in part so that the region’s career pathway system is more efficient and effective. Centralizing solutions to student barriers, such as lack of access to quality transportation and child care, is also important. The state of California’s legislature is now codifying this streamlined and centralized approach through legislative and funding changes. One of the first examples of this was through the formation of the Strong Workforce Task Force. This effort, spearheaded by the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, has since directed $200 million annually toward the regional community college system to help support and facilitate the tracking of employment and educational outcome data from their career technical education programs.

Educational institutions and training partners are also changing their practices. As a direct result of feedback from businesses, they have created new curricula and instruction that incorporate the specific skill needs of industry. They have changed some of their postsecondary credentials and realigned some of their educational programs and staff. In addition, education and training providers are collaborating with business partners to create new opportunities for students to simultaneously improve their education and gain relevant work experience or earn a wage.

The following section highlights East Bay’s most longstanding sector partnerships: the East Bay Advanced Manufacturing Partnership and East Bay Transportation & Logistics Partnership.

The Next Generation East Bay Advanced Manufacturing Sector Partnership

The East Bay Advanced Manufacturing Partnership is the region’s first and arguably strongest Next Generation Sector Partnership. The partnership is anchored and supported by exhaustive on-the-ground validation of initial research of the sector. Out of a universe of fewer than 400 companies doing production in Contra Costa County, site visits were made to 30 firms, including a diverse set of large and small companies—including local refineries, chemical and food manufacturers, and companies making parts for Tesla. Asked about their key issues and provided with a summary of results, manufacturers agreed to work together and with the community. Within a year, and with a similar yet less-intensive analysis of their local manufacturing sector, industry leaders in Alameda County agreed that they would be stronger together—rather than pursuing separate initiatives limited by political jurisdictions—and joined forces with the partnership.

Together, manufacturing industry leaders from both counties identified common priorities to reverse the negative perceptions of manufacturing among youth, parents and educators, and to prepare more local talent to enter manufacturing careers. Moving to action, industry leaders began working together in new ways to respond to these priorities. They now share internal hiring practices and work together to alter recruiting processes. They collaborate to donate equipment to schools and allocate resources for more internships for students, teachers and faculty.

The partnership is working to enhance recruitment, training, internship and apprenticeship programs, and supporting the development of new training programs endorsed by partnership companies. And, because community partners are working better together, there is a decrease in the number of independent or competing business engagement efforts.

The partnership has played an important role in putting a spotlight on an often-overlooked sector. It has published three studies, which has helped raise the industry’s profile, guide its strategy and recruit additional manufacturing businesses to the partnership:

  • “Made in the East Bay: A Study of Advanced Manufacturing in Alameda County” (2016)
  • “Advancing Manufacturing in Contra Costa County” (2013)
  • “Job Opportunities in Advanced Manufacturing, Contra Costa County” (2013)

The partnership has also been an important catalyst in aligning the agendas of interdependent industries. Working with the East Bay Transportation & Logistics Partnership, it co-produced the first “Make It & Move It: East Bay Manufacturing and Logistics Summit,” which helped identify common priorities and opportunities for collaboration.

The partnership adopted the Manufacturing Institute’s “Dream It. Do It” model in 2017 to reverse the negative perceptions about manufacturing. Nearly a dozen companies thus far have committed to serve as “ambassadors,” whose role is to inspire youth to pursue careers in the industry. Working with Project Lead the Way (PLTW) and many other local and regional partners, ambassadors interacted with more than 1,000 students, approximately 70 educators and many others in 2017. 

The Next Generation East Bay Transportation & Logistics Sector Partnership (EBTLP)

The EBTLP emerged from a strong industry presence in the region. The Port of Oakland is a major catalyst for job growth in transportation and logistics (e.g., drivers, warehousing personnel). In 2015, the partnership published “Keeping the East Bay Moving: A Study of the Transportation & Logistics Sector,” which highlighted that the industry has 144,000 jobs in the region (about 12 percent of the regional workforce). Partners collected feedback through surveys, interviews and calls with employers. Industry partners were brought together with the Next Generation engagement approach, setting two priorities and forming two action teams: Talent and Infrastructure & Public Policy.

Today, the partnership has more than 100 transportation and logistics companies and 80 other organizations, including the Alameda County Transportation Commission, California community colleges, Contra Costa Economic Partnership, Innovation Tri-Valley, Alameda County Workforce Development Board, University of California–Berkeley, Contra Costa Transportation Authority, East Bay Leadership Council, City of Richmond, California State University–East Bay, East Bay Economic Development Alliance and Contra Costa County Workforce Development Board.

Set by industry leaders, the Talent team’s objectives are:

  • Companies and potential employees will be able to quickly and efficiently connect.
  • Employers will easily use hiring credits, incentives and public programs available, in particular for ex-offenders.
  • Ongoing forums will bring together transportation and logistics stakeholders to determine training programs and curricula.
  • Students will see transportation and logistics as a highly desirable career path.

The team has completed a pilot of an East Bay Logistics Workforce Incubator, a program of student challenges, teacher externships, tours and cyclic internships for College of Alameda warehouse management students. Participating companies were Dreisbach Enterprises, GSC Logistics, Matson Logistics, Michael’s Transportation Service and Surplus Service. Supporting organizations were Oakland Workforce Development Board, College of Alameda, community colleges in global trade and logistics [3], and Pilot City. The team has helped support the launch of summer warehousing and logistics technician training at the College of Alameda and company tours, challenges/hacks, and cyclical or traditional internships for students ages 18–24 in alternative high schools.

In addition, the team has worked with Amazon and its Career Choice Program to broker connections to other East Bay sector partnerships for third- to fourth-year Amazon associates to make transitions into growing occupations in IT, health care, advanced manufacturing and biomedical manufacturing.

The Infrastructure & Public Policy team’s objectives are to:

  • Support the region with available land, road, rail and possibly water freight corridors and talent, and address environmental and community concerns about emissions and related issues.
  • Work alongside federal, state, regional and city policymakers who exercise leadership in prioritizing goods movement.

Team members include executives from CyberTran International, Dreisbach Enterprises, GSC Logistics, HelloFresh, Schnitzer Steel and Surplus Service. They are supported by the East Bay Leadership Council and the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Maritime Administration is also involved.

The team has taken several actions to shape and support decisions about infrastructure and public policy with direct impacts on the competitiveness of the sector. For example, the team produced letters of support for funding for the GoPort! project (including 7th Street Grade Separation and other projects at the Port of Oakland) with the Alameda County Transportation Commission and other agencies. Team members have submitted official comments on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)/Alameda County Goods Movement Plan and Plan Bay Area 2040 and participated in the MTC Peer Review Group for the Northern California Mega-Region Goods Movement Study. As mentioned in the segment on the East Bay’s manufacturing partnership, the EBTLP co-hosted "Make It & Move It: East Bay Manufacturing & Logistics Summit" with East Bay Advanced Manufacturing Partnership and elected representatives, an event of more than 250 people to showcase manufacturing and logistics in the East Bay and discuss required policies for their support.

Moving to a more sustainable organizational model, the EBTLP has completed a business plan and secured multiple corporate investors (Matson Logistics, Dreisbach Enterprises, Surplus Service, Oakland Maritime Support Services and CyberTran International). The partnership has become an official task force of the East Bay Leadership Council (EBLC), which includes a seat on the EBLC board, in order to promote policies, programs and investments that develop the East Bay as a globally competitive distribution hub. The corporate investments supplement public funding to EBTLP through the nonprofit Contra Costa Economic Partnership, which will help support a continuing role in talent, infrastructure and business development.

Learning from Challenges Addressed

The Next Generation Sector Partnerships of the East Bay have met and addressed several challenges since their inception. They met the initial business engagement challenge by getting the right business leaders up front—executives who cared not only about their company and industry but their community as well and could see that the destinies of all three were intertwined. This has allowed for priorities to be set, meaningful actions to be taken and “early wins” to be achieved, which has led to further action and results over a period of years. It has also resulted in business leaders voluntarily investing—dollars, time and leadership—in sustaining their partnerships. In a real sense, they now “own” their partnerships, staying actively engaged rather than slipping into the role of passive partners and providing input to public partners who are in charge of implementation.

Another key challenge that has been addressed and is continuously being tended to is the complexity and fragmentation of community partners and their needs and agendas in a large metropolitan area. The partnerships have been careful to put businesses in the driver’s seat, keeping the focus on their priorities rather than the priorities of individual public partners. This has created the space for public partners to see how their agendas can be aligned with that of business and each other for mutual benefit. As a result, as Baiter observed: “We’ve been very careful about branding; we brand around the region and industry. This is something to be shared. It creates shared value.”

More broadly, as a Promising Practices Profile for the East Bay, published by the California State Workforce Development Board (2016) reflected: “Don’t underestimate the importance of having a communications strategy that transcends organizational identities. No single organization should “own” an industry partnership. Creating an industry-focused message and brand provides not only a shared focal point for collaboration among businesses but neutral ground for community partners to focus on industry priorities. A communications strategy is also essential for helping to galvanize momentum, expanding and tightening networks, and helps lay the groundwork for industry-sector partnerships to become self-sustaining.”

The East Bay Partnerships have been patient in building the trust relationships between business and public partners and among the public partners themselves. As Baiter has commented: “Sometimes you need to go slow to go fast. Don’t underestimate the difficulty and inherent messiness of the process of syncing up community partners and business leaders to work together. For either set of partners, there is not a lot of experience with this new way of doing business, so care needs to be taken to make sure partners are prepared and supported through the process.”

The East Bay Partnerships have also addressed the funding challenge by diversifying their sources of financing and resisting the urge to organize around grant opportunities that might divert them from industry-driven priorities. With millions of dollars of grant funding having been spent in the region, the temptation to focus industry on grant objectives has been hard to ignore, but the East Bay Partnerships have tried to reverse the focus. By starting with and staying focused on the priorities of business leaders, the partnerships have found ways to align existing grant funds while concurrently seeking new resources and investments for the most important and enduring priorities that will ultimately support and sustain the success of the region. 

Notes

This publication is based on information gathered in summer/fall 2017.

  1. The four workforce boards are Alameda County Workforce Development Board, Contra Costa County Workforce Development Board, City of Oakland Workforce Development Board and City of Richmond Workforce Development Board.
  2. For more information, see “SlingShot: Accelerating Income Mobility Through Regional Collaboration.”
  3. For more information, see “California CITD and Global Trade & Logistics Network.”
About the Author

Elizabeth Sobel Blum is a senior community development advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Acknowledgements

The Dallas Fed is grateful to the staff of the Next Generation Sector Partnership Community of Practice, including Francie Genz, John Melville and Lindsey Woolsey, for their knowledge-sharing and editing contributions. A special thank-you goes to Stephen Baiter, Oakland, California, for his time and information about the manufacturing and transportation & logistics partnerships’ activities.

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