Studies tout value of state's almond growers, green energy, Latinos

It's the season for public relations firms rolling out impressive numbers to boost clients' images at Capitol

SACRAMENTO — It's that time of year when public relations firms roll out impressive numbers to boost clients' images at the Capitol.

Interest groups fill a holiday news vacuum by releasing specially commissioned economic studies. The reports are jammed full of data showing, not surprisingly, large amounts of jobs created, money spent and taxes paid.

"They are trying to say 'We're important to the economy,'" said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto. "It's usually preparatory to some piece of legislation ... about their industry that might affect their growth."

Levy's description is on point with a diverse trio of recent economic studies.

Almond growers brag that they generate more than 100,000 direct and indirect jobs in California and create $11 billion annually in added economic value. That figure includes everything almond growers consume, including trucks and Disneyland trips.

"Almonds have become a crop of choice in California because California is one of the only places in the world to effectively grow them," said Richard Waycott, chief executive of the Almond Board of California, a marketing organization. "This report shows that advantage is translating into value — not just for growers but for their communities and the state as a whole."

And what might almond growers be needing from policymakers next year? Plenty of water to keep trees healthy and produce a bumper export crop in the midst of a drought.

Meanwhile, a similar analysis by Advanced Energy Economy, a business association, says that 40,000 California companies employ almost 432,000 people in every phase of green power generation, energy conservation and efficiency, and cars, trucks, rail and transportation modes that don't use fossil fuels.

The total is bigger than employment in the motion picture and television, semiconductors or aerospace, the study contends. "This is a large industry that affects pretty much every region in California," said Steve Chadima, the group's California director.

Chadima's membership has a big stake next year in whatever changes are made to California's efforts to curb global warming.

And if lawmakers didn't know it already, the Partnership for a New American Economy, which wants to overhaul immigration laws, has its own study to remind them that Latino households accounted for more than $1 out of every $5 spent in California and paid $17.4 billion in California taxes in 2013.

Representatives of California Latinos, who are estimated to make up 40% of the state population in 2020, have a long legislative wish list that includes improvements to education, healthcare, wages and working conditions.

Would-be players at the Capitol shouldn't be shy about touting statistics, said Donna Lucas, chief executive of Lucas Public Affairs, a top Sacramento public relations and communications firm.

"This is a pretty good time to do it," she said. "These are effective campaigns, if done right."

Twitter: @marclifsher

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