Guiding Star for Economic Progress

You've heard the cliche many times: Whoever leaves last, would you please turn out the lights? Sometimes, one gets the impression that the last person to leave California for greener pastures surely will be the slowest-moving person on Earth, so massive and determined is the exodus from this almost biblically plagued state.

In truth, of course, people always come and go from California, and if today the net balance favors, say, Colorado or Arizona, then just wait a few years down the road and the trendy national magazines will be writing about the "new" migration to California ("Golden Again: California's Astonishing Comeback"). However, measured perspective and balanced introspection are not qualities the American character is famous for. Which is all the more reason that a new study, "Project California: A Blueprint for Energizing California's Economic Recovery," is so welcome and powerfully timely.

Launched in 1992, Project California--a collaborative effort among the state's industrial, labor and academic leaders--now has its second large statement. The document amounts to a model--a sort of five- or 10-year plan, really--for building economic development initiatives.

Project California posits, thematically, action agendas for six areas of economic development that, taken altogether, represent an economic survival kit for California. The points on the economic hexagon are (1) advanced telecommunications, (2) intelligent vehicle highway systems, (3) command, control and communications for public transit vehicles and systems, (4) electric vehicles and ultra-low-emission vehicles, (5) Maglev (high-speed rail) research, development and demonstration, (6) fuel-cell research and development. Project California maintains that the state's business and political leaders should put more of their effort into these six areas.

Headed by such experienced and successful captains of industry as former Lockheed Chairman Roy A. Anderson and former Hughes Aircraft Chairman Malcolm Currie, Project California flatly states that its detailed blueprint could, by the year 2010, create 400,000 new jobs in the field of advanced transportation alone. (Copies of the report are available from the California Council on Science and Technology, 100 Academy Drive, Irvine, Calif. 92715.)

The term industrial policy has, in some circles, the highly negative connotation of being all too government-centered. But when taken to mean making wise decisions now in order to create a stronger economy for our children, the term loses much of its devilish hue. This authoritative report is really an industrial policy for California--in the best sense of that term.

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