Fresno Initiative Could Get $50 Million From Newsom's State Budget

Jan 13, 2020

Governor Gavin Newsom released his proposed 2020-2021 budget on Friday, a $222 billion package encompassing homelessness, affordable health care and criminal justice reform.

In an accompanying briefing, the governor gave a shout-out to a newly unveiled economic development plan known as Fresno DRIVE, a collaboration among 150 organizations which calls for investment in 19 projects ranging from affordable housing to medical education. “I have been so impressed by this DRIVE Initiative out of Fresno, this public-private partnership,” he said.

Newsom backed up that praise with money—specifically $50 million, which he referred to as a “down payment” for two DRIVE projects. Receiving $33 million would be the Fresno-Merced Food Innovation Corridor, a partnership between Fresno State and UC Merced to modernize food technology and promote sustainable agriculture and ag-related jobs.

“They’ve got great visions and plans to really come up with next-generation, innovative solutions for farming, for sustainable food production, and those technologies would be sold around the world,” said Ashley Swearengin, former Fresno Mayor and CEO of the non-profit Central Valley Community Foundation, which is sponsoring the initiative.

The other $17 million would go toward the Fresno Integrated K-16 Education Collaborative, aimed at raising high school graduation rates and improving access to higher education and jobs. “So it’s really just lowering those bureaucratic barriers and making sure that there’s access to good-quality education, job training, for both our incumbent workers but also those who are up and coming through the K-16 system,” said Swearengin.

Swearengin said she’s glad the Newsom administration is prioritizing Fresno’s economic development. “Absolutely I’m excited about it, but I also recognize that there’s a lot more that’s needed in our community besides just some public grant dollars,” she said. In total, Fresno DRIVE calls for more than $4 billion in investment over the next 10 years.

Outside of the DRIVE initiative, Newsom’s draft budget also calls for $15 million to boost the UCSF Fresno School of Medicine and its partnership with UC Merced, and proposes $1.1 billion for high-speed rail.