Regional Leadership Profile: James Beckwith

Head shot of James Beckwith.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Jodi Mulligan

This is another in a series of profiles of established and emerging leaders who are having a major impact on the health and prosperity of the Capital Region. We feature today James Beckwith, the President and CEO of Five Start Bank.  He is presently the Chairman of the Board of the Sacramento Metro Chamber, and formally served as the chairman of Valley Vision and the business-education partnership known as Next-Ed. He was interviewed recently by Jodi Mulligan of Valley Vision…. 

Q.  In what way does Five Star Bank act consistent with, and very different from, a community-based bank?

I would say that most, if not all, community banks share a view of the customer relationship that is less product-driven and more customer-centric.  

Five Star Bank takes this to another level. Our model is fundamentally different from other community-based banks as the majority of our staff members are involved in business development and relationship management. Our professionals are also involved in activities that support economic development, community building, or those in need.  In our service to the community, we bring three things to the table: money, service, and connectivity.  I am proud to say that we are out there… not only getting things done for our customers, but getting things done to make this region the very best it can be.

Q.  You have been very active in the community, serving as the Chairman of the Board for Valley Vision and previously NextEd.  Now you are set to become the volunteer leader of the Sacramento Metro Chamber for 2014.  How did those two previous roles prepare you for taking on the lead role for the region's major business organization?

Both Valley Vision and NextEd are regional in scope. Board composition for each organization is thoughtfully developed with diversity of background, geography, ethnicity, and gender in mind. Being a volunteer leader of both of those organizations has given me a broad and inclusive perspective on the Capital Region.   

Q.  What will be on your agenda as chairman in 2014?

There are many initiatives: supporting the development of the Downtown Arena being the top priority. Overall, the Metro Chamber wants business and job growth in the region. We want to make sure we have business-friendly elected representatives. We will also focus on promoting workforce education.

Also, I want to make sure we nurture, foster, and support professional development for the young professionals in the region.  It’s important we create an inviting environment and work to ensure our future leaders start and grow their careers and businesses in the Capital Region.  

Q.  You've been an outspoken advocate for Next Economy, the region's $5.3 billion job growth strategy.  You were also one of first business leaders to call for it.  You have put a lot of time and resources into it to make the action plan successful.  Why?  What’s important about Next Economy?

Why? Because we lost 145,000 jobs in the recession and had to do something substantive about it. The idea was hatched at a community diner where several of us felt we couldn’t sit around and be victims, so we set out to develop a plan to create jobs and economic growth in the region.

Next Economy is a truly regional plan that is business cluster-based.  It’s   the product of collaboration between Valley Vision, SARTA, the Sacramento Metro Chamber, SACTO, and NextEd. Innovation and investment will drive its success.  We have some competitive advantages with respect to the business clusters of Advanced Manufacturing, Agriculture & Food, Clean Energy Technology, Education & Knowledge Creation, Information & Communications Technology, and Life Sciences & Health Services. In action, the Next Economy plan capitalizes on those advantages and creates jobs.

Q.  How critical is having the private sector actively involved in shaping our region's future?  

This is extremely critical.  In order to be a high-growth region which develops high-value jobs, the private sector has to take the lead through innovation and investment.

Q.  On a more personal note, if you could pick one single favorite thing about the Sacramento region, what would it be? 

Its people.  Their diverse backgrounds and unique perspectives all with shared goals of trying to make our region preeminent in the state and in the nation.  

Jodi Mulligan is a Project Associate at Valley Vision and conducted this leadership interview.