* SlingShot: Supporting a Capital Region Innovation Ecosystem

To boost the innovation environment in California's Capital region, bolster high-revenue producing employment sectors and effectively compete in a globalized, information-age economy, entrepreneurship, new startups and human capital must permeate the economy. The Sacramento region contains many of the necessary ingredients to support entrepreneurs and small businesses, but sustained success will require a more robust network of investors, assistance providers, sources of innovative products and services, and a skilled workforce.

That’s where Project SlingShot comes in. SlingShot is an initiative of the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) to encourage and support regional partnerships across the state to engage in new collective actions that can move the needle on workforce challenges.  The Sacramento region’s SlingShot project is focused on the innovation ecosystem to ensure that the region is known nationally as a place where innovation thrives and business startups can be successful. 

What is the goal?

The goal is to catalyze leadership and engagement from regional entrepreneurs and businesses in order to strengthen the Capital Region’s innovation ecosystem, and to stimulate innovation and new company creation by creating the conditions to grow emerging industries and new businesses.

Project SlingShot is designed to build on our existing assets for entrepreneurs, identify gaps in resources, strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and support business-led solutions. The effort also seeks alignment of economic development, workforce development and education strategies and shared goals among private and public stakeholders. By putting into practice collaborative mechanisms to accelerate the development of new technologies and industries, SlingShot is paving the way for a more robust innovation economy and helping to transform the culture of innovation in the region.

The SlingShot project will result in an implementation plan and systems that support innovation for nine counties surrounding California’s state capital: Alpine, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba.

Why is this important?

This work is important because small business and startups serve as major job engines, accounting for 60-85% of new employment in the Sacramento region and making up more than 90 percent of all businesses in the metropolitan area. At the same time, the region lacks sufficient infrastructure for startup companies and small business growth, putting the region at a major disadvantage when compared to other regions nationally.

The SlingShot project is also an important aspect of Next Economy, the Sacramento region’s $5.3 billion jobs initiative that set a common roadmap for a more robust, diversified and sustainable economy.  Next Economy established five strategic goals as the framework for regional joint action. Goal number one is to foster a strong innovation environment. Additionally, Next Economy research identified six key business clusters that demonstrate high growth potential and outlined specific strategies for fostering a strong innovation environment that will be built upon through the SlingShot initiative.

Finally, despite the state’s overall prosperity, too many Californians face substantial challenges in finding good jobs and supporting themselves and their families in an era with volatile, rapidly evolving labor markets. Traditional workforce, education, and economic development efforts have not had sufficient impact in helping enough workers build the skills needed to find good jobs and realize positive economic mobility. And even promising strategies lack the speed and agility needed to respond to current and emerging skills and job demands.

What is Valley Vision doing about it?

Serving as the initiative’s backbone organization and project coordinator, Valley Vision is working with the four regional Workforce Development Boards to leverage a $1 million grant to create a seed fund for the innovation ecosystem across the six Next Economy-identified clusters. This includes working closely with a strong network of regional, state and federal partners and employers to build on existing assets, fill gaps, identify potential models and define the actions and measurements needed for a cohesive high performance entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Innovative businesses—both startups and more established firms—increase economic productivity, making rising wages and income mobility possible. But the region’s innovation economy alone will not necessarily create widely shared prosperity. Through SlingShot, Valley Vision is developing an implementation strategy for increasing the region’s capacity to innovate, while ensuring that local residents are prepared to access the opportunities that the innovation economy provides.

Without strategic action to strengthen the ecosystem, some groups, such as disadvantaged or underserved communities, could be left out of the innovation economy in the region. SlingShot is designed to provide multiple entries for diverse populations. Outreach and skill building efforts, such as education, mentorship and internships will be targeted to disadvantaged or underserved communities. Preparing all of the region’s population for 21st century jobs will allow the region to fully maximize its entrepreneurial and business startup capacity.  

We know that strengthening the region’s innovation capacity will require a broad-based, collaborative approach that mobilizes the region’s innovation assets. With decades of expertise in economic research, project design and collaborative practices, Valley Vision is the lead manager of the Capital Region’s SlingShot initiative, and has designed the effort to center on:

  • Strong industry engagement from both established businesses as well as startups in defining and championing priorities for action in strengthening the region’s innovation ecosystem
  • An integrated approach among partners in workforce development, education, economic development, and others to play complementary roles in promoting innovation and addressing priority opportunities and system gaps
  • A set of shared outcomes among business and public partners that includes both process and long-term impact measures 

What is our desired impact?

To stimulate innovation and new company creation by creating the conditions to grow emerging industries and new businesses, and to put into practice collaborative mechanisms that accelerate the development of new technologies and industries.

How does this effort affect triple-bottom-line objectives?

Economy: Entrepreneurism and small business growth is a cornerstone of the regional economy, yet underperforming in the Sacramento region. Supporting entrepreneurs and small business is a key implementation action of Next Economy and this work will offer direct economic growth outcomes for the Capital Region.

Equity: With a focus on targeting disadvantaged or under-represented populations in entrepreneurism and business startups, SlingShot is also promoting equity in innovation and economic opportunity for all populations.

Environment: Fostering innovators and entrepreneurs in the Clean Economy is a key business cluster target, supporting startups that are improving our environment.  


Valley Vision began the SlingShot planning phase for the Capital Region in May 2014 which resulted in a $1 million grant from CWDB. SlingShot implementation began in Fall 2016. The project is ongoing.

Core SlingShot partners, including Valley Vision, have been working together since May 2014 to develop the SlingShot concept to pursue and to build collaboration across the nine county geographic region and among key stakeholders. SlingShot has resulted in ~$750K to support innovation, entrepreneurs, and startups in the region. SETA released RFPs in Winter 2016-17 to support business mentorship, maker spaces/incubators/accelerators, and a web-based resource navigators. 

Golden Sierra WIB, North Central Counties Consortium, Sacramento Employment and Training Agency/Sacramento Works, Inc., Yolo County WIB, Valley Vision, plus more than 30 regional workforce, education, economic development and employer stakeholders

California Workforce Investment Board is funding multiple Project SlingShot grants across the state, including the Capital region. The grant will total one million dollars to fund our innovation ecosystem and provide seed money for new initiatives.