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SETA Awards $750K to Support Regional Innovation Through SlingShot

Today the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA) Board approved $750K in funding awards made through the SlingShot project. These awards will support entrepreneurship, business startups, and innovation in the 9-county Capital region.

SlingShot is a project of the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) in which the CWDB awarded grants of $1 million each, regionally, across the state to promote innovative and risk-taking projects that “move the needle” on big employment, education and jobs issues. In the Capital region, the Workforce Development Boards, SETA (Sacramento), Golden Sierra WDB (Placer, El Dorado, Alpine), Yolo County WDB, and North Central Counties Consortium (Yuba, Sutter, Glenn, Colusa), worked together to develop regional strategies and goals to improve the innovation ecosystem.

Valley Vision has managed the SlingShot project since 2014 and this approval is a culmination of the work of the four regional WDBs, an employer advisory committee, over 40 stakeholders, and Valley Vision staff. This effort has shown innovation, leadership, and risk-taking from the regional WDBs at a time when many other regions embarked upon more traditional workforce development projects with their SlingShot funds. Under SETA’s leadership, the SlingShot team took on a more outside-of-the-box approach for our region.  This approach has resulted in many challenges as the Capital region has worked with the CWDB to spearhead a brand new approach. Today, as the funding awards move forward, we are seeing a significant pay off and victory for the region.

When the SlingShot team adopted the approach of supporting the innovation ecosystem in summer 2014, there was much less collaboration and attention towards cultivating, training and supporting entrepreneurs and business startups in the region. We knew that small business and startups with less than 20 employees are the primary source of job creation and innovation – but our systems for support were fragmented and fragile.  Since the work started, there have been significant changes in the innovation landscape, including new co-working/accelerators (especially in Sacramento) and financial infusion from the City of Sacramento Rapid Acceleration, Innovation, and Leadership in Sacramento (RAILS) grants.

While there is much more energy and support of the innovation ecosystem – there is still work to do! That is where the SlingShot grants come in. The funding was designed to address the following needs:

  • Engage underrepresented groups and/or geographic areas, including disadvantaged neighborhoods and/or rural areas within the 9-county region,
  • Show commitment to collaborating and participating with other organizations as partners and peers in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Evaluation Teams made up of employers, content experts, and WDB leadership evaluated a total of 17 proposals across three subject areas: business mentorship, maker space/incubators, and web-based e-resource database. The Evaluation teams were looking to ensure that investments were diversified across the categories, that no one organization received more than one award, and that geographic coverage exists across the 9-county region. The team also decided to prioritize funding for maker space/incubators because of a greater regional need.

Winners include: Sacramento Metro Chamber, California Capital FDC, Hacker Lab, CSUS-University Enterprises; Glenn County; Center for Land-Based Learning; Agtech Innovation Alliance; and I/O Labs, SARTA, Fullstack.

These awardees will further the goals of SlingShot by increasing support services to entrepreneurs and startups; ensuring that resources are truly regional and accessible to underrepresented groups; and working collaboratively towards making our regional innovation ecosystem robust and accessible. Valley Vision congratulates the awardees and looks forward to continuing to advance innovation in our region.

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Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Director of Strategy and Evaluation.

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