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Sacramento, Calif., and Bay Area Make Pact to Lure Tech Companies Away from Competing States

The idea is to create a kind of unified Northern California market for companies seeking a place to locate — a Bay Area-Sacramento mega-region.

(TNS) — Greater Sacramento’s economic-development organization has touted its early success in recruiting small high-tech companies from the Bay Area.

Now the group has gone a step further: announcing that its economic growth strategy going forward will hinge on being considered part of a Bay Area-Sacramento mega-region.

In July, the Greater Sacramento Economic Council opened an office in Sunnyvale with two staff members. On Wednesday, it will jointly announce a “mega-region” campaign with the Bay Area Council, its counterpart in San Francisco.

The idea is to create a kind of unified Northern California market for companies seeking a place to locate, as well as a unified front against Texas and other competitors seeking to pull business away from the state.

Barry Broome, CEO of the Sacramento group, was joined Tuesday by Sacramento Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg at a Sacramento Bee editorial board meeting, where the pair explained the strategy. The idea, Broome said, “is not to have the Bay Area think of us as some kind of outpost, and not to have us look at the Bay Area as some kind of big city. We’re one economy.”

The project, complete with its own social media hashtag, is known as the Northern California Bay Area Mega-region #CaliforniaJobsMatter Campaign.

For the Greater Sacramento organization, it represents an opportunity to improve access to Bay Area companies that are thinking of fleeing the state because of high costs.

Another major goal is to harness the clout of the Bay Area Council when it comes to lobbying for improvements that would potentially benefit both regions economically, such as finding a way to speed up the train ride between Sacramento and San Francisco, which now takes almost two hours – not counting the BART ride across the San Francisco Bay.

“Our number one goal as a mega-region partnership is to solve that rail transportation (link) between downtown San Francisco and downtown Sacramento,” Broome said in a Tuesday. “If we can get that to 60 minutes that would completely change the economic condition of Northern California.”

Steinberg said money from the state’s Cap and Trade auctions of pollution credits could be one potential source of money for upgrading rail service. “We have to pick up our game when it comes to state funding.”

Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council, said the alliance “is a great opportunity for our regions to come together and compete on a national stage.”

The idea of Sacramento and the Bay Area as one region “is a bit of a stretch at this point, but it’s also the clear direction and trend,” said economist Jeff Michael of the University of the Pacific. “It’s excellent that they are talking to one another.”

Broome has been avidly recruiting small tech companies that are being priced out of the Bay Area market. Last month his organization successfully lured Ittavi Inc., a 13-employee Santa Clara company that’s developed an app for helping divorced couples manage. Ittavi, whose app is called SupportPay, received a $100,000 subsidy from the city’s new “Innovation and Growth Fund.”

In August the Greater Sacramento organization convinced Parrable, a San Francisco maker of marketing software, to move most of its operations to Sacramento. Broome said Tuesday that at least a dozen technology companies are currently considering relocating to the capital region.

But he also said many business leaders in the Silicon Valley and San Francisco still don’t have Sacramento on their radar. For instance, he said, it took nine months and the intervention of U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui to get a meeting with tech giant Oracle.

“The goal is to get us a look,” he said. “We don’t get our calls returned.”

©2016 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.