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Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom pushes entrepreneurism at Santa Rosa event (w/video)

  • Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom addresses a crowd as the keynote speaker during the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Week Breakfast at the Hyatt Vineyard Hotel and Spa in Santa Rosa, on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom told Sonoma County business leaders Tuesday morning that entrepreneurs are needed to help the Golden State tackle such daunting challenges as job creation, poverty, globalization and the shrinking middle class.

Newsom called both for a return to the “save and invest” ethos of earlier generations and a switch to new ways to educate children and do business in an increasingly competitive world.

“You can't continue to do what you've doing and get what you've got,” he said.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom In Santa Rosa

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Newsom was the keynote speaker at the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Week Breakfast. Major sponsors included Exchange Bank, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.

The breakfast drew more than 200 people to the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel in Santa Rosa.

The lieutenant governor, who is running for re-election, contrasted the values of the World War II-era “greatest generation” with those of the “grasshopper generation” of the past three decades.

The first group's sustainable approach helped California become “the tent pole of the American economy,” with top rankings nationally in primary and secondary education and federal scientific research. But the second group, he said, has set out to “eat everything in sight” with little regard for the future.

“We've become, dare I say, average,” Newsom said.

Newsom also suggested the state is dividing along stark economic lines. While unemployment in Sonoma County fell to 6.2 percent in March, the jobless rate exceeded 20 percent in Imperial County and remains stubbornly high in such inland areas as Colusa and Sutter counties.

Three of the nation's top five impoverished communities are in California, he said. They are Merced, Bakersfield and Fresno.

And Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, acknowledged that even the City by the Bay “doesn't have much of a middle class.” He noted this was the case despite universal preschool, expanded health care requirements and one of the state's higher minimum wages at $10.74 per hour.

Newsom garnered applause when he told the audience that “you cannot be pro-job and anti-business.”

The lieutenant governor has helped lead economic development efforts for the state, but he said boosting employment can't occur through a top-down approach.

“Real job creation must be done at the local level,” he said.

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