News | PSR METRANS Students Attend IEEP Annual Awards Dinner

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PSR METRANS Students Attend IEEP Annual Awards Dinner

Sunday, February 11, 2018

by By Rui (Rae) Zhang, USC Price School MPL, Transportation, 2018


On Wednesday, January 17, 2018, the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP) held the 2018 Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony in Ontario, California to celebrate its year of achievements and to honor special people’s contributions to the economic and social development of the Inland region. I was fortunate to attend the forum with the sponsorship of GoRail, an organization dedicated to working with thousands of community leaders across the country to tell the local story of freight rail to bring stronger economies, more jobs and cleaner skies to communities. USC Price student Elizabeth Warren was also in attendance.  “We so appreciate GoRail’s sponsorship, and its strong support of students, academia, and industry,” remarked METRANS Associate Director, Dr. Victoria Deguzman.  “Our students benefit greatly from these opportunities to augment their studies and learn more about our region.”

The Inland Empire region of Greater Los Angeles, comprised of San Bernardino and Riverside counties, has witnessed dramatic economic and population growth over the past two decades. Businesses and residents, dismayed by the high cost of living in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, moved east to seek affordable land, and in the process creating a rapidly increasing number of opportunities for the region to be more competitive. However, the region still falls behind in both its economic climate and in social equity, including health care, access to education, job training, and transportation. The IEEP, the region’s only economic development organization, brings industry partners, competitors, and local government together to create economic opportunities that promote a better quality of life for the 4.5 million people in the region. By awarding the outstanding businesses, educators, and public partners of the year, IEEP provides recognition and strengthens the connection between stakeholders and contributors to the Inland Empire, visioning a more healthy and sustainable system, in terms of both economic and social development.

Nate Kaplan, West Coast State Director of GoRail, highlighted the opportunities brought by the freight industry. “The Inland Empire is a crucial link for the nation’s supply chain, providing some of the greatest intermodal and warehousing opportunities for shippers on the west coast,” he shared. “Policymakers in the Inland Empire understand the importance of sound transportation policies which allow railroads, and other modes of freight transportation, to do what we do best – move millions of tons of goods from around the world across the country as safely and efficiently as possible.” GoRail plays a significant role in connecting community leaders with elected officials as well as U.S. freight railroads and rail supply companies, to ensure freight policies made in Washington DC can be understood and implemented successfully on the local level to benefit communities.

Lupe Valdez, Director of Union Pacific Railroad, recognized the importance of the Inland Empire’s strategy on social developments. “Apart from integrating the public and private sectors together to create economic opportunities for people, the Inland Empire also needs to make sure people are not left behind,” she noted. She looks forward to employers’ attention to the durability of jobs in the logistics industry. “In the process of rapid technological development, skilled jobs give people more confidence in the Inland Empire. Access to training helps employees remain competitive, therefore helping the region remain competitive by both creating and retaining skilled labor.”

Collaboration between stakeholders throughout the Southern California goods movement industry is a primary interest of attendee Elizabeth Warren, a graduate student in the Sol Price School of Public Policy’s Masters in Global Public Policy Program.  Warren is also the executive director of FuturePorts, a membership-based advocacy organization that promotes balance between economic concerns and environmental stewardship.  Through Warren’s leadership, FuturePorts has built strong partnerships with GoRail, the IEEP, and goods movement industry stakeholders.  While at the dinner, I asked her about the importance of the goods movement.   “The goods movement industry is a key job creator in Southern California, and the San Pedro Bay Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles create or induce over 1 million jobs in Southern California,” she replied.  “It is vital that to continue growing our economy and boosting job growth, while simultaneously reducing transportation related emissions, the Inland Empire and the San Pedro Bay Ports, along with all of their stakeholders, collaborate on policies related to the environment, efficient operations, legislation, technology, and workforce development, so we can all achieve the California dream.”

GoRail Table

From left to right: Rui (Rae) Zhang, USC Price School MPL; Victoria Deguzman, Associate Director, METRANS Transportation Center; Brad Jensen, Director of Public Policy, San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership; Nate Kaplan, West Coast State Director, GoRail; Kendal Asuncion, Public Policy Manager, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; Elizabeth Warren, Executive Director, FuturePorts, USC Price School Global MPP; and Alice Walton, Public Affairs Specialist, Ek, Sunkin & Bai.


About the Author: Rui (Rae) Zhang

Rui (Rae) Zhang is a second-year Master of Planning student at USC Sol Price School of Public Policy with transportation concentration. She is currently a transit finance intern at Foothill Transit and expects to start her career as a transportation planner after graduating in May 2018. She is passionate about transit and has research experience on Caltrans freight project Managing the Impacts of Freight in California. She can be reached at [email protected].