08 Oct 2015

James Correa - City of Sacramento, Office of Mayor Kevin Johnson

James Correa
(MBA 2015)

How did you get involved with the City of Sacramento?

When I first heard about the opportunity, it was one of those moments where you notice something passively and register it in the back of your mind, and it slowly blooms into an idea of what you want to do. I knew that I wanted to continue public service in general after serving in the Army, and I had a strong desire to return to California. Sacramento felt like it fit right in the middle of that. I feel a lot of excitement around local politics and with the greater zeitgeist and angst over big politics in America, I felt I could make a big difference at the municipal level. Sacramento is going through something of a renaissance and I wanted to be a part of that.

How has your experience been so far?

It’s difficult to translate how different a space local politics is compared to the business community, and I’ve really enjoyed learning the ropes. In my current position, I have a number of roles. I’m responsible for the Mayor’s jobs, economic, and innovation initiatives. It can be as focused as working with specific employers on developing workforce training and talent pipelines, and as broad as engaging consortia business leaders on the city’s business development strategy moving forward. There are a great range of activities from high-level policy to nitty gritty capability-building.

What do your responsibilities look like and how do you prioritize them to be most effective?

Being in the mayor’s office, I have the benefit of having his vision to guide me. That leads what I prioritize. The reality is that day-to-day opportunities and challenges are constantly popping up. On any given day, I can plan to work on cultivating relationships with the entrepreneurs in the city and then find myself doing research on the effects of minimum wage on the work force.

How does what you studied and learned at HBS inform your experience?

One of the largest projects I’m working on is developing the rail yards to become an innovation district. Understanding strategy and entrepreneurship and how digital ecosystems interact with each other has been incredibly valuable in helping to design what our bricks and mortar ecosystem is going to look like. I have enhanced credibility when I interact with business leaders and the startup community coming from HBS. And the fact that I can use my business education directly toward the city’s economic development work is very valuable. I speak the language of our customers.

Anything to add?

Sacramento is currently going through a renaissance in how it views itself and the businesses that it serves. Our rail yards project, which is a 244-acre brown field, is one of the largest urban infill development projects in the nation. It will double the size of our downtown core. It all feels very much like a startup. We are making up the processes of how this is going to work as we go. We have to build a business model, we have to find the capital. In all regards, it’s classic entrepreneurship. What I learned at HBS has been invaluable in helping the mayor develop the city’s vision for that.

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