The Central Valley is among the fastest growing regions in the U.S. Yet its largest city and bellwether, Fresno, is grappling with high poverty rates, educational shortfalls and economic disparities based on race. Half of Fresno's 545,000 residents identify as Hispanic-Latino, footnote1 and 33% of children under 18 live in poverty.footnote2 According to the Brookings Institution, even in pre-pandemic Fresno 45% of residents struggled to make ends meet. Fresno County’s unemployment rate is higher than the state average,footnote3 and the city’s jobless rate is nearly twice as high for Hispanic-Latino residents and almost three times higher for Black residents.footnote4
Yet, there are 34,000 unfilled "good and promising" jobs in high growth industries in the area (according to McKinsey & Co, 2020), suggesting there’s a misalignment between workers’ skills, training and access and open jobs.
In 2019, local civic leaders launched Fresno DRIVE (Developing the Region’s Inclusive and Vibrant Economy), a 10-year, $4.2 billion economic development plan to address these issues. The plan was formed by a 300-person steering committee representing more than 150 local nonprofits, community leaders, neighborhoods, institutions and businesses.
DRIVE is composed of 18 individual initiatives that address racial and economic disparities focusing on three interconnected priorities: Neighborhoods, human capital and economic development. Together, the 18 projects represent a collective effort that, in total, will create 50,000 new jobs, train 64,000 workers, support 3,400 small businesses, and create further opportunities for Fresno residents.
Bank of America supports DRIVE’s “Upskilling and Pathways to Employment” initiative, which is led by Career Nexus and establishes the Career Network Hub to convene employers, workforce development groups, local government and community partners to prepare current and future workers for promising careers.
The support for Fresno DRIVE is an example of Bank of America’s commitment to help advance racial equality and economic opportunity in local neighborhoods around the country. From entrepreneur funding and expanding home ownership to professional skills training and healthcare access, Bank of America continues to partner with innovative leaders to help communities implement solutions to society’s biggest challenges.