On February 22, 50 CEOs of Southern California growth companies will stop what they're doing and head for the Hermitage Hotel. The reason for the entrepreneurial-work stoppage is the CEOs' mutual concern about the state of the regional economy, which has long been considered one of the nation's hottest but which has recently shown signs of an unmistakable cooling trend. "This coalition of small growth companies, technology companies, and ethnic businesses represents the invisible engine of the Southern California economy," one of the members told me recently. "But until now we've been content to let the debate about our region's economic future be dominated by large-company lobbyists and government bureaucrats. We just can't afford any longer not to be leading that debate."
Calling itself New Vision, the group wants to serve as an alternative source of ideas for forging a coherent regional economic policy, and it plans to make sure those ideas are heard by policymakers. Already the New Vision initiative is generating talk of similar coalitions in other parts of the country -- evidence, perhaps, of the frustration felt by entrepreneurs everywhere over the lack of economic leadership from elected officials. Of course, getting 50 entrepreneurs to agree on anything is a formidable challenge, but we at Inc. are sufficiently intrigued by it all that we have signed on as a sponsor of the Hermitage gathering. Watch this space in April for a report.