Kevin Klowden is the executive director of the Milken Institute's Center for Regional Economics. He specializes in the study of key factors that underlie the development of competitive regional economies (clusters of innovation, patterns of trade and investment, and concentration of skilled labor) and how these are influenced by public policy, and in turn, affect regional economies. On a national level, he is heavily involved in issues of capital access for small businesses, including serving as chair of the US Department of Commerce's Trade Finance Advisory Council. His areas of expertise include technology-based development, capital access, infrastructure, the global economy, media, and entertainment.
Klowden was the lead author of "Strategies for Expanding California's Exports," which examined the vital role trade and exports play in the state economy and its underperformance relative to the country over the past decade. Further work on trade and investment has included "A Golden Opportunity with China: How California Can Become an Even Bigger Destination for Chinese Foreign Investment." He has also written on the role of transportation infrastructure in economic growth and job creation in reports such as "California's Highway Infrastructure: Traffic's Looming Cost" and "Jobs for America: Investments and Policies for Economic Growth and Competitiveness." He is a frequent speaker on state fiscal issues and has served on multiple advisory boards on business growth, economic development, and infrastructure. He holds graduate degrees from the University of Chicago and the London School of Economics.
Aaron Melaas is an associate director in the Center for Regional Economics, where he contributes to research and programming on regional economic development and international trade, with a focus on California's role in the global economy. Before joining the Milken Institute, he worked with McLarty Associates, a strategic advisory firm based in Washington, DC, where he helped corporate clients navigate international trade and investment challenges through commercial diplomacy. He is also the co-author of "National Innovation Systems in the United States and China," published by Tufts University, and has contributed to publications by the Center for a New American Security, Inter-American Dialogue, World Resource Institute, and Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.
Melaas is also a PhD candidate in international relations at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, where he is completing his dissertation on the effects of industry association advocacy on innovation policy in Latin America. He holds a bachelor's degree in international politics and a master's degree in Latin American studies from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Charlotte Kesteven is a senior policy analyst in the Center for Regional Economics. Her research is centered on regional economic development, infrastructure, and workforce development. Before joining the Milken Institute, Kesteven worked as an economist at the Victorian Government Department of Treasury and Finance in Melbourne, Australia, where she advised the treasurer and other officials on education policy and workforce development issues. Kesteven has also worked as a consultant, conducting research in economic development, infrastructure, urban planning, and demographic forecasting for government agencies in Australia and New Zealand.
Kesteven received her master's degree in economics from the University of New England (Australia) in 2015. She also holds a bachelor's degree in international business from the Australian National University, majoring in international business and Spanish.
Sam Hanigan is a senior associate in the Milken Institute's Center for Regional Economics. He focuses on issues connected to job creation, access to capital, international trade, affordable housing, Opportunity Zones, and California's role in the global economy. Before joining the Milken Institute, Hanigan served as a field representative in the California State Assembly. He holds a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor.
The authors want to thank our colleague Misael Galdamez and intern Aditya Bafna for their extensive contributions to data collection and analysis for this year's report. We also want to thank Ross DeVol for creating the index and providing the methodological framework.