The breakfast drew more than 200 people Tuesday to the Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel in Santa Rosa. Eight businesses were honored by local chambers and the Sonoma County GoLocal Cooperative at the breakfast.
The lieutenant governor, who is running for re-election, recalled how in 1992 he founded the retail shop PlumpJack Wines in San Francisco.
With involvement from billionaire philanthropist Gordon Getty, Newsom has gone from being the company's sole worker to becoming a principal in 15 businesses with nearly 1,000 seasonal employees. The affiliated companies manage the Carneros Inn and own the PlumpJack, Cade and Odette Estate wineries, all in Napa County.
On Tuesday Newsom contrasted the values of the World War II-era "greatest generation" with those of the "grasshopper generation" of the past three decades.
The first group's sustainable approach helped California become "the tent pole of the American economy," with top rankings nationally in primary and secondary education and federal scientific research. But the second group, he said, has set out to "eat everything in sight" with little regard for the future.
"We've become, dare I say, average," Newsom said.
Newsom suggested the state is dividing along stark economic lines. While unemployment in Sonoma County fell to 6.2 percent in March, the jobless rate exceeded 20 percent in Imperial County and remains stubbornly high in such inland areas as Colusa and Sutter counties.
Three of the nation's top five impoverished communities are in California — Merced, Bakersfield and Fresno, he said.
And Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, acknowledged that today even the City by the Bay "doesn't have much of a middle class." He noted this was the case despite efforts to set in place universal preschool, expanded health care requirements and one of the state's higher minimum wages at $10.74 per hour.
Newsom garnered applause when he told the audience that "you cannot be pro-job and anti-business."
The lieutenant governor has helped lead economic development efforts for the state, but he said boosting employment can't occur through a top-down approach.
"Real job creation must be done at the local level," he said.