The Bay Area Council just loves a good challenge, and there is perhaps no bigger challenge for the region than bringing some relief to the congested mess that is our transportation system. The Council’s Executive Committee, meeting at member company Facebook in Menlo Park, on Thursday endorsed a 2017 policy platform that will direct significantly more time, energy and resources to finding and implementing both short-term and longer-term solutions to the region’s grinding traffic and overwhelmed mass transit systems. The Executive Committee under the leadership of Chair Michael Covarrubias of TMG Partners also renewed the Council’s priority policy areas from 2016 that include expanding housing, closing the workforce skills gap and securing the region’s long-term water supply in the face of continuing drought and increased competition among urban, environmental and agricultural interests.
The message was clear, however, that the highest priority must be on fixing the region’s dysfunctional commute, which ranks among the worst in the country and threatens to undermine the Bay Area’s economic success. Michael Matthews, Director of California Public Policy for Facebook, emphasized the importance of commute improvement in his remarks welcoming the Council to the social media giant’s campus, saying it is a key issue for the company along with housing (just today, Facebook announced a $20 million commitment to help local nonprofit housing and rental assistance programs).
Longer commutes, slower traffic and congested mass transit are choking the region’s economic productivity and putting us at growing competitive disadvantage with other states and regions. The Council has already begun laying the groundwork for a bold and aggressive regional transportation improvement vision that will be unveiled in the coming months. In addition, the Council will be exploring new technologies that can help manage the demand side of the transportation equation, promoting the development of autonomous vehicles and continuing our work to increase the use of private commuter shuttles. Expanding public and private water transportation services will figure prominently, and builds on great progress the Council has already made to increase public ferry service around the entire bay and promote fast-emerging private water taxi services.
Housing, of course, is another area on which the Council will continue to put heavy focus. Our leadership and advocacy this year helped win passage of the only significant housing bill in Sacramento – SB 1069 to expand accessory dwelling units (also known as in-law units) — and elevate the housing issue among elected leaders who as a result are now pointing to 2017 as the year of housing. The Council also backed affordable housing measures in Santa Clara and Alameda counties that both passed last month. Stay tuned for further details on planning for our work on housing, transportation, workforce and water policy. 2017 is going to be a big year.
Millions of Bay Area commuters could breathe a sigh of relief Tuesday when 70 percent of voters passed Measure RR to fix and upgrade BART, the region’s aging and overcrowded mass transit backbone. The Bay Area Council was a leading advocate for Measure RR, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the campaign and countering vocal, but misguided opposition led by state Sen. Steve Glazer that would have been content to see the measure fail and watch BART descend into chaos. The $3.5 billion Measure RR raises will help keep the system running, increase ridership capacity, keep cars off congested roads and highways and keep the region moving.
It was one of several successful measures across the region that the Council was backing to invest in affordable housing and transportation. Measure B in Santa Clara County also reached the 70 percent threshold and will generate $6.5 billion to extend BART to Silicon Valley, expand Caltrain and fix local roads. That campaign was led by Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino. Also in Santa Clara County, Measure A passed with flying colors and will provide $950 billion for a variety of affordable housing programs. In Alameda County, Measure A1 will provide $580 billion for affordable housing. The Council also endorsed Measure KK in Oakland to invest $600 million in affordable housing, transportation and other vital city services.
On the Presidential front the nonpartisan Council didn’t take sides, but is now working to see where we may have agreement with President-elect Donald Trump and where we may need to advocate on issues important to ensuring the Bay Area economy remains strong. Trump signaled during the campaign his support for massive infrastructure investment, including for transportation, water and energy. He also identified early education as an area he supports. On trade, the President-elect has voiced strong concerns about free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership which the Council supports. A report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute is preparing to release next week examines the huge benefits of foreign trade to local, state and national economies. Trump’s position on climate change may also put him at odds with California’s global leadership on clean energy technology, a growing area of the state’s economy that the Council has long embraced. Immigration may be another area where the Council calls for moderation on policies that could hurt the ability of employers to attract needed talent.
Statewide, the Council nearly ran the table in its endorsements. Of the eight propositions for which the Council took a position, all but one went the right way.
See a full results roundup of the Council’s ballot positions>>
A high-level delegation of Bay Area entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors and scientists led by Bay Area Council CEO Jim Wunderman this week (Oct. 19) completed a successful one-week visit to China to attract new technology investment to the Bay Area. The group included Joint Bioenergy Institute CEO Dr. Jay Keasling, a pioneer in synthetic biology and associate director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Delegates participated in investment matchmaking events in the Yangpu District of Shanghai, the Yuhang (Future Tech City) in Hangzhou and the Gulou District in Nanjing—the Council maintains offices in all three districts. The delegation also visited Tsinghua University and Zhongguancun Technology Park in Beijing.
Other highlights of the trip included a private dinner hosted by the Bank of China at their Shanghai Headquarters Penthouse; UC Berkeley alumni events in Shanghai and Beijing; a private meeting in the Zhejiang Provincial Party Headquarters; a meeting with IBM China Chief Technology Officer Xiaowei Shen; and dinner at the home of Hanhai Investment Group Chairman Wang. The Council also met with numerous top-level Chinese government officials, including Liu Linlin, Director of American & Oceanian Affairs in the Ministry of Commerce; Guo Hong, Director General of Zhongguancun Tech Park; Li Yueqi, Party Secretary of Yangpu District; Xie Jiangang, Mayor of Yangpu District; Yao Zhiwen, Director General of Organization Department of Zhejiang Province; Xie Zhicheng, Vice Mayor of Nanjing City; and, Ai Xuefeng, Vice Mayor of Shenzhen.
The Council will continue to serve as the investor relations team for these companies as they attract important technology investments into the Bay Area from China. The Council’s business development platform in China is available to help all Bay Area companies and organizations to access the growing markets of China and attract investment at home. To engage in the Council’s China work, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen.
The Bay Area Council, in collaboration with the Gulou District of Nanjing, recently completed a trade show promoting Bay Area businesses and Council members in the economically important Yangtze Delta region. The event was led by Deputy Mayor Tong and attended by over 400 representatives from the Nanjing business community along with Council members Woods Bagot, HSBC, Dolby, PwC, Suning, Finnegan and Mitsubishi. In remarks during the event, Council Senior Vice President Bing Wei and Woods Bagot Vice President Peal Huang drew awareness to investment opportunities in the Bay Area.
The event doubled as a celebration of the establishment of the Nanjing-Bay Area Innovation Center; a startup co-working space sponsored by the municipal government with consulting support from the Bay Area Council. The project provides a facility for startup companies from the Bay Area to accelerate their business in China and a venue for venture capital firms to track the progress of the innovation economy in the Nanjing. Oakland-based startup Labor-Link was the first to register after the formal opening and will receive support from the municipal government in growing their client base amongst the cities many electronics manufacturers. To engage in the Council’s China work, please contact Global Business Development Chief Del Christensen.
As leaders from the world’s largest economies gathered in Hangzhou last week, we are reminded of China’s rising global responsibilities. Protocol spats aside, there was broad agreement at the G20 Summit on the need for collaboration and creativity. Chinese President Xi Jinping urged major economies to drive growth through innovation, in line with the government’s latest Five Year Plan. Exemplary to this strategy has been the Bay Area Council and its partnerships connecting the Bay Area and China. The Council’s Hangzhou office was recently highlighted in Chinese media for its contribution to innovation and business for the region. In an interview with Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen, the Bay Area is praised for its technological and entrepreneurial achievements. Access the Article and Video>>
With a presence in Hangzhou since 2012, the Bay Area Council has successfully enabled the expansion of impactful technologies into China’s key markets. Through the Council’s cross-border services, companies from both continents have demonstrated a capacity to succeed in each other’s complex environments. The G20 meeting illustrates a converging set of new interests and opportunities between the Bay Area and China. To engage in the Council’s China and Global Initiatives work, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen.
The Presidential race has brought intense focus on U.S. trade agreements and, specifically, the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership to open markets between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Unfortunately, much of the focus has been negative, with the two major party nominees taking vocal stances against the TPP and highlighting concerns about its possible impact on U.S. manufacturing jobs. While a debate on the merits of TPP is important, it should not exclude a separate discussion about what California and the U.S. can and should be doing to bolster our manufacturing economy.
Free trade agreements alone do not dictate the direction of U.S. manufacturing, and fiery political rhetoric creates an easy distraction from addressing some of the real issues. That point is made clear in a recent report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute titled Reinventing Manufacturing: How the Transformation of Manufacturing is Creating New Opportunity for California. The report examines the evolving manufacturing sector in California and offers a series of recommendations for strengthening the sector that should be pursued regardless of TPP, which the Bay Area Council strongly supports. The Council recently shared a summary of the report with Senator Dianne Feinstein following a discussion with her about TPP and manufacturing. And we continue our advocacy for growing manufacturing jobs in California and the Bay Area.
Read a one-page summary of Reinventing Manufacturing>>
The Bay Area Council joined a statewide delegation of leading business and economic development executives that traveled to Washington, D.C. this week (June 19-21) to meet with top foreign investors about opportunities in California and the Bay Area. The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) led the delegation’s participation in the 2016 SelectUSA Investment Summit, which President Obama established in 2011 to attract and retain foreign investment in the United States in order to create jobs, spur economic growth, and promote American competitiveness. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in California plays an important role in catalyzing job growth, igniting innovation, increasing productivity and generating additional exports for the state’s economy. Foreign investment supports over 4.6 percent of private industry employment – over 631,500 jobs in California. Representing the California-China Office of Trade and Investment, Council Senior Vice President of Global Initiatives Bing Wei engaged with foreign and U.S. trade, business and economic development leaders on expanding investment opportunities and is already following up with clean tech companies from Canada, Australia and China. To engage with in the Council’s global trade and investment work, please contact Senior Vice President Bing Wei.
The Bay Area Council recently cohosted a medical device reception at the Westin-Shanghai’s Crown Hall in cooperation with the California Center for International Trade and Development. The event was held as part of the week-long China International Medical Equipment Fair and brought California medical device designers together with government officials to discuss regulatory challenges. Representatives from Nanjing and Shanghai Healthcare and Commercial departments fielded questions about product registration, distributor partnerships, and the priorities of China’s healthcare system under the 13th Five Year Plan. The Bay Area Council’s government partners in both cities further pledged their assistance in connecting California’s medical devices designers to qualified buyers in their municipal districts. The event was the first in the continuing partnership between the Bay Area Council and the California Center for International Trade and Development in China.
More than 400 close friends gathered Tuesday evening (Feb. 10) as the Bay Area Council celebrated Chinese New Year and ushered in the Year of the Monkey at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco. Presented by the Bank of China, the 6th Annual Chinese New Year Celebration commemorated the Council’s achievements in 2015 and looked ahead to new opportunities for success in 2016. The Monkey represents creativity and invention—a particularly auspicious sign for the Bay Area.
Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman spoke about his optimism for greater partnership between the Bay Area and China, which was echoed by Deputy Consul General Faqiang Ren of the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco. Bank of China SVP Lixin Gou shared his company’s excitement about doing business here. The Bay Area Council continues to expand its initiatives focused on increasing bilateral trade and investment activity through its district offices—located in the Yangpu District of Shanghai, Yuhang District of Hangzhou, and Gulou District of Nanjing.
The Council extends its special thanks to Presenting Dragon Sponsor Bank of China; Jade Sponsors: Nixon Peabody and Perkins + Will; Beverage Sponsors: Gordon Biersch, Kieu Hoang Winery, Wildcide; Venue Sponsor: Clinton Reilly Holdings; and to the Asia Society for its support. To engage in the Council’s China work, please contact Chief of Global Initiatives Del Christensen.
See photos from the event>>
Bing Wei, Bay Area Council Senior Vice President for Global Initiatives, has been accepted into the prestigious Presidential Leadership Scholars Program for 2016. The program was developed to increase social good in communities large and small through leadership development. It is supported by the resources of the presidential centers of George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson. The executive-style program takes scholars to each participating presidential center to study and put into practice varying approaches to leadership. Scholars learn from the former presidents, key administration officials, and leading academics.
Bing will be developing a new Leadership Innovation Training (LIT) program for the Bay Area Council targeting Chinese government officials and executives. The LIT program will also help Council members with a presence in China to expand or enter the market. She is aiming to launch the pilot of the Leadership Innovation Training (LIT) program early May. For more information about the LIT program, please contact Bing Wei.