A rising economy, a massive housing shortage and growing traffic in the Bay Area are causing major changes across the Northern California megaregion that represent both opportunities and challenges. The Bay Area Council is spearheading an effort to bring together business, government, academic and civic leaders from across the megaregion on planning to embrace the former and minimize the latter. The Council last week traveled to Stockton where CEO Jim Wunderman presided over a meeting that included mayors from Stockton, Merced, Modesto and Livermore, leaders from key rail and regional planning organizations, and business and academic leaders.
In addition to hearing about the foundational research on the Northern California megaregion put together by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and University of the Pacific, participants focused on the potential for future rail investments–in the ACE train and high speed rail–to spur economic development. The meeting, hosted by University of the Pacific in partnership with Valley Vision, was the first of a series of meetings the Council is convening across the megaregion in the coming months that will seek to produce a common policy advocacy agenda for megaregional stakeholders. To engage in the Bay Area Council’s work on the Northern California Megaregion, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf met with the Bay Area Council’s Board of Directors Thursday to discuss a range of pressing issues, from healthcare reform and homelessness to infrastructure investment and public safety. Board Chairman and Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson welcomed both leaders to a packed room at Kaiser’s Oakland headquarters. Feinstein updated the Board on her efforts to ban assault weapons, an issue she has championed for decades. She also discussed the importance of making Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) permanent as well as her interest in leveraging public private partnerships to repair and rebuild the nation’s aging and crumbling infrastructure.
Investing to expand and improve the region’s congested transportation system was also a top issue as Feinstein emphasized the need for a new crossing south of the Bay Bridge. Tyson thanked Feinstein for her great leadership and urged Council members to join a business delegation we’re leading to D.C. in May to promote California’s importance to the nation as some critics frame the Golden State as out of control.
Feinstein also gave warm praise for Mayor Schaaf, who described the progress Oakland is making in turning around years of crime and addressing a complicated homeless problem. Schaaf also highlighted a measure she is championing for the November ballot—the Oakland Children’s Initiative—that would invest in expanding access to early education and other early childhood programs. She touted the huge returns that early childhood investments have in increasing employment opportunities and avoiding expensive social and public safety costs. This is an issue that has long been a priority for the Council, whose executive leadership has expressed early support for Schaaf’s November measure as she works to get it placed on the ballot. The Council extends its gratitude to Kaiser Permanente for hosting our meeting.
Last Wednesday, the Bay Area Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee wrapped up research for a one-year evaluation of its Occupational Councils (OCs) model. The study, conducted in conjunction with a Stupski Foundation Learning Grant, showed that Council members see the OCs as a critical platform for communication among the region’s economic stakeholders. As one member explained, “The Council serves as a great resource to discuss best practices within an industry that needs additional education for prospective students/members/educators.”
Employers surveyed expressed enthusiasm for the Occupational Councils’ ability to connect them with potential talent through hands-on experiences such as classroom visits and industry-specific career fairs, as well as the opportunities for cross-sector collaboration. As another member stated, “Whenever we are able to freely share best practices/challenges, and create opportunities that help all, we each benefit.”
First implemented in 2016 in partnership with the Bay Area Community College Consortium, Occupational Councils are groups of employers working together in conjunction with educators and trainers to solve the skills gaps pertaining to specific industries or middle-skills occupations. In response to the overwhelmingly positive feedback, the Workforce of the Future Committee is looking to recruit new employer members and establish additional Occupational Councils to facilitate information-sharing between employers, educators, and job seekers.
If you are interested in learning more about the Occupational Councils and other employer programs, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.
Across California an estimated 762,000 college students experience some form of housing insecurity or homelessness because of the state’s massive housing shortage. As part of our overall battle to increase new housing, the Bay Area Council is sponsoring legislation (SB 1227) by state Sen. Nancy Skinner that would encourage developers to build affordable student housing. The bill would allow the construction of 35 percent more units over existing local limits as long as 20 percent of the units are dedicated for low-income students, among other requirements. It would also eliminate parking requirements that add considerable cost to projects.
The bill is one of several the Council is sponsoring or supporting this year to boost housing. The Council also is sponsoring SB 229 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (Fremont) that would ease local regulatory barriers and fees on accessory dwelling units, aka granny units. And, were supporting two key bills by state Sen. Scott Weiner (San Francisco) that would boost housing near transit (SB 827) and hold cities more accountable for meeting their housing obligations (SB 828). To engage in the Council’s housing policy, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.
In the ongoing immigration debate, the Bay Area Council places special importance on the issues surrounding skilled immigration – H-1B visas, the entrepreneur visa, and green cards. This week Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced his long-anticipated bill—the Immigration Act of 2018 (I-Squared)—which offers the most promising vehicle for addressing the concerns of many Bay Area companies. The issues covered Hatch’s bill are separate from those being debated about the fate of so-called Dreamers under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Hatch’s bill does several things: increases be base allocations of H-1Bs from 65,000 to 85,000; creates a market-based escalator that allows the supply of visas to meet demand; prioritizes petitions for holders of a U.S. master’s degree or higher, holders of foreign PhDs, and holders of U.S. STEM bachelor degrees; prohibits an employer from hiring an H-1B visa holder with the purpose and intent to replace a U.S. worker; provides work authorization for spouses of H-1B holders; increases H-1B worker job mobility; raises from $60,000 to $100,000 the salary level above which employers are exempt from certain recruitment and non-displacement requirements; eliminates the annual per-country limit for employment-based green cards; increases worker mobility for individuals on the path to a green card; creates a new conditional green card category to allow employers to sponsor university-educated foreign professionals through a separate path from H-1B; enables F-1 student visa holders to seek permanent residence status while a student or during Optional Practical Training (OPT); and increases fees for H-1B visas and employment-based green cards and directs those fees toward state-administered grants to promote STEM education and worker training.
The Council plans to work with Senator Hatch’s office, industry groups, and the Bay Area’s legislative delegation to advance the bill’s proposals, which return the H-1B program to its original intent by ensuring that recipients are high-skilled, precluding the replacement of U.S. workers by H-1B holders, and ensuring that employers have access to the skills and talent they need to be remain competitive.
Seeking to find solutions to their growing technical talent needs, Bay Area Council members Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) joined forces with the Workforce of the Future Committee to envision, create and host an aviation career exploration event, “Working at SFO: An Insight Event for Local Educators & Community Partners,” last Thursday (1/18). A direct result of the Workforce of the Future Committee’s Aviation Maintenance Occupational Council, the impetus for the event came from employers’ needs to expand their talent pipelines into technical and non-technical roles. The event featured a career expo, career speakers and tours, and allowed local educators, workforce development staff and other career guidance experts to interact directly with employers and learn about the amazing career pathways offered in the aviation industry.
SFO International Airport and the Bay Area Council will host another event on May 16 for students, parents, community members, and interested workers. For more information, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.
There hasn’t been a lot of rain so far this winter, but Gov. Jerry Brown had the wet stuff on his mind this week (Jan. 11) when he released a $190 billion budget proposal that ups the state’s “Rainy Day Fund” by $5 billion to $13.5 billion. The reserve is designed to protect California against future economic downturns, which Brown believes is coming sooner rather than later. Still, the budget represents a record for California and includes a $7 billion increase over the previous spending plan. The Bay Area Council applauded many of the spending priorities, which include $4.6 billion for commute improvement projects from last year’s SB1 (Beall) legislation that the Council supported.
The plan invests $245 million to expand and protect affordable housing under SB2 (Atkins), another bill the Council supported last year. Brown proposed another $277 million for housing in anticipation of the passage of a statewide housing bond measure expected to appear on the November 2018 ballot. The spending plan also continues the Governor’s efforts to pay down the overall state debt and makes a small dent in the state’s massive pension liability shortfall. The Council is continuing to analyze the plan and will be weighing in directly as it now moves to the legislature, which has a June deadline to approve it.
Behind the Bay Area Council’s continuing advocacy, the California legislature this year took its first (albeit modest) actions to address the state’s historic housing crisis. Much, much more needs to be done, and the Council’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, under the leadership of Chair and Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard J. Tyson, this week approved a 2018 policy agenda that calls for escalating our work to achieve deeper, stronger and more effective reforms for spurring the tsunami of new housing the state so badly needs. Already, the Council is identifying new legislation for 2018 that can speed the approval and bring down the cost of new housing.
The 2018 agenda also prioritizes ridding the scourge of traffic fom the Bay Area’s roads and highways and getting more commuters out of their vehicles and into ferries, carpools, shuttles and other forms of transit. The Council is gearing up now for a campaign to win passage of Regional Measure 3, a $4.4 billion transportation investment plan that is expected to hit the June 2018 ballot. Rounding out the Council’s top policy priorities for 2018 is building a stronger workforce pipeline to meet the future needs of the region’s employers. The Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee is making immense strides to better align educators and employers to close the region’s yawning middle skills and talent gap, as well as creating new career opportunities for underserved youth.
Along with the top three policy priority areas, the 2018 agenda includes gender equity and workforce diversity, healthcare, advanced communication infrastructure, China and global innovation, carbon reduction and renewables, and water and climate resiliency.
The policy agenda was approved Thursday (Dec. 7) during a meeting hosted by new member Santa Clara University. The Board also welcomed state Sen. Jim Beall Jr. and applauded him for his incredible leadership as the author this year of SB 1, which invests $52 billion in statewide transportation improvements, and SB 595, which authorized the vote on Regional Measure 3. Beall talked about both measures and outlined his plans for new legislation for delivering transportation projects faster and at lower cost. The Council will be working closely with Sen. Beall on that project delivery legislation.
The Bay Area Council’s own Jim Wunderman will be honored as San Francisco State University Alumnus of the Year at the 2017 President’s Dinner & Alumni Hall of Fame Celebration on Friday, November 3 from 6-9 p.m. at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco. To attend and help celebrate Jim’s many contributions to SFSU and our region, please reserve a table or seat today.
Wunderman graduated from SFSU in 1984 with a degree in political science and for the past 12 years has led the Council through an unprecedented period of expansion. Wunderman, named one of the Top 100 movers and shakers in California politics that past two years, has led the Council’s efforts to advocate for billions of dollars in federal, state and regional funding for major transportation projects, solve the state’s housing crisis and positioned the Council as a thought-leader by expanding to Sacramento, overseeing offices in China, and partnering with the state to reopen the California-China Trade Office.
Joined by leaders from industry, academia and philanthropy, the Bay Area Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee on Monday (Oct. 2) explored new approaches to addressing the burgeoning skills and talent gaps affecting employers’ bottom lines and workers’ livelihoods. AT&T California President and Council Executive Committee member Ken McNeely joined Mitchell Stevens, Director of Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Research through Online Learning, Don Howard, President and CEO of the Irvine Foundation, and Felix Ortiz, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Viridis Learning, for a discussion on the roles of employers, educators and job seekers in keeping up with our changing economy. The discussion also emphasized the need for interconnectedness and alignment between these entities, expanded career pathways and work-based learning opportunities, and funding of innovative efforts. Our thanks to Council member Salesforce for hosting the event.
Those in the room agreed that our region urgently needs to collaboratively implement solutions, such as industry-led partnerships with school districts, community colleges, and four-year universities, in order to see long-lasting outcomes and systems change. With the guidance of Bay Area Council members and thought leaders like those that participated in Monday’s meeting, the Workforce of the Future Committee is pursuing efforts like the Occupational Councils and the Bay Area Young Men of Color Employment Partnership to support systems change by aligning hiring needs with educational offerings, and addressing barriers to entry faced by specific historically underrepresented populations, respectively. To participate in the Workforce of the Future Committee, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.