Bay Area Council Blog: News Archive


Council Unveils Roadmap for Creating a High-Value Healthcare System

The Bay Area Council today released its “Roadmap to a High-Value Health System,” which outlines a series of concrete strategies for leveraging California’s power as an innovator to control rising healthcare costs for business and individuals.  The Roadmap will serve as the foundation for the Council’s ongoing engagement with healthcare reform implementation, value-based healthcare purchasing by Bay Area businesses, and health system transformation.

“Reigning in rapidly rising healthcare costs is critical for maintaining the competitive edge of Bay Area and California businesses in our global economy,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We have the intellectual and innovation power to level the playing field on healthcare costs and free businesses to compete more aggressively on the merits of their products and services. That’s how the Bay Area and California are going to maintain that competitive edge and this Roadmap shows us how we can get there.”

Sean Randolph, President of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, explains that, “Our goal is to produce thorough fact-based analyses that will improve public understanding of issues that are critical to the economy and that will identify strategies to meet key economic goals.  The quality and affordability of health care is an issue that directly impacts business, citizens and governments at every level.”

“The roadmap is aimed at the state’s business leaders who have an essential role in shaping the vision of a high-value health system, mapping it out, and creating systems for measuring progress toward our goals,” said Greg Adams, President, Northern California, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan & Hospitals and chair of the Council’s Healthcare Committee. “This report lays out the specific actions by healthcare providers, insurers, businesses, governments, and individuals that will improve affordability and access to high quality care in California.”

Press release

Full Roadmap report


Council’s Free Trade Advocacy Reaps Reward

Sure we are just one region in a big country, but the Bay Area Council justifiably celebrated its contributions pushing the rock up the hill to secure the free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia that Congress approved Wednesday.  We have been the State Department, White House and South Korea, Panama and Colombia consulate’s go-to group in Northern California for the agreements over the past several years.  We have also pushed the agreements on every trip we have taken to D.C. in recent years.  That was partially why Demetrios Marantis, the U.S. Deputy Trade Representative, had such a big smile when we visited him in the White House last week.  The President had just sent the agreements to Congress.  South Korea is California’s fifth largest export market and the new pact will expand opportunities for California tech and agricultural products and financial and healthcare services, among others. The agreements came just ahead of data from the U.S. Commerce Department showing California has enjoyed two straight years of trade growth, including double-digit increases since last year.


Business Confidence Plummets

The Bay Area Council today released its latest Business Confidence Survey, with Bay Area CEOs and executives expressing strong disappointment with the pace of recovery over the past six months and offering an equally unsettled outlook for significant improvement in the coming six months.

The business confidence index – the number that distills the survey findings – registered at 51 out of 100, down 11 points from the spring 2011 survey and the biggest quarterly drop since 2002. A reading over 50 signals positive economic times, while below 50 is negative.  The previous Survey showed the index reading at 62.  One year ago, the reading registered 56. The index reached its all-time low of 31 in January 2009.

“Bay Area business leaders continue to be more optimistic about our regional economy than the national economy, but the volatility of the broader economy and the faltering recovery are taking a heavy toll on our confidence locally,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We’ve got our work cut out for us to stay focused on what we can do as a region to restore consumer confidence, improve the climate for business and create jobs.”

The responses of the almost 450 CEOs and top executives in the nine Bay Area counties surveyed show that overall, 31% think Bay Area economic conditions are moderately or substantially better than six months ago, while 44% say conditions are the same and 24% think they’re worse.

Business leaders have similarly cooled in their outlook for improvement locally, with just 35% saying they expect Bay Area economic conditions to get better over the next six months. Many of those whose attitudes have shifted now believe economic conditions will generally remain the same or worsen slightly over the coming months.

The Survey indicates that the decrease in business confidence translates to stagnation in growing jobs – 60% of executives surveyed predict their workforce will stay the same over the next six months, a 7 point increase from the last quarter. The share of businesses that plan to increase jobs dropped 8 points from earlier this year to 21%, while those planning to decrease jobs rose 4 points to 17%. Rising healthcare costs appeared to weigh on job creation, with 92% of executives saying they expect those costs to increase by at least a little and 48% saying rising healthcare costs would hurt their ability to hire.

“Controlling health care cost is one of the Council’s top priorities as we work with state legislators and others to influence how national healthcare reform gets implemented here in California,” Wunderman said.  “But that’s just one part of the equation. As a region and as a state, we must increase our investments in infrastructure projects, expand trade and exports and make sensible changes to regulations that remove obstacles to economic growth.”

Across industries views about the regional economy aren’t much better, with leisure and hospitality businesses expressing the highest level of confidence. By county, business leaders in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara are the most upbeat about economic conditions, with 25% in San Francisco expecting to add jobs and 27% in both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties looking to increase their workforces. In the government sector, 46% of public officials said they expect to shed jobs.

“The drop in business confidence in the Bay Area is consistent with what we’re seeing nationwide, although our region’s comparative economic advantages offer a ray of sunshine,” said Lenny Mendonca, a member of the Council’s Executive Committee and a director at McKinsey & Company. “It’s those comparative advantages – access to capital, a well-educated workforce, proximity to global markets and strong entrepreneurial spirit – that we must continue to cultivate.”


Business Confidence Survey

Survey Results Overall

Results by Industry

Results by County

Results by Employer Size

Survey Charts and Graphs

Pelosi BAC

Council’s Clout on Display in D.C.

“Californians have never been dissuaded by naysayers. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the Internet, California’s investments in infrastructure have made it a great place to start a business or hire new employees. We can’t let congested highways and overcrowded airports slow down California’s economy. High-speed rail will play a critical role in moving California’s expanding population and economy over the next 50 years.” Those were the words that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood offered to a Bay Area Council delegation to Washington D.C. this week. High speed rail, cyber security, free trade agreements, World Expo 2020, housing policy and job creation were among the issues that a group of our members communicated with passion and clarity of purpose to legislative leaders and top White House cabinet members and advisors.

At breakfast, Senator Feinstein, Chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence, directed her staff to collaborate with the Council’s Cyber Security Committee concerning threat sharing, a rapidly escalating problem for our members. Senators Reid, Lieberman, Collins, Rockefeller, Hutchinson, and Feinstein’s cyber security staff leads (plus the Republican cyber leaders on the House side) all sat down with the Bay Area Council members on the trip to hash out details of impending legislation on cyber issues. The conversations and advising will continue, as all congressional leaders seemed to agree with lunch guest Sameer Bhalotra, White House Senior Director for Cyber Security, that legislation will move at the start of 2012, and with a good probability of passage.

On high speed rail, our two Senators, our Bay Area leaders in the House and administration officials all said that federal money would be on hold for the near future, but that getting local community agreement on the project was the key to success. They all praised the work of Caltrain, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Council in creating a solid compromise that could allow money to flow to our region. Secretary LaHood urged the Council to continue to be forceful and direct when advocating for HSR.

Our members sincerely appreciated the candid discussion organized by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with fellow Bay Area Representatives George Miller, Barbara Lee, Anna Eshoo, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Thompson, Zoe Lofgren and Mike Honda. All in the room lauded Congresswoman Anna Eshoo for her leadership and resourcefulness in keeping the promise of high speed rail alive on the Peninsula.

Continuing the “top-shelf” trip, the White House arranged for Carl Shapiro, Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors to brief our members. He relayed that the economy used to be “Washington-proof,” but no longer is. Fortunately, the mood was lifted by a buoyant Ambassador Demetrios Marantis, the Deputy U.S. Trade Representative who told our group that the President had just sent the Colombia, Panama, Korea free trade agreements to Congress for approval, agreements for which the Bay Area Council has advocated for years.

The trip ended with lunch with Raphael Bostic, HUD Secretary for Policy Development and Research. Bostic echoed an earlier meeting with Carol Galante, the head of the Federal Housing Administration, confirming the administration’s alignment with the Council on regional housing planning, new urbanism and the need for a re-start to the housing industry.

The access and impact of trips like these make fulfilling the Council’s mission much easier and are a testament to our members’ combined clout.

Jim Wunderman

Council Hosts US Ambassadors Visiting to Promote Latin America Trade

The Bay Area Council played host this week to top U.S. Embassy officials from Brazil, Chile and Peru who were completing a five-day national tour to promote business and export opportunities in Latin America as part of President Obama’s National Export Initiative. Council President Jim Wunderman welcomed more than 60 Council members and California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom as U.S. Ambassador to Chile Alejandro Wolff, Ambassador to Peru Rose Likins and U.S. Charge d’Affaires to Brazil Todd Chapman described the wide range of export and business opportunities available and the services the embassies and U.S. Commercial Service provide to help businesses enter and expand in these dynamic and fast-growing markets. To contact these Embassy officials, contact Genevieve Herreria at


Annual Members Meeting a Giant(s) Success

The Bay Area Council this week held its Annual Members meeting, which was attended by more 70 members and was generously hosted by the San Francisco Giants. Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman thanked members for their profound leadership in the Bay Area, and gave an update on a few of the Council’s recent successes, including our hosting of the historic Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference and the related Women and the Economy Summit. He also briefed members on the Council’s trip to Washington, D.C., next week and upcoming trips to China. Wunderman also discussed some recent advances with high speed rail and the Council’s efforts to bring the World Expo to the Bay Area in 2020.

Larry Baer, President and newly appointed CEO of the San Francisco Giants and a member of the Council’s Executive Committee, stopped by to provide a little inside baseball on the future of the Giants. While he said they were disappointed the Giants did not advance to the playoffs, he announced that the ballclub enjoyed record attendance with every game being sold out. He said the Giants are looking forward to building the team and returning to the post season next year. The Giants also have some big things in store for their neighborhood, with plans for turning Lot A (the parking lot across McCovey Cove from the ballpark) into a mixed-use development with a large parking structure for fans. Baer also spoke about the possibility of building a stadium or arena as part of the development, either for a sports franchise or concerts and cultural events.

Members capped off the evening with a reception on the field in Triples Alley, followed by a great win for the Giants, complete with two home runs. Thanks to the Giants and everyone who came out, and we look forward to next year’s meeting and another winning season.

Council meets with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari

Council Getting Busy on High Speed Rail

The Bay Area Council has been busy these past two weeks firming up support for high speed rail, as a deadline looms for the release of a much-anticipated business plan and legislators in D.C. played politics with transportation funding.

On the D.C. front, funding for high speed rail got caught up in partisan budget wrangling, with the House of Representatives this past week eliminating $8 billion of funding that President Obama had requested for the 2012 fiscal year. After a similar move in the Senate, Senator Dianne Feinstein helped accomplish a modest reversal, winning approval for a placeholder $100 million appropriation. High speed rail will be among the topics the Council discusses with Feinstein during our upcoming trip to the Capital. Despite the shuffling in D.C. over the 2012 budget, California’s $3.3 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and other earlier appropriations remains secure, and funding for the initial construction project in the Central Valley is not in jeopardy.

Closer to home, Obama’s top two transportation officials, during visits to the Bay Area this week, reiterated in meetings with the Council the President’s strong commitment to high speed rail. Council CEO Jim Wunderman spoke privately with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who was in town last week for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, and made it clear to Wunderman that securing funding for high speed rail continues to be among the President’s top priorities.

And, at a meeting hosted this week by the Bay Area Council at the request of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari said that despite hitting a “few bumps in the road” high speed rail has a “strong future.” Porcari was here to outline the President’s American Jobs Act, but much of the discussion among about 20 elected, community and business leaders at the Council’s offices focused on transportation funding and high speed rail. Porcari noted that the nation’s interstate highway system when it was first proposed also attracted noisy naysayers, who later changed their tune once they realized the importance of the network to economic growth.

High speed rail makes particular sense for California, Porcari said, where it can provide an alternative to in-state air travel and preserve limited airport capacity for transcontinental and intercontinental travel and cargo. High speed rail will figure prominently during our D.C. trip from Oct. 4-6, with meetings being scheduled with both LaHood and Porcari. To participate in this trip, contact Council Senior Advisor George Broder at

Also on the home front, the Council has met in recent weeks with Governor Brown’s new appointees to the High Speed Rail Authority, Dan Richards and Senior Jobs Advisor Michael Rossi, about the upcoming release of the business plan, building support statewide and securing federal funding.

San Francisco Chronicle: Time for World Expo encore in Bay Area in 2020?

The Bay Area is well positioned to compete to host World Expo 2020 at Moffett Field. But first, a little housekeeping: The United States needs to pay its dues (about $32,500) to the Bureau of International Expeditions. This nation effectively dropped out of the 187-nation bureau in 2002 after failing to pay its dues – a true embarrassment considering that this nation was a co-founder of the group in 1928.

The last world’s fair in this area was at Treasure Island in 1939. The possibilities for a 2020 expo themed on technology and the future are perfectly aligned with a Silicon Valley setting, with its global connections and trend-setting sensibility.

Obviously, putting on a venture of this magnitude is full of logistical and financial questions, but the respected Bay Area Council is leading the charge – and the business group deserves a shot to show that it’s feasible. So please, Uncle Sam, pay those dues.

Read the story…