Bay Area Council Blog: News Archive

smiling governor

Governor Schwarzenegger, Bay Area Council, Announce Bid for 2020 World Expo

On Sunday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman to announce that California will bid to host the 2020 World Expo in Silicon Valley. The announcement was made at the World Expo in Shanghai before the Governor toured the U.S., Austrian and Chinese pavilions. World Expos typically occur every five years and attract exhibits from countries around the globe and bring as many as 70 million visitors. The Governor and Council will work together to bring this prominent international event to the Golden State.

“Shanghai has demonstrated that when you host the World Expo, the world comes to you, and I want the world to come to California. Our state is a leader in entertainment, agriculture, the environment, high-tech, green-tech and bio-tech, and we are ready to showcase our innovation to the world,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “As the hub of innovation, Silicon Valley is the most natural place to hold the Expo, which will promote the international exchange of ideas, create jobs and increase revenues in our state.”

The proposed site is Moffett Field, next to the pristine San Francisco Bay. The area is heavily served by international and local transportation and is surrounded by some of the largest and most respected companies in the world.

“The World Expo is the Olympic Games of the economic, scientific and industrial world, and we think it is time for Silicon Valley to serve as an ambassador for the United States and host this event,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “For 30 years, the Bay Area and Silicon Valley have been the pre-eminent hot spots for the innovation that drives the world’s technological advances.  Imagine what a Silicon Valley Expo will look like when we put all of the region’s collective brainpower to work.”

World Expos can generate tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of jobs for host regions.  Shanghai’s World Expo will leave the city with an additional $40 billion of roads, subway lines and airport terminals.  The net economic impact for the Shanghai Expo has been estimated at $11.6 billion, according to Chen Xinkang, professor of marketing and business management at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

The State of California and the United States will submit their formal Expo 2020 candidacy application in 2011 and the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) – the governing body of World Expositions – will likely announce the winning bid for Expo 2020 at the end of 2012.  Currently, the United States is not a member of the BIE. The Bay Area Council plans to work with Congressional Representatives and the U.S. State Department over the next few months to reinstate the U.S. as a contributing member.

The last Expo that was held in the United States was in 1984 in New Orleans.


Council’s New Cyber Security Initiative Profiled by Business Week

By Jim Wunderman

Here is a recent interview I did for Business Week on the Council’s new Cyber Security initiative, which is already grabbing attention and being taken seriously by both policy leaders and the media. The Committee has begun to the address Cyber Security challenges facing business communities around the world and will be delivering its recommendations to the highest levels of policy makers in Washington D.C. and Sacramento.


Bay Area Agencies Must Work Together to Improve Transit System

By Jim Wunderman

As published in Bay Area News Group papers

For a region whose residents lead the nation in their support for public transit, you’d be forgiven for expecting the Bay Area to have an outstanding transit system. But anyone who rides transit here knows the reality: fares are high and rising, buses and trains are old and dirty, and services are often slow and infrequent.

If you’re dependent on transit, you’re going to spend a huge part of each day waiting for and riding the bus, especially if you live in an outlying area or work late or very early hours.

If you’re an occasional transit user? Good luck figuring how to get from point A to point B via some combination of the more than two dozen proudly independent transit operators in the Bay Area.

Life isn’t much easier for those who work at transit agencies either. With huge budget shortfalls today and as far as the eye can see, demoralizing service cuts and layoffs are the order of the day.

What is at the bottom of this mess? If you’ve followed the latest news, you might think that the state is to blame for taking money away from transit.

It’s true that the state has taken some transit funds, but the problems originated long ago and go much deeper. Sadly, most of the problems are self-inflicted. It has become clear that we are spending so much time and energy arguing among ourselves and pointing fingers that we are failing to work on the progress that we all want.

The latest example pitted two worthy goals — building a new BART rail link to Oakland International Airport, and backfilling cuts to local bus service — against each other. Any objective analysis would conclude that the Bay Area needs both, but what we’re likely to get is neither.

We’ve managed to convince ourselves that we can only get our own particular transit concern addressed if we make sure that someone else doesn’t. This is not a recipe for success.

The Bay Area spends more than $2 billion each year on public transit, including hefty chunks of money from bridge tolls, sales taxes and parcel taxes. Bay Area residents, however, choose transit for only 6 percent of their trips. It’s not just about insufficient funding — Bay Area transit funding has increased by 91 percent over the past decade, but ridership only increased by 7 percent.

This isn’t just a minor problem. The Bay Area is entering a new phase of its growth in which we will become increasingly reliant upon an effective, affordable public transit system. That’s because we’ve essentially tapped out the growth pattern of the past several decades in which our region sprawled into the hinterland, while loading more cars onto already congested highways.

Over the next several decades, new homes and jobs will need to come back to city centers and other zones that can support effective and convenient public transit. This is no longer a terribly controversial idea in the Bay Area — the Bay Area Council believes it, environmental and social equity groups believe it, Bay Area public officials believe it, and state law encourages it — but it does require a public transit system that works. We don’t have such a system, and we’re not going to get one by continuing in the direction that we’re heading.

The Bay Area can have world-class public transit, however, and I think that we must. It’s going to require more money for transit, and significant reform toward how public transit agencies use that money. The bad news is that no one is going to do this for us. The good news is that the Bay Area can largely do it on its own. We can identify what’s not working with transit, what we really want our transit system to look like, and how to best deliver those transit services that residents want. If we do it right, I am confident that Bay Area residents would support a modest regional tax increase that would make the system a reality.

All of us who consider ourselves public transit leaders need to take a step back and remind ourselves of the values and vision that we all share. We can agree to work together to achieve that vision, and we can commit to individual compromise in place of collective combat.

There’s only one way to make this happen, and that is together. Let’s put aside our disagreements, focus on our fundamental agreements and see how far we can get. We just might achieve something great and necessary for the Bay Area.


Must act decisively and fast to save California

Opinion Editorial by Jim Wunderman
Published in the Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune, San Mateo County Times & Tri-Valley Herald

As 2009 closes, the opinion of most Californians is “good riddance.” The year ends with record unemployment figures of 12.5 percent, 25 percent higher than the national average. Other large states with diverse economies like New York and Texas have unemployment rates below average. The year also closes with another record budget deficit looming and more cuts to education and other vital services on the way.

Economists predict a slow recovery for the nation’s economy in 2010, but what about California? Will we lead the nation out of this recession as we have done so many times in the past?

I believe we can. California still has the best and brightest workforce in the world, we still lead the world in innovation, venture capital investment and new technologies. If any place can turn this economy around, it is California.

Unfortunately, it is also true to say that if anywhere in the world, despite its embarrassment of riches, can make things worse, it is California.

A recent national survey of CEOs ranked California the worst state in the nation to do business. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranks California 48th in the Business Tax Climate index. A 2009 report commissioned by the governor, titled “Cost of State Regulations on California Small Businesses” totals the cost of regulation to the state at almost half a trillion dollars. This cost amounts to 3.8 million lost jobs, one-tenth the state’s population.

Businesses in California are overtaxed, overregulated and underappreciated, which is why so many are moving to other states. If we are to emerge from our current fiscal mess, a mess that is costing us our position as an economic leader in the country and the world, we must make policy changes to encourage new investment and job creation in California.

Before we step forward, let’s start by looking back and undoing shortsighted policy decisions that have badly damaged California’s economy. This is my wish list for California’s businesses in 2010.

In 1999, California scrapped the 40-hour federal standard for payment of overtime, and instead forces employers to pay overtime to employees once they have exceeded eight hours in any given day, even if they work less than 40 hours a week. This law, combined with California’s incredibly rigid lunch-hour rule, makes California noncompetitive. Employers and employees need more flexibility and less mandates from Sacramento. We need to repeal AB 60, the eight hour day law, and AB 1711, the mandatory lunch law.

It is impossible to total the California Environmental Quality Act’s (CEQA) cost to business, because it is so pervasive. One thing is certain: It is a massive anchor on California’s economy. The U.S. already has stringent environmental protections in the National Environmental Protection Act; California has set the bar much higher in CEQA and forces our businesses through lengthy and costly delays. We need to reform CEQA to speed up the review process and give more certainty to business while maintaining our environmental protections.

California has the highest sales tax in the nation and is one of just four states in the nation that does not allow a sales tax exemption for the purchase of machinery used in manufacturing and telecommunications. This puts California at a huge competitive disadvantage and cost us thousands of jobs since the exemption sunsetted in 2004. We need to address our overall taxation structure and reinstate the 6 percent Manufacturer Investment Credit that helped pull California out of the last recession.

We can protect our environment, workers and businesses and prosper again, but we must act decisively and act fast.