Bay Area Council Blog: News Archive


California Early Learning Scores Major Federal Grant

Youngsters and families throughout the Bay Area and California got welcome news this week with the announcement by the White House that the Golden State is among nine to receive a combined $500 million in Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant funding. Under Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO George Halvorson’s leadership and with tremendous support from the Packard Foundation and Wells Fargo Foundation, the Council worked with the Preschool Business Advisory Council and many others to advocate for the grant funding, which will help increase access to high-quality programs for children from low-income families and provide more children from birth to age 5 with a strong foundation they need for success in school and beyond.


Using Innovation to Control Healthcare Costs

With the goal of creating a cost-effective, high-quality healthcare system in California among our top priorities for 2012, the Council’s Healthcare Committee met recently with Peter Lee, Executive Director of the California Health Benefit Exchange, and Exchange Board member Paul Fearer to share with them best practices from the private sector for using innovation to control costs. The Exchange is a new state-based marketplace for private health insurance that will be the largest single purchaser of healthcare in the state. As the Exchange considers the types of products it will offer, Council Healthcare Committee members Steve McDermott, CEO of Hill Physicians Medical Group, and Paul Markovich, COO of Blue Shield of California, described the success of a partnership they formed with Catholic Healthcare West to control costs and improve quality for the state retirement system and how the Exchange can be structured to enable this valuable innovation.


Mayor Ed Lee Updates the Council Board on SF Economy

Fresh from his election victory, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee spoke enthusiastically at the Council’s Board of Directors meeting on Thursday about his economic agenda for San Francisco. Lee said he is focused on creating a more favorable climate for businesses in San Francisco and attracting more employers to the City by the Bay. He said the recent deal to bring Twitter to the City’s mid-Market area has spawned renewed interest and investment in the long-dormant area, with inquiries from dozens of companies. Easing the burden of the City’s payroll tax is among the issues Lee said he expects to make progress on in the coming months, along with seeking changes to other tax-related policies that he said currently create a financial disincentive for locating in the City. Lee also talked about the need for greater cooperation among cities regionally to draw new companies and investment to the Bay Area. Many thanks to the California Academy of Sciences for hosting our meeting.


Council Helps Secure $5 Million Regional Planning Grant

In a big win for the Bay Area, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday awarded a $5 million grant to a group of public agencies and private organizations that includes the Council to coordinate regional planning on economic development, job creation and affordable housing. The Council played a prominent role in working with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Association of Bay Area Governments and a number of prominent social equity, environmental justice and community and economic development groups to prepare the grant application and advocate for bringing the funding here. The grant was among the issues on which the Council focused heavily during its recent advocacy visit to Washington, D.C.


Council Signs Agreement Expanding Economic Cooperation in China

The Bay Area Council this week embarked on five-day trade mission to China that opened with the signing of a new economic cooperation agreement with Shanghai’s burgeoning Yangpu District and the opening of a high tech business park that will serve as a landing pad for companies looking to expand trade in the world’s fastest growing economy.

“This new agreement and the opening of the San Francisco-Silicon Valley-Shanghai Digitization Park represent an important expansion of the Council’s relationship with Shanghai and the Yangpu District and another substantive step forward in the Council’s ability to provide Bay Area companies with increased access to the exploding Chinese marketplace,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The Council has invested considerable effort in forging the relationships and developing the physical infrastructure that can smooth the way for companies to enter China and increase exports of California products and services.”

The significance of the Council’s relationship with Yangpu was highlighted by a meeting Wunderman and Council Chair Janet Lamkin held with Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng to discuss the future of this growing district. Yangpu is at the forefront of China’s efforts to expand its innovation economy and is considered a national pilot project for combining the various components – universities, research institutes, venture capital, physical infrastructure – necessary to cultivate new technologies and startups.

The opening of the high tech park in Yangpu was held on the first day of a five-day trade mission the Council is leading that features stops in Shanghai and Beijing and meetings with high-level business leaders and government ministers about economic opportunities related to port facilities, healthcare, innovation and financial services, among others.

The agreement with the Yangpu District government calls for the Council to assist small, medium and large companies in opening or expanding operations in Yangpu, identifying companies interested in occupying a new “accelerator” building within the high tech park designed specifically for companies entering the Chinese market and promoting Yangpu among companies in the Bay Area. It builds on an earlier memorandum of understanding between the Council and Yangpu that established the broad outlines for the relationship.

The Council delegation, which includes Oakland Port Commissioner Alan Yee, toured an innovative deepwater port facility in Shanghai on Tuesday that is the largest in China and among the largest in the world and, along with healthcare officials from Cisco, met with top officials from the Shanghai Healthcare Authority to discuss emerging opportunities in the Chinese healthcare sector.

The trade mission marks the seventh trip the Council has facilitated between the Bay Area and China since 2006, when the Council first began exploring opportunities for establishing closer ties with California’s third largest and fastest-growing trading partner. The Council opened an office in Shanghai in 2010.

“Foreign trade represents one of California’s biggest continuing economic opportunities and is a major driver of job creation,” Wunderman said. “In addition to increasing California exports to China and creating new business opportunities for Bay Area companies, the Council is also working to increase investment by Chinese companies in our region.”


Annual Dinner a Resounding Success

Under the artful direction of Master of Ceremonies the Honorable Willie L. Brown Jr., the Bay Area Council treated almost 750 guests to an evening of elegant celebration at the 66th Annual Dinner and Business Hall of Fame Awards last night at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer and his wife, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, were among the many luminaries to attend, including State Senators, Assembly members and mayors and other local elected officials from around the region. The ceremony included the passing of the Chair’s gavel from Lloyd Dean, CEO and Chairman of Catholic Healthcare West, to Janet Lamkin, President of Bank of America California. Lamkin becomes the first woman to chair the Council. In her remarks, Lamkin emphasized the need for “cooperation and commitment to a common cause” in “partnering with government and community leaders to drive economic growth, revitalize our communities, create jobs and improve people’s lives.” She challenged the audience to “put an end to the polarization that dominates our political dialogue and gives rise to the idea that business interests are somehow opposed to the larger public interest.” Council CEO and President Jim Wunderman reminded the audience that despite anger and frustration directed at the business community across the country that the business community has been and will continue to be a force for creating jobs, growing our economy and improving our quality of life.

The Council, under the leadership of Business Hall of Fame Chairman Gary Rogers, was honored to induct Dr. Regis Kelly, Director of the Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, and Doug Shorenstein, Chairman and CEO of Shorenstein Properties LLC, into its Business Hall of Fame. Kelly has been instrumental in leading the transformation of Mission Bay in San Francisco from an old industrial area to the Silicon Valley of biotech. Through his leadership, science and research are being converted to new startup companies, hundreds of jobs and innovative products that promise to address some our most challenging health and medical issues. Shorenstein was honored for taking a regional and highly successful real estate development company established by his father, Walter Shorenstein, and building it into an even more successful national company that has created some of the nation’s most distinctive commercial properties and whose management and business strategy are emulated throughout the industry. And for his considerable charitable and philanthropic contributions throughout the region and nationally. Walter Shorenstein was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.


Council Leads High Speed Rail Discussion Ahead of Business Plan Release

Council President Jim Wunderman convened a  powerful gathering of high speed rail supporters this week to discuss our  progress in building regional consensus around a “blended system” for both  electrifying Caltrain and providing the infrastructure necessary to run high  speed trains between San Francisco and San Jose. Officials from Caltrain and  the San Francisco County Transportation Authority provided an in-depth look at  the great strides being made by both agencies in analyzing and planning for the  implementation of the blended system.

California High Speed Rail Authority  Commissioners Dan Richard and Jim Hartnett also gave some hints about what to  expect from the Authority’s revised business plan, due out on November 1.  Richard told the group that the business plan will take an aggressive, but  realistic approach to funding and that previous ridership projections have been  revised to include low, medium and high ridership scenarios. Jeff Heller of  Heller Manus Architects delivered a compelling slideshow on China’s high speed  rail system. Thanks to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP for hosting the event.


LA Times Praises Council for Leadership on Controlling Healthcare Costs

The Bay Area Council’s campaign to control skyrocketing healthcare costs earned an enthusiastic endorsement this week from the Los Angeles Times, which in an editorial on Thursday said that “rather than sitting back and waiting for the federal law to be fully implemented or repealed, the Council urges California employers to use their healthcare dollars to start fixing the system. It’s a message from the Bay Area that should be heeded throughout the state.” Read the full LA Times editorial.

The plaudits came in response to the release this week by the Council and its Economic Institute of a report — Roadmap for a High-Value Health System — outlining a series of concrete strategies for controlling healthcare costs that are harming the state’s global economic competitiveness. Council President Jim Wunderman on Monday was joined by California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley, U.S. Health and Human Services Regional Director Herb Shultz and Kaiser Permanente Northern California Region President Greg Adams for an early preview of the report that was hosted by Edelman Public Relations and Brown & Toland. To get involved with the Council on controlling healthcare costs, contact Senior Policy Advisor Micah Weinberg at or by calling (916) 949-6240.


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.