Bay Area Council Blog: Science and Innovation Archive

megaregion report

Charting a Course for Megaregion Coordination

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.

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Council’s Board Welcomes Senator Feinstein and Mayor Schaaf

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.

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ON ONE HAND: GROWING CHINESE INVESTMENT IN THE BAY AREA MEGAREGION

As business and economic connections deepen across the Bay Area megaregion so do opportunities to attract greater foreign direct investment in everything from infrastructure to agriculture. The Bay Area Council’s China Initiative team highlighted those opportunities during a recent meeting with business leaders from the Greater Sacramento Economic Council (GSAC). The Council described its more than 10 years of experience building robust ties between China and the Bay Area and outlined how we can leverage the inbound services we offer to bring new investment in such booming sectors as agriculture, biotechnology, and manufacturing.

GSAC’s board of Sacramento CEOs and elected officials agreed that cooperating with the Council to attract and direct Chinese investments aligned with the broader joint megaregional strategy, which argues for improving economic development structures that cross regional lines. To this end, the Council is excited to work more closely with GSAC President and CEO Barry Broome to maximize opportunities for our intertwined economies. For more information about the Council’s work in China and inbound investment services, please contact Global Initiatives Manager Laurent Arribe.

Sean Randolph

OP-ED: KEEP INTERNATIONAL STARTUPS FLOWING TO THE BAY AREA

It’s no secret that the Bay Area is the leading place for technology, innovation and entrepreneurial activity in the nation. Not the only one, for sure, but the largest, richest and most productive. Its universities are strong and aggressively support entrepreneurship, the region hosts the world’s largest pool of venture capital, incubators and accelerators abound, and an open, entrepreneurial environment attracts and fosters creative talent that drives the economy forward.

This is also an international story. The Bay Area is considered by aspiring entrepreneurs around the world as the ultimate source of inspiration and opportunity. The result is the massive presence of early-stage companies from every corner of the world who come to connect, learn and tap its resources. Many remain to base their companies here.

Read Bay Area Council Economic Institute Senior Adviser Dr. Sean Randolph’s Keep international startups flowing to the Bay Area>>

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NEW BILL INTRODUCED ON SKILLED IMMIGRATION

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.

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KEY MILESTONE IN SEA-LEVEL RISE DESIGN COMPETITION

The Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge entered its final phase on Thursday (Jan. 11), with each of the 10 world-class design teams being assigned a specific location on the San Francisco Bay shoreline to prepare for sea level rise. State officials estimate there’s a 67 percent likelihood that sea levels at the Golden Gate will rise by 1.1 feet by 2050. Those troubling figures build off of a 2015 study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that estimated the Bay Area could suffer more than $10 billion in economic damages due to flooding from a 150-year storm event under present-day sea levels.

The final Resilient by Design sites were the result of months of research and interaction between design teams, community members, and experts in government, industry, and academia. The final designs will be unveiled this spring. The Bay Area was awarded financial support to host Resilient by Design by the Rockefeller Foundation shortly after Bay Area voters approved the Bay Area Council-backed Measure AA campaign for a $12 parcel tax to fund multi-benefit flood protection/wetland restoration projects along the Bay shoreline. To learn more about Resilient by Design, contact Bay Area Council Vice President, and Resilient by Design Executive Board Member, Adrian Covert.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle’s story on Resilient by Design>>

Photo by New York Times

WITH RECORD BUDGET PROPOSAL, GOV. BROWN SEES RAIN IN THE FUTURE

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.

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11TH ANNUAL ECONOMIC FORECAST CONFERENCE ON JAN. 19

What is the economic outlook for the Bay Area in 2018 and beyond? How will national and international trends affect our region? Join the Bay Area Council Economic Institute for the 11th Annual Economic Forecast Conference on Friday, January 19 from 8:00am-11:00am at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Each year this conference convenes the region’s top private and public sector leaders to share their economic outlook for the Bay Area, California and the nation. In addition to remarks by SF Fed President Williams, there will be a panel of  thought-leaders from three different sectors: tech, commercial real estate, and finance. Also, visually compelling presentations by the leaders in the field of VR/AR will bring to life the economic forecast by showing what our cities will look like as this development occurs. From new urban homes and offices spaces being created in downtown Oakland to massive developments happening at the San Francisco Shipyards and around San Jose’s Diridon Station, we can now see the future before it is built. Speakers include:

Forecasting the Future
John Williams, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Ranjana Clark, Bay Area President, Union Bank
Kausik Rajgopal, West Coast Regional Manager, McKinsey & Company
Colin Yasikochi, Director of Research and Analysis, CBRE
Igor Popov, Economist, Airbnb

Visualizing the Future
O’Bien Chalmers, President, Steelblue
Radha Mistry, Futurist, Autodesk
Aaron Selvertson, CEO and Founder, Owlized

Special Announcement
Mayor Libby Schaaf, City of Oakland; Vice Chair, Bay Area Council Economic Institute

A continental breakfast will be served. Council members will receive a 50% discount using the code BACEI2018. Click here to register.

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2018 POLICY AGENDA TARGETS HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION, WORKFORCE

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.

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California Businesses Launch Major New Climate Resilience Initiative

The Bay Area Council today launched the “California Climate Challenge,” a major new initiative to strengthen California’s resilience to climate change. The statewide challenge will attract resources from across the business community to support research, planning, and implementation of community-level resilience projects and policies focused on California’s water, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, as well as its natural ecosystems and the wildland-urban interface.

The effort is being jumpstarted with a $1 million contribution from PG&E Corporation to the Bay Area Council Foundation. The total amount raised through the challenge – and final details on its scope – will be announced in concert with the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September 2018. PG&E’s contribution will come from its shareholders, not its customers.

“California’s business climate is inseparable from its actual climate,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Much of California’s infrastructure was built under a colder, wetter, more predictable climate than we have today. Protecting our homes and employment centers from extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and wildfires, requires a top-to-bottom assessment of our existing resilience, and fresh thinking on how to best adapt.”

“We are already experiencing the reality of climate change in California,” said Geisha Williams, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation. “PG&E is incorporating this ‘new normal’ into how we manage risks, plan, and invest our resources. But our collective response to extreme events such as the tragic North Bay firestorms must go beyond the immediate work of rebuilding what was lost. A focus on resilience will strengthen our communities for the future.”

“We applaud this initiative to fund a public-private partnership for climate resilience in California,” said Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres, a leading sustainability non-profit organization. “Businesses are concerned about climate risks, which have the potential to cause wide-ranging disruptions to their operations and supply chains. Corporate support for tackling climate change is only growing stronger, and companies clearly see the benefit of staying ahead of the game and doing their part.”

Need for Action

Climate change will push California’s already volatile weather system to further extremes, increasing the frequency and severity of droughts, heat waves, flooding, and wildfires, and drive longer-term changes such as rising sea levels. California’s recent drought included the driest three-year period in the state in 1,200 years, including the hottest year ever recorded. Conversely, Northern California just experienced the wettest “water year” in its recorded history, resulting in severe infrastructure damage at California’s largest reservoir. According to the U.S. Forest Service, more than 100 million trees have died in California since 2010 and Cal Fire’s budget has increased by 45 percent since 2014 to address successive record wildfire seasons.

The California Department of Water Resources predicts the Sierra snowpack, which accounts for over a third of California’s total water supply, will decline by up to 65 percent by the end of this century, straining California’s farms, cities and ecosystems. On our coastlines, sea levels at the Golden Gate are projected to rise 6-13 inches by 2050, on top of the eight-inch rise measured in the 20th century. According to a study from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, the Bay Area alone could suffer over $10 billion in damages (about the same as Loma Prieta earthquake) during an extreme storm under current sea levels.

These and other changes have the potential to negatively impact the health and safety of communities throughout the state, and undermine California’s economic prosperity. California companies are integral to the sustainability of the communities they serve — and have a unique responsibility to help them prepare for, withstand and recover from extreme events caused by climate change.