Bay Area Council Blog: Science and Innovation Archive

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.

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Regional Coalition Submits Bid for Amazon HQ2

Leveraging a highly skilled and educated talent pool, a renowned innovation culture unmatched in the world and a slew of large transit-rich development sites located near top universities and airports, a Bay Area Council-led coalition of cities including Concord, Fremont, Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco today (Oct. 19) submitted a proposal to bring Amazon’s second corporate headquarters to the Bay Area. The Bay Area Council worked with the cities and other partners to coordinate the development of the bid.

“The Bay Area offers the whole package and is a natural and perfect fit for an innovation leader like Amazon,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We are the world’s innovation capitol. We offer top talent, top universities and large development sites connected by a rich network of mass transit and other transportation systems. Our competitive advantages are unparalleled, including our strong connections to the huge Asia-Pacific region.”

The coalition of cities working with the Bay Area Council has identified numerous sites which together offer Amazon an unmatched level of flexibility to create a world-class headquarters that embraces new models of dispersed but highly connected workplaces.

Read the Bay Area Amazon HQ2 proposal>>

The proposal includes more than 60 million square feet of high-quality office and research and development space, far exceeding Amazon’s requirement for up to 8 million square feet needed to house 50,000 workers. All of the sites provide seamless connections to robust transportation and mass transit networks, including BART and a fast-growing ferry system, and easy access to both regional and international airports.

Among the sites featured in the proposal are the Concord Naval Weapons Station in Concord, Coliseum City and numerous downtown locations in Oakland, the Warm Springs Innovation District in Fremont, SF Shipyard in San Francisco and the Richmond Field Station and Hilltop Mall in Richmond. All the cities are served by BART, which is undergoing a massive upgrade to expand its capacity and speed in the coming years, as well as by nearby international and regional airports and freeways. The proposal includes a combined 45,000 units of new housing that cities envision being built in the coming years.

“We are extremely confident that steps we are taking now as a region to improve our housing and transportation infrastructure will address Amazon’s needs for its workforce and future growth,” Wunderman said. “Our housing production has increased three fold in just the past six years and numerous residential development sites throughout the region envision adding tens of thousands of more units in the next five to 10 years.”

Amazon already knows the value of being located in the Bay Area, with current operations occupying more than 3 million square feet around the region.

A major draw for tech employers like Amazon is the access to some of the world’s best talent. Not only does the Bay Area produce its own highly educated and highly skilled workforce from top tier universities and colleges like UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Davis, UC San Francisco, California State University East Bay and St. Marys attracts the best and brightest workers from around the globe. More than 75 percent of the Bay Area population holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, with more than 40 percent of those coming from science and engineering-related fields.

The proposal also outlines a range of state and local tax credits and other incentives along with commitments to streamline permitting and environmental review and work with Amazon on various workforce training and similar programs.

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TAKING NEW APPROACHES TO ADDRESSING REGION’S WORKFORCE NEEDS

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.

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COUNCIL HEADLINES CHINA’S MAJOR INNOVATION WEEK PRESIDED OVER BY PREMIER LI KEQIANG

For over 10 years, the Bay Area Council has helped expand bilateral trade and investment between the Bay Area and the fast-emerging technology and innovation hub of Yangpu District in Shanghai, which is now the host city for China’s annual Mass Entrepreneurship and Innovation Week presided over by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. And, last week, the Council led some of the region’s top clean energy innovators to participate in the major summit, including California Clean Energy Fund and startup incubator 500 Startups, where delegation members spoke at the week’s headline conference. In his keynote address at the Sino-US Green Innovation Forum, Council CEO Jim Wunderman highlighted the role the Bay Area plays in propelling the Yangtze Delta Region to a knowledge-based, hi-tech economy. In partnership with the Yangpu District’s government, the Council has helped over 50 Californian companies grow their presence in the Asian market.

Also this month a delegation of Bay Area life science companies and researchers traveled to China to explore business development and expansion opportunities. Organizations such as BIOCOM and Twist Bioscience expressed the unique benefits and opportunities that come with working in China – a process simplified by the Council’s China Initiative platform. Ongoing projects such as the Council’s Global Innovation Center in Nanjing and partnership work in Hangzhou will continue to expand economic opportunities between California and the Yangtze Delta Region as it continues to transform its industrial economy into a globally competitive, innovation hub. To engage in our China initiative, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen.

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COUNCIL WELCOMES BEIJING MAYOR, SIGNS MOU EXPANDING ECONOMIC COOPERATION

The Bay Area Council this week was honored to welcome Beijing Mayor Chen Jining to the Bay Area as he attended a ceremony for the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that takes a step forward for a possible new Council office in China’s capital city. The visit by Mayor Chen, former President of prestigious Tsinghua University and Chinese Minister of Environmental Protection, and a delegation of top level Chinese economic and innovation officials highlighted the Council’s deep and growing relationships in China as we work to expand bilateral trade and investment. The MOU between the Council, world-famous Zhongguancun Science Park, which serves as Chinese headquarters for such U.S. companies as Google, Oracle and Intel, and Council of Industry and Technology Alliances in Z-Park marked a significant step forward in our work to expand economic connections with Beijing. The MOU calls for exploring the creation of a new think tank, developing a research and development platform and establishing branch offices both here and in Beijing. Council CEO Jim Wunderman joined Wang Chengwen, Vice Chairman of the Council of Industry and Technology Alliances in Z-Park, and Zhai Lixin, Director General of the Administrative Committee of Zhongguancun Science Park, in signing the MOU. To engage in our China initiative, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen.

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TAKING OFF: COUNCIL LOOKS TO STRENGTHEN TALENT PIPELINE IN THE AVIATION INDUSTRY

Strengthening talent pipelines from high schools into technical training programs and improving the rate of community college graduates taking certification tests were identified on Monday (9/18) at the second Occupational Council for Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) as the two most promising solutions for the hiring strain airlines are facing. Airlines in the Bay Area region are facing extremely high levels of attrition due to retirement, and their needs for technical talent are increasing dramatically. Cumulatively, these employers are seeking to fill hundreds of jobs in the region before the end of 2017.  Convening Bay Area Council employer members, including United Airlines and Alaska Airlines, and educators to talk through the often longstanding hurdles preventing companies from hiring local, qualified, and diverse talent has allowed the Workforce of the Future Committee to pinpoint opportunities for improvement, such as community education events that involve high schoolers, their parents, and student career counselors in the case of AMTs. To learn more about how you can engage with the Workforce of the Future Committee on addressing the region’s pressing workforce gaps, contact Senior Vice President of Policy Linda Bidrossian.

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MAKING THE BAY RESILIENT BY DESIGN

Against the backdrop of record-breaking flooding in Houston and the Caribbean, the Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge on Sunday (Sept. 10) announced 10 winning design teams to propose innovative resiliency projects along the San Francisco Bay shoreline. The winning teams were selected by an independent jury from a pool of over 50 applicants, and include several Bay Area Council member companies, including AECOM, Arup, Gensler, and Andy Ball. The winning teams are now spending the next few weeks taking whirlwind tours of the entire Bay shoreline, meeting with local officials and community groups along the way to get a better understanding of the Bay’s diverse needs, culminating in the unveiling of 10 project proposals in May 2018.

The Rockefeller Foundation selected the Bay Area to host the first Resilient by Design challenge following the region’s approval of Measure AA, the June 2016 parcel tax measure that raises $500 million over the next 20 years for wetland restoration and flood protection improvements along the San Francisco Bay shoreline. The Bay Area Council played a leading role in the Measure AA campaign, and serves on the Executive Board of Resilient by Design. To learn more about the Council’s resiliency work, or about the Resilient by Design challenge, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.