Bay Area Council Blog



Bay Area commuters were the big winners this week in a unanimous decision by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to make permanent a commuter shuttles program that the Bay Area Council was instrumental in developing. Battling against sometimes violent opposition, the Council organized a coalition of companies that pay for commuter shuttles and the operators that run them to work with the city in creating the program. Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman had this to say about the decision:

“Today’s decision marks a major milestone in our continuing battle against traffic gridlock. Commuter shuttles remove 2 million single passenger car trips from our congested roads and highways every year, along with a significant amount of carbon emissions. And they help supplement a public transit system that is bursting at the seams. We applaud the SFMTA for its leadership and vision in working with employers to make commuter shuttles a viable and permanent transportation alternative for thousands of workers, not just in the tech sector but across many industries and disciplines. The commuter shuttles program has become a model for other regions around the world that are searching for solutions to growing traffic. The Bay Area Council is extremely proud of the role we could play in bringing together employers, shuttle companies and the city to make this program possible.”

The Bay Area Council almost two years ago began convening employers to work with SFMTA in gathering information for a pilot program to test and study how shuttles could operate safely in coordination with local MUNI buses and with minimal impact on neighborhoods. The program established a series of common sense regulations and practices governing how the shuttles operate. The results of the 18-month pilot program, which was paid for by a fee charged to shuttle operators, proved conclusively that the shuttles could safely co-exist with local transit and were effective in removing cars from the roads. In fact, the program helped dramatically reduce conflicts between the shuttles and public buses. To engage in our commuter shuttles work, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.

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The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office may want to grab a copy of our Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s recent Roadmap for Economic Resilience. In a report this week examining California’s fiscal outlook, the LAO anxiously wonders about our region’s economic resilience and the impact a downturn here might have on the California economy. It’s a topic we spend a lot time thinking about ourselves.

“California’s economy and the state budget now are quite reliant on the San Francisco Bay Area,” the LAO notes. It credits the Bay Area, in particular the tech sector, for leading the state’s job recovery through the Great Recession. And it finds that while our region is home to just 17 percent of the state’s population, we pay 36 percent of total state personal income taxes at a level per capita more than double the statewide average. The LAO report also pays close attention to the Bay Area’s growing housing crisis, which our Roadmap report cites as one of the key factors in deciding the region’s economic future.

The Roadmap, which was unveiled Nov. 6, offers a sweeping, new regional economic vision for strengthening the Bay Area’s competitiveness, broadening prosperity, and building resilience against economic swings. It outlines a series of proposed solutions for addressing our housing and traffic crises, streamlining regional governance, promoting the region economically, and closing the workforce gap between universities and employers. We’ll make sure to get a copy to the LAO.

Read the Roadmap for Economic Resilience>>

Read the LAO’s California Fiscal Outlook>>


Member Spotlight: Cargill

Longtime BAC member Cargill has earned a spot on Fortune’s first ‘Change the World’ list, which recognizes the top 51 companies that have made a sizable impact on major global social or environmental problems as part of their competitive strategy. Four criteria were taken into consideration: business innovation, measurable impact at scale on an important social challenge, the contribution of shared value activities to the company’s profitability and competitive advantage and the significance of the shared value effort to the overall business.

Cargill, headquartered near Minneapolis, was nominated for its pioneering efforts to curb malnutrition in India by fortifying its edible oils with vitamins A and D. India is home to 194 million malnourished people of which 40 percent are children. Cargill’s decision to fortify its edible oils in 2008 is largely seen by the industry as the catalyst for the oil fortification trend in India. Siraj Chaudhry, CEO of Cargill Foods India said: “We are constantly looking at innovating our products, solutions and services to better meet the needs of our customers. Back in 2008, we saw the potential of fortifying our edible oils to bring a better product to the market and help nourish the millions of people suffering from malnutrition with the vitamins they desperately needed. Cargill, which celebrated its 150th anniversary this year, has 153,000 employees in 67 countries. In the Bay Area, Cargill produces sea salt for food, agriculture, and industry markets in the Western states. Learn more about Cargill>>



The University of California’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) will establish a new global innovation center in Hangzhou, China, under a five-year, $90 million partnership that the Bay Area Council was instrumental in bringing together. Del Christensen, the Council’s Chief of Global Business Development, recently joined Costas Spanos, CITRIS Director, and Zhao Xikai, Deputy Director of Future Sci-Tech City in Hangzhou’s Yuhang District, in signing a memorandum of understanding formalizing the partnership.

CITRIS is a world-leading innovation institute that works to translate cutting-edge information technology research among various UC campuses, including at Berkeley, Davis, Santa Cruz and Merced, into new products, companies and industries aimed at solving some of society’s biggest problems, including in the areas water, energy, transportation, health, education, robotics and cybersecurity, among others.

Through our office in Hangzhou, the Council introduced CITRIS to leaders of Future Sci-Tech City, one of China’s premier technology and innovation centers that was established by the Hangzhou and Zhejiang provincial governments, and facilitated the many months of discussions that produced this exciting partnership. Under the MOU, Zhejiang will work with to establish a program at the Future Sci-Tech City modeled after the CITRIS program. The agreement also outlines an ongoing and robust exchange of research and collaboration in the development of new technologies.

Separate from the MOU, Hangzhou’s Yuhang District is also looking to establish its own business organization modeled after the Council’s to convene business and civic leaders in addressing key challenges and promoting economic growth.

CITRIS was founded in 2001 as a public private partnership, and its primary research center at UC Berkeley was funded in large part with a $20 million donation by Bay Area Council Executive Committee member and Marvell Technology Group Co-Founders Weili Dai and her husband Sehat Sutardja. To engage in the Council’s Global Initiatives work, contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen.

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Senior Bay Area legislative staffers this week got a comprehensive briefing on the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s Roadmap for Economic Resilience as we prepare to pursue legislation that will be needed to implement a number of key recommendations from the report. The Roadmap, which was first unveiled last Friday (Nov. 6), offers a sweeping, new regional economic vision for strengthening the Bay Area’s competitiveness, broadening prosperity, and building resilience against economic swings. It outlines a series of proposed solutions for addressing the region’s housing and traffic crises, streamlining regional governance, promoting the region economically, and closing the workforce gap between universities and employers. The recommendations cover five main areas, including:

Creating the Bay Area Regional Economic Development Partnership, a new entity to help local companies expand and attract new ones, promote and market the region and improve the business climate.
Building more housing by putting teeth in local housing requirements, supporting new incentive structures for cities to build new housing, dramatically expanding the use of second units and, where it makes sense, re-classifying commercial land for residential use.
Reducing the cost of new home construction by streamlining approvals for lower-cost construction types and new building technologies, capping impact fees region-wide and winning reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act.
Improving the efficiency of transportation systems by aligning the region’s 26 transit agencies, focusing on larger transportation corridors and creating a new incentive program that awards grants for innovative traffic-fighting solutions.
Better connecting employers’ skills needs with worker training programs by establishing a Bay Area Collaboration on Workforce Development.

The Council has been approached by several legislators about translating the recommendations into legislation for the 2016 session. To engage in our state government relations work, contact Policy Manager Cornelious Burke.



Ambassador Ron Kirk, former U.S. Trade Representative under President Obama, was in the Bay Area this week wearing his new hat as Co-Chairman of the Clean and Safe Energy (CASEnergy) Coalition. The Coalition advances for public discussion and debate the benefits of nuclear energy and its importance in our future energy portfolio. Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman welcomed the Ambassador to our offices, reciprocating on the meetings held with him in Washington, D.C. when he was the Trade Representative.

A wide-ranging discussion with Kirk lasted more than one hour and covered such topics as implementation of and positive results from the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, the depth and sophistication of labor and environmental protections included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership proposal, California’s overall energy demand requirements as the largest state in the nation, and some good-natured kibitzing regarding the SF 49ers and Dallas Cowboys (Kirk is also the former Mayor of Dallas). No bets were made, just an agreement to disagree about which team is better.

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The Bay Area Council Economic Institute today unveiled a sweeping (and provocative), new regional economic vision for strengthening the Bay Area’s competitiveness, broadening prosperity, and building resilience against coming economic swings. A Roadmap for Economic Resilience offers a framework and series of recommendations for leveraging the power of the Bay Area’s many parts to combat the region’s growing housing and traffic crises, attract top workers and companies, and enhance overall quality of life.

Read the Roadmap for Economic Resilience>>

“Economic success is not a divine right, it has to be planned for, fought for, earned,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “UCLA Professor Michael Storper’s new book, “The Rise and Fall of Urban Economies,” explains how the Bay Area has remained on top among regional US economies for the last two generations, while Los Angeles dropped from 4th to 25th. The Bay Area is an incredible place, but we sit at a crossroads. It is time for the key stakeholders in our region to move forward together and address the serious challenges we face. The Regional Economy Strategy provides a bold framework for doing just that.”

At a packed forum this morning launching the Roadmap, top business and government leaders discussed the various solutions proposed in the report and what it will take to make progress on them. Tune in next week for links to video of the conversation. To participate in our regional planning work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Roadmap for Economic Resilience forum agenda>>




California’s increasingly volatile climate is the new normal, and Bay Area businesses and water agencies are coming up with innovative ways to adapt. That was the message from the Bay Area Council’s Wednesday forum, The New Normal: Climate, Water and the Economy, hosted by Morrison Foerster and sponsored by the California Water Foundation, AECOM and Arup. With an agenda that combined differing perspectives from business, Bay Area water agencies, Southern California, the Sierra Nevada and environmentalists, the forum yielded several key takeaways to be examined by the Council’s Water Committee to guide 2016 advocacy:

  • California’s water system is beleaguered by climate change, aging infrastructure, ecosystem decline, and groundwater overdraft
  • New investments are needed to fund a diverse portfolio of solutions, including water recycling, stormwater capture, and both surface and groundwater storage
  • Bay Area employers are taking up water conservation as a measure of corporate social responsibility
  • Data and sensor technology can cheaply and effectively help businesses and water agencies add supply by reducing waste and leaks
  • State leaders should create minimum data reporting standards on water bills to improve the ability of business to track use
  • The Bay Area Council has identified 19 water recycling, desal, flood, data, and storage projects needed to improve regional climate resiliency. These projects are being pursued by four of the region’s largest water agencies, including the San Francisco Public Utilities District, Santa Clara Valley Water District, East Bay Municipal Utility District, Contra Costa Water District
  • The state should move towards more nuanced conservation targets that reflect the diversity of water use rates and sources found across the state
  • The Sacramento-San Joaquin delta is oversubscribed, and an update to the delta’s water quality standards are long overdue
  • More floodplains in delta can help recover endangered species
  • Improved forest management and meadowland restoration in the Sierra’s can improve water quality and storage downstream.

Special thanks to Assemblymember Marc Levine (San Rafael) for providing opening remarks, and to California Water Foundation Executive Director Lester Snow for setting the tone with his presentation on the statewide challenge. See the agenda for full the list of full speakers, and here for the full presentation. To engage with the Bay Area Council Water Committee, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.



The Bay Area Council convened its annual Town Hall on cybersecurity together with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) last week. The Town Hall marked the conclusion of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a series of awareness building events, updates, and industry initiatives organized by the NCSA. Successive waves of innovation have caused massive connectivity between homes, cars, devices, and the grid. This inter-connectivity has only begun to reveal both issues and challenges – all of which featured prominently in this year’s Town Hall discussion. Chief among these concerns is the regulatory frontier for the Internet of Things, which seemingly trails the technology frontier by some years.

Speakers at the town hall included a wide range of industry leaders, including San Francisco International Airport’s new Chief Information Security Officer Tom Borton and GE Digital Chief Security Officer Russ Dietz. Dietz and Borton were among experts speaking on critical infrastructure in transportation and energy, a discussion moderated by Jamey Sample, head of Cyber Risk at Ernst & Young. The discussion also featured Dan Goodrich of the Mineta Transportation Institute and global cybersecurity consultant and former NSA professional Thomas Parenty.

The transportation and energy discussion was followed by a finance and technology dialogue between Davin Baker of the Chertoff Group, Jennifer Martin of Symantec, Daniel Schott of Visa, and Natasha Shevelyov of VMWare. This panel discussed trends in intrusion and effective practices in place in companies with a global footprint. All of the speakers highlighted things every company can do to increase their attention to cyber risks across all employees, including various cyber basics.

Those cyber basics, while well known and featured every year during National Cyber Security Awareness Month, often require routine, continuing education of employees. To keep abreast of cybersecurity issues, contact Senior Advisor Matt Gardner.


Irish President Higgins Joins Council in Celebrating Benioff, Feeney

Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff and Duty Free Shoppers Group Founder Chuck Feeney were the guests of honor at the Bay Area Council’s 70th Anniversary Annual Dinner and 2015 Bay Area Business Hall of Fame gathering on Wednesday (Oct. 28) at The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins attended and delivered stirring remarks celebrating both Benioff and Feeney for their heroic philanthropic work and immense business accomplishments. Feeney is venerated in Ireland for his significant role in the peace process and his vast contributions to building the country’s higher education system.

President Higgins congratulated the Council on its 70th anniversary, praised the Council for its “generous spirit of community,” and remarked on the unique mission of the Council in convening business and civic leaders to improve the region’s quality of life. The President and Benioff both spoke passionately about the importance of the business community working to solve our social problems. To hear their full remarks, visit the links below.

Watch Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff Hall of Fame induction>>

Watch DFS Founder Chuck Feeney Hall of Fame induction>>

Watch President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins Annual Dinner remarks>>

Transcript of President Higgins’ remarks>>

Annual Dinner and Business Hall of Fame photos>>

The 800 CEOs and other top business and civic leaders in attendance, including state Controller Betty Yee and University of California President Janet Napolitano, were greeted with a warm welcome from former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and a video message from U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Later, Virgin America CEO David Cush ended his two-year term as Council Chair by handing the gavel to TMG Partners Chairman and CEO Michael Covarrubias. Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman praised Cush for his leadership, and Covarrubias in taking the reins set a strong tone of action in dealing with the Bay Area’s growing crisis in housing and transportation, among other issues.

Hall of Fame Chair Gary Rogers presided over an inspiring and moving ceremony to induct Benioff and Feeney into the 2015 Hall of Fame class. UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood introduced Benioff while QB3 Director and 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Regis Kelly introduced Feeney. Our thanks to all our event sponsors, including Premier Sponsors Kaiser Permanente and Salesforce; Diamond Sponsors AT&T, Bank of America, PG&E, TMG Partners, Union Bank and Virgin America; and Platinum Sponsors Dignity Health, Genentech, General Atlantic, Hanson Bridgett, Lennar Urban, Sutter Health, UCSF, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, UPS and Wells Fargo.

It’s not too early to start thinking about the 2016 Annual Dinner and Bay Area Business Hall of Fame. To become Presenting Sponsor, contact Vice President Rufus Jeffris.