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.
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.
It won’t solve the region’s housing crisis alone, but it was a step in the right direction as the Millbrae City Council Tuesday (March 13) approved a much-needed 400-unit development that the Bay Area Council had endorsed. The Gateway at Millbrae Station project has been years in the making. A great example of a mixed-use and transit-oriented development located next to BART, the project represents much of what Bay Area Council members look for in development projects and what all residents should support to advance smart and sustainable development. The Gateway at Millbrae Station project will provide 80 affordable units for low income tenants, as well as 320 apartments for middle-income workers. Uniquely, qualified military veterans will be given priority for 55 of the affordable apartments. The Council is thrilled that Millbrae City Council recognized our region’s staggering need for housing and chose to say, “yes, in my backyard!” To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.
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>>
Last Wednesday, the Bay Area Council’s Workforce of the Future Committee wrapped up research for a one-year evaluation of its Occupational Councils (OCs) model. The study, conducted in conjunction with a Stupski Foundation Learning Grant, showed that Council members see the OCs as a critical platform for communication among the region’s economic stakeholders. As one member explained, “The Council serves as a great resource to discuss best practices within an industry that needs additional education for prospective students/members/educators.”
Employers surveyed expressed enthusiasm for the Occupational Councils’ ability to connect them with potential talent through hands-on experiences such as classroom visits and industry-specific career fairs, as well as the opportunities for cross-sector collaboration. As another member stated, “Whenever we are able to freely share best practices/challenges, and create opportunities that help all, we each benefit.”
First implemented in 2016 in partnership with the Bay Area Community College Consortium, Occupational Councils are groups of employers working together in conjunction with educators and trainers to solve the skills gaps pertaining to specific industries or middle-skills occupations. In response to the overwhelmingly positive feedback, the Workforce of the Future Committee is looking to recruit new employer members and establish additional Occupational Councils to facilitate information-sharing between employers, educators, and job seekers.
If you are interested in learning more about the Occupational Councils and other employer programs, please contact Senior Vice President Linda Bidrossian.
The world celebrated International Women’s Day on Thursday to honor the social, economic, and political achievements of women across the globe and highlight the considerable work that still needs to be done to provide more leadership and economic opportunities for women and eliminate gender inequity in the workplace and elsewhere. The day was marked by actions across the globe, with women walking out on strike in Europe to protest the gender pay gap and holding #MeToo rallies in South Korea. In the Bay Area and throughout California, women continue to be underrepresented in top leadership roles across many industries and challenged by some workplace practices.
The Bay Area Council has been working through our Gender Equity and Diversity Committee to address these issues, including releasing a Best Practices Resource Guide to build gender equity in the workplace.
You can join the Council’s Gender Equity and Diversity Committee at one of our upcoming meetings to discuss opportunities to advance gender parity in the workplace. On March 30 the committee will convene to hear the results of a transformative Bain & Company study about how flexible workplace policies support thriving employees (not just women) and improve overall employee retention within companies.
On April 12 we are honored to be hosting state Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) for a discussion on her new bill to address the rampant culture of sexual harassment across the nation. In response to the #MeToo movement, SB 820 would ban secret settlements in the cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault in an effort to address cultures of predatory behavior in the workplace. A new NBC News poll released today revealed that a majority of Americans believe the #MeToo movement has helped address gender inequality.
To engage in the Council’s Gender Equity & Diversity Committee work, please contact Policy Director Emily Loper.
Across California an estimated 762,000 college students experience some form of housing insecurity or homelessness because of the state’s massive housing shortage. As part of our overall battle to increase new housing, the Bay Area Council is sponsoring legislation (SB 1227) by state Sen. Nancy Skinner that would encourage developers to build affordable student housing. The bill would allow the construction of 35 percent more units over existing local limits as long as 20 percent of the units are dedicated for low-income students, among other requirements. It would also eliminate parking requirements that add considerable cost to projects.
The bill is one of several the Council is sponsoring or supporting this year to boost housing. The Council also is sponsoring SB 229 by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (Fremont) that would ease local regulatory barriers and fees on accessory dwelling units, aka granny units. And, were supporting two key bills by state Sen. Scott Weiner (San Francisco) that would boost housing near transit (SB 827) and hold cities more accountable for meeting their housing obligations (SB 828). To engage in the Council’s housing policy, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.
Not that Bay Area residents need a reminder of how urgently we need to invest big on regional traffic relief, but a ranking released this week by congestion research firm INRIX put some jaw-dropping numbers to the problem. The Bay Area ranked third in the U.S. as the most congested urban area, with traffic costing each driver $2,250 a year and costing the region $10.6 billion. Among cities, San Francisco ranked fifth worldwide for snarled roads and highways. The report comes as the Bay Area Council partners with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and SPUR to win voter approval in June 2018 for a ballot measure—Regional Measure 3—that would invest $4.5 billion on key projects to ease gridlock, including improving critical highway interchanges where our worst bottlenecks occur, closing gaps in carpool lanes, improving BART service, expanding regional ferry service and other vital mass transit systems, improving connections between local and regional transit and enhancing bicycle and pedestrian corridors. Polling shows that RM3 can win with a strong campaign. To support our RM3 campaign and help move the Bay Area far down on the INRIX ranking, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.
The Bay Area’s top business and political leaders converged at Facebook today (Feb. 9) to recommit themselves to addressing California’s housing crisis. The summit, cohosted by the Bay Area Council and Silicon Valley Leadership Group, featured state legislators David Chui, Jim Beall and Scott Wiener, who urged support for the upcoming state housing bond (SB3), a bill to increase density near transit (Wiener, SB827), and creating a cap and trade system for housing permitting. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf urged companies to invest in local affordable housing projects by working with cities to provide low-interest capital.
Led by Council CEO Jim Wunderman and Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino, a veritable who’s who of housing and company leaders, including Andy Ball (RAD Urban) and Denise Pinkston (TMG Partners), among others, discussed the economics of housing construction, while Council Housing Committee Chair Carla Boragno from Genentech and Elliott Schrage from Facebook discussed how the shortage is hurting communities and the Bay Area economy. Participants, which included some of the region’s top c-suite executives, also talked about the solutions they plan to support at state and local levels. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.
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.