Conference discusses Bay Area's economy

April 17, 2008 1:07:16 PM PDT
Nearly 1,000 Bay Area business executives met with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Wednesday aboard the U.S.S. Hornet in Alameda. The topic was how the future of the Bay Area's economy is tied to China's for better or for worse.

"The council's poll results show Bay Area business confidence at its lowest level," says Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco CEO Janet Yellen.

Bay Area CEOs and business leaders are all up on the latest bad business news, but they came aboard the U.S.S. Hornet to confer with experts on the role China plays in the Bay Area's future.

"China can be very helpful to the United States. The United States can be very helpful to China," says Governor Schwarzenegger.

The Governor was very upbeat about the opportunities China offers. He visited China in 2005 and envisions forging a strong California-to-China business bond.

"China's just seen another year of annual growth at about 11 percent. They're here to stay and we think China and the Bay Area's relationship is very important to the future of this economy," says President and CEO of the Bay Area Council Jim Wunderman.

Despite the robust growth, panelists at the conference agree that the issue that has caught China off gaurd is the environment -- and that's where the Bay Area comes in.

"We can see a lot of success by being a supplier to China of things China needs, like solutions for its environment. The Bay Area has those solutions and China needs them and so we're working to make sure we have our foot in the door," says Wunderman.

"I think the real opportunity we have in the Bay Area is our own diversity. The Chinese-American skills, the brain trust that we have among Chinese Americans, is something that really needs to be tapped into," says Asian Weekly editor Ted Fang.

But, the bad news is the dollars' decline against Chinese currency means Chinese imports are about to get pricier.

"It's going to actually be slightly inflationary to the U.S. because Walmart's going to have to have higher prices on certain things," says New Enterprise Associates founder Richard Kramlich.

Others warned about U.S. isolationism.

"An anti-globalization trend would throw this country into a serious, very serious recession," says William Overholt from the Rand Center for Asia Pacific Policy

So, the message here was to embrace China and the Bay Area could profit.


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