Silicon Valley CEOs expected to keep hiring in 2011

April 22, 2011 7:39:54 PM PDT
There's a new sign that the year ahead may see an upswing in hiring in Silicon Valley.

According to a survey of 175 CEOs released Friday morning sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, two-thirds of the companies indicated they added jobs in 2010 and 55 percent of them say they will hire even more people to work in the Valley in 2011. The majority of them hired from one to 100 employees last year.

One single company, Google, is expected to lead the way with its announced plans to add about 6,000 jobs this year. However, to put this in perspective, there are two million unemployed people in California.

The survey is the centerpiece of a conference Friday at IBM's expansive research center in south San Jose. The mayors of the Bay Area's three biggest cities were there, in addition to Gov. Jerry Brown. Mayors Ed Lee of San Francisco, Jean Quan of Oakland, and Chuck Reed of San Jose participated on a panel, discussing local challenges and regional solutions. Reed noted that the three mayors have met more times in the past few months than ever, an indication that there is an emerging regional approach to solving budget and economic development issues.

The CEO survey is far from rosy. Its results also indicate displeasure with the state Legislature. Three-fourths of the CEOs opined that state lawmakers are on the wrong track, the highest negative rating in the eight-year history of the survey.

Given the survey results, we asked Lee ahead of his panel appearance whether incentives will still be needed to retain or to attract growing businesses. He said the issue is being vetted by a council he recently created that includes employers and policy makers. He later said in panel remarks that payroll taxes may have to be examined as a job killer when jobs are needed.

Tech jobs are important to the Bay Area economy. The survey says tech-related jobs pay about $99,000 per year. That's $20,000 higher to pay for comparable jobs in other parts of the country.

"You can see there's more opportunities if you're looking at the paper or just looking at the web for job sites, that people are starting to hire more," said engineering technician Sal Paniagua, who got hired after two years of doing contract work without benefits.

Triquint Semiconductor supplies chips for the fast-growing wireless and smartphone industry. So it's adding employees.

"The Silicon Valley area is one of the two or three spots in the nation that has a good breadth of talent in that area, so that was one of the reasons Triquint wanted to have a good establishment and foothold here," said Andrew Manzi, Ph.D. of Triquint Seminconductor

A CEO advises job seekers to act fast.

"I'd get my resume back out, I'd get more aggressive and I'd get out and make sure I'm at the front of that new wave," said SunPower CEO Tom Werner. "I'd also make sure you're differentiated because this is a wave. This, too, will pass, and there's going to be another tough cycle some day."

One hundred construction workers are building a new facility for Vantage Data Centers in Santa Clara. They've gone from one to 38 employees in a single year, with plans to triple that number in the next two years. Clients need more servers to handle growth in online commerce.

"Their data center needs, their data center growth needs and their facilities' needs have been growing at double-digit growth rates," said Vantage Data Centers CEO James Trout.

While there's job growth projected, there are still major stumbling blocks. The CEOs said housing costs, the cost of employee recruitment and retention, businesses taxes, and the state budget crisis could hurt Silicon Valley's future.

While Google may be grabbing the headlines with its goal to hire thousands, it's companies like Triquint and Vantage that are really making a difference in the valley by hiring only 10, 20 or 100 people.


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