Innovation drives rebounding Bay Area economy


March 18, 2012 5:32:42 PM PDT
A new economic report shows how well the Bay Area continues to recover from the recession.

The Bay Area boasts a $535 billion economy, making it the 19th largest economy in the world, according to the report, which is put out every two years by the Economic Institute of the Bay Area Council.

The cranes and towers that rise over Mission Bay in San Francisco are just one of the most obvious visuals of the powerful economic rebound the Bay Area is experiencing.

"We are, if nothing else, an innovation economy here in the Bay Area. You can see it in the tech sector," said Sean Randolph of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.

The towers will soon house biotech labs and e-commerce companies, which are key components in this so-called "innovation economy."

The report lays out some strong stats for the region: Forty percent of all venture capital in the country is invested here, and 15 percent of the country's patents come from the Bay Area.

"We are the world's leading innovation economy and that's really what's helping to differentiate us now and drive growth here," said Randolph.

More than half of the 100 top clean tech companies call the Bay Area home. Seven of the 10 biggest social media companies in the world are headquartered in the Bay Area.

Trade, tourism and plenty of other economic indicators are also headed in the right direction, according to the report.

But its findings are not all rosy.

One of the biggest problems facing the region is aging infrastructure. The report points to the Doyle Drive project as one of the only public private innovations in the state to help fund aging infrastructure.

Another big problem is underperforming public schools and continued cuts to public universities.

"For years now we've been whacking their budgets every year and if that money comes out, their ability to generate the work force of the future keeps going down," Randolph said.

The region's persistent unemployment rate is another problem. The Bay Area work force has become more efficient -- helping to boost corporate profits.

But according to the report, companies have not added many people to their payrolls. In fact there are about the same number of jobs in the Bay Area now as there were in 1996.

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