SF steals some of Silicon Valley's job creation thunder

February 5, 2013 7:49:20 PM PST
Silicon Valley is leading the rest of the country out of the "Great Recession." A new report out on Tuesday shows 46,000 new businesses opened last year and 92,000 new jobs were added. One analyst says the valley is back to where it was before the dot-com bust a dozen years ago.

The big difference between the dot-com boom of a dozen years ago and today is where those jobs are being created. Silicon Valley traditionally had the bragging rights, but now it is getting increasing competition from San Francisco.

"Our region is at war with regard to who owns the brand of Silicon Valley," said Emmett Carson, Ph.D., the Silicon Valley Community Foundation CEO.

While San Jose proclaims it's the capital of Silicon Valley, San Francisco and even the East Bay are beginning to steal some of its thunder. The latest Silicon Valley Index shows that Santa Clara and San Mateo counties created over 42,000 jobs last year. However, San Francisco created nearly 16,000 with its push to attract social media and game start-ups. The CEO of the Silicon Valley community foundation says the war isn't a bad thing.

"It means we're creating a shared identity -- a shared regional identity about innovation, about creativity, about work force development, and that shared identity will then start to translate into seeing the region as a whole and having aligned decisions," said Carson.

And the region having 27 separate transit agencies is one area where consolidation might be a smart move. For example, there is no incentive for a high tech worker living in San Francisco to use public transit to work in the valley.

"You might have to take four different transit operators -- a Muni bus to get to BART or Caltrain, or if you got onto BART, you take it over to Millbrae, switch at Millbrae over to Caltrain, then you take Caltrain down to Mountain View, and then you switch onto VTA Light Rail. Four different transit operators, people don't do that. They drive," said Egon Terplan, the SPUR regional planning director.

The Bay Area is made up of 101 cities with mayors who have to answer to their voters. But as Silicon Valley becomes more of a regional identity, the Bay Area's economic vitality becomes everyone's business. The CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, Russell Hancock, is hopeful.

"Economics is always more powerful than politics. The economic forces are unifying forces for our region. The political forces may be dividing forces, but they will be overwhelmed by the economics, so I'm actually hopeful," said Hancock.

Hancock also warns that the comeback in Silicon Valley could be tempered if consumer confidence decreases or if businesses cut back on their tech spending. Short of that, Silicon Valley continues to outpace the recovery when it comes to the rest of the state and the nation.

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