Mid-Year Progress Report 2017 – Part II

Any discussion of Silicon Valley’s health must have the competition for talent at its core.  From a policy perspective, talent is a three-legged stool:  immigration from abroad, migration from other parts of the U.S., and local Bay Area talent.

Few expected 2017 to be a year of thoughtful pro-growth immigration policy.  Of course, it turns out folks in Washington had quite a few thoughts about immigration.  They have left Silicon Valley and other globally networked U.S. metro areas fighting a series of rear-guard battles against clumsy, blunt-force bans.

Those battles will continue, and need to be fought.  But there is a lot that we can do on other fronts.  In the competition for American talent — a second leg of the stool — we continue to lag behind key competitor regions like Seattle and Austin.  And it’s not close.  In 2015, we saw another net domestic out-migration from Silicon Valley, while those other regions added thousands of Americans from other parts of the country.

The cost of housing is a major driver in this trend, of course.  Here again, the comparisons with Austin and Seattle over the 2010-2015 time period are grim.  Yet the latest available housing data from California’s Department of Finance show positive movement more recently in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, and in San Francisco.  In each of these cases, the gap between population growth and housing growth narrowed.  That shift was driven more by reduced population growth than new housing, but we know that building housing is tough.  Credit is due to the local officials making hard decisions to increase our housing stock.  Just keep it up.

With respect to the third leg of that talent stool – Silicon Valley’s own local education systems – sweeping policy progress is hard to come by.  When wins come, they are often district by district, or system by system. Here’s one:  An initial meeting between leaders of ten of Silicon Valley’s community colleges and executives from some of the Valley’s largest tech employers earlier this month shows promise for closing the vexing gap between employers and educators.  IBM sees such promise in community colleges that they have announced of an expansion of its partnerships with community colleges across the country to train tech workers.  Are we seeing a trend?

In the third of our three mid-year reports, we’ll take a look at some legislation that we think can move the needle between now and the end of the end of California’s 2017 legislative year in September.

Mid-Year Policy Progress Report 2017 — Part I

High drama.  We’ve seen plenty of it in Washington DC in the first half of the year, generating more heat than light.  At the state and local level, however, the drama’s led to some remarkable policy outcomes through the first six months of 2017.

Today we’re reporting on transportation, where much of the good stuff has happened.  With commute times that are second only to New York City among key U.S. tech hubs, Silicon Valley needs all the good transportation news it can get.

In February, 14 House Members protested the payment of $650M in a federal matching grant for the electrification of Caltrain, in an effort to scuttle California’s High Speed Rail project (though, we should note, Caltrain electrification makes great sense independent of any other projects). The federal funds were critical to the electrification effort, which promises to double Caltrain’s capacity to 120,000 daily trips.

With the project very much in doubt, Senator Dianne Feinstein led an armada of public, private and nonprofit leaders that in May prevailed on U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to release the funds, matching more than $1B in local and state funds.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento, Governor Brown and State Senator Jim Beall were struggling to resurrect a desperately needed transportation infrastructure package.  In a politically risky move, the Governor imposed a short deadline for measure’s passage and lobbied wavering legislators hard in the effort to reach the two-thirds threshold required for passages.  In a vote that could define this legislative year, the measure secured the supermajority it needed, to provide an estimated $5.2M annually to improve California’s deteriorating roads and bridges.

Neither Senator Feinstein nor Governor Brown would generally draw comparisons with Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, but both leaders ran through multiple tackles and threw some wicked stiff arms this year to secure big, meaningful victories.  There are very few political leaders who could have pulled off either of these wins.

We hope you’ll give them a shout out @JerryBrownGov and @SenFeinstein.

Oh, and by the way, the new Warm Springs BART station opened in March, another key step in the steady march toward connecting BART with Caltrain in San Jose and Santa Clara.

It’s been a banner year for transportation in Silicon Valley.

Coming up:  In the search for talent, it’s one step forward and two steps back….