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Overseas business keeping SFO busy

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As airline routes from San Francisco International Airport to Asia take off — thanks in part to healthy business ties between the two areas — local economic experts are saying expanded routes to Europe could benefit for the same reason.

Cathay Pacific Airways on Thursday started running a second daily flight between SFO and Hong Kong, a route that, since 2006, has grown by one-third. In addition to Hong Kong, expanded service to the Guangdong region of China, Sydney, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand, are expected to see greater service availability, according to airport spokesman Mike McCarron. There have also been some rumblings that Bangalore, India, will also see more nonstop and direct flights to and from SFO.

Irish airline Aer Lingus begins nonstop service thrice weekly between San Francisco and Dublin later this month. Currently, there are no nonstop flights between the two cities, and some in the local business scene have already voiced enthusiasm at this development.

Irish economic development agency Enterprise Ireland has said it will be seizing upon the opportunity to make inroads in the Silicon Valley high-tech sector, according to company Senior Vice President David Smith. A handful of key companies on the Peninsula have offices in the Ireland, including Elan Pharmaceuticals in South San Francisco, Smith said.

Airport officials have said they are discussing implementing additional routes and attracting new airlines to SFO, but details of those discussions are being kept close to the vest for now. But if local businesses are any barometer for where there is a need for additional flights, Europe, particularly Germany, the United Kingdom and France, would be popular business destinations, Bay Area Economic Forum President R. Sean Randolph said.

“By far, our largest export is high-tech equipment like semiconductors,” Randolph said. “And about a quarter of those go to Europe. They buy a lot of this equipment from us.”

Half of the Bay Area’s exports go to Asia, Randolph said.

Despite the proliferation of biotech companies such as South San Francisco-based Genentech Inc., these companies focus more on research and development and don’t export or import anywhere near the rate of high-tech companies.

Oracle, Franklin Templeton, Siebel, R. Torre & Co. (maker of Torani Italian syrups), Gap, Electronic Arts and Visa are some of the bigger business names in San Mateo County that do business in other countries or have offices abroad, according to Richard Soyombo, Center for International Trade Development at Skyline College. In San Francisco, Levi’s, Wells Fargo and Bechtel are among the heaviest hitters, Randolph said.


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