Newsom: Economic growth, job development intertwined

Mayor says city’s future lies in biotech, digital media and green technology

San Francisco must plan an economic future that uplifts all, Mayor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, because traditionally strong business sectors such as finance are declining while growth is divided between high-paying, high-education sectors and traditionally low-wage sectors.

Speaking at “CitySummit: Shaping an Economic Strategy for San Francisco” at the Mission Bay Community Center, Newsom touted three industries — biotech, digital media technology and green technology— as pillars of the city’s economic future, while acknowledging that San Francisco’s pre-eminent industry remains tourism.

The trick for the latter will be providing a “ladder” structure for retail and hospitality workers so they have opportunities for advancement, according to Rhonda Simmons, the new director of workforce development in the Mayor’s Office of Economic & Workforce Development.

“You can’t have an economic development strategy without a work development strategy,” Newsom said, echoing several who spoke to the need for both highly-trained workers and jobs for those lacking college degrees.

Toward that end, and to help determine what keeps businesses in San Francisco, the government Web site www.sfeconomicstrategy

.org has launched a survey for the next stage of its research.

City Hall hopes to create an economic development plan by 2007, as mandated by Proposition I, a 2004 ballot measure advanced by Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier. Her former aide Rob Black, who is running for supervisor in District 6 this year, spoke on her behalf at the summit. He also took aim at his opponent, incumbent Supervisor Chris Daly.

San Francisco’s economy is divided into four sectors, according to consultant Ted Egan of ICF International: a knowledge sector that includes finance, legal, advertising, tech and biotech; an “experience” sector that includes the arts, hospitality, restaurants and other attractions; and the physical and human infrastructures that support the first two, from construction to education.

Through surveys, Egan identified several goals of any economic development plan, among them choosing to promote industries that create “multipliers,” or greater overall jobs and opportunities, choosing industries that reduce inequality by providing good jobs for workers without a college degree and choosing industries that use less city resources than they produce tax revenue. His firm then evaluated every industry in San Francisco by these factors.

“What might surprise people is how many good jobs they [the information sector companies] create for people without a college degree,” Egan said.

The City faces a challenge to keep its startup information firms once they advance to the point of hiring lower-educated support staffers, he said. Many of these jobs have moved to other counties, he said.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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