Demystifying the economy’s little-known catalyst

San Franciscans on Tuesday voted to continue policies that have resulted in a broad-based economic recovery for The City. Mayor Ed Lee, who focused on jobs during his first full term in office, led the city out of the Great Recession, putting over 20,000 residents back to work, won an easy reelection campaign. While Julie Christensen, his appointee to the District 3 supervisorial seat, lost a close election to Aaron Peskin, citywide the voters overwhelmingly approved the mayor’s Housing Bond and the Giants’ Mission Rock development, while rejecting measures to shut down home-sharing and impose a housing moratorium in the Mission. The City’s continued economic development was a winner on Tuesday.

Economic development has long been a priority and, for more than a decade, the business community has partnered with City Hall to make job growth possible. From landing small individual businesses, to major wins for the region, such as The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Virgin America and Intersolar North America — and the millions of dollars in economic activity they generate in this region — the San Francisco Center for Economic Development (SFCED) worked to make The City and the Bay Area home for these economic engines.

The SFCED, a department within the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Foundation, focuses on helping businesses locate to and expand within the Bay Area. The SFCED collaborates with an array of partners, including the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, to pave the way for businesses to succeed here.

According to SFCED Executive Director Dennis Conaghan, “Our team provides a one-stop shop to help businesses establish themselves and thrive in the Bay Area.” The SFCED provides free, comprehensive advice and fast-track expertise, contacts and support to aid employers with location decisions and in navigating governmental organizations and incentives.

Recently, Conaghan accepted seven awards on behalf of San Francisco and the SFCED from fDi Magazine, a publication of the Financial Times, which recognizes “American Cities of the Future.” The awards, bestowed at the International Economic Development Council’s 2015 conference, honored San Francisco as “The Best City for Economic Development,” “The No. 2 North American City — Overall” and “Top 10 Major Cities for fDi strategy.”

In the last five years, because of the SFCED, The City and other job development organizations, San Francisco has seen employment grow to a record 655,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fall from 10 percent to just over 3 percent — virtually full employment. And while some of that job growth can be tied to the 6 percent increase in our population since 2010, during that same period the number of employed San Franciscans grew by over 20 percent.

It’s fair to say that the SFCED team is doing excellent work stimulating the local economy. However, according to Conaghan, “Recruiting companies to The City is highly competitive, so time is always of the essence,” which explains why the SFCED isn’t basking in the shine of these impressive awards, but rather launching initiatives to focus on key growth areas.

Through collaboration with Mayor Lee and his Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the SFCED manages unique initiatives to enhance inward investment from key regions across the globe, including ChinaSF, SFAsia and LatinSF.

The SFCED launched the Fashion Incubator, which transforms fashion apparel designers into successful entrepreneurs, and Spaces for Growth, which identifies up-and-coming hot spots for expansion of technology companies in San Francisco. They also launched the Innovation Hub, an initiative of the Governor Brown’s Office of Business & Economic Development designed to enhance California’s national and global competitiveness by stimulating partnerships, economic development and job creation around specific research clusters.

We only highlighted a handful of the many projects and initiatives the SFCED has underway, but with new appreciation for economic development and the important contributions of the SFCED, I encourage you to learn more at www.sfced.org.

Bob Linscheid is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

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