For a prosperous future, the focus needs to be on education and talent

As a global economic powerhouse, San Francisco has experienced remarkable prosperity over the past few years.

Tens of thousands of people have returned to work since the recession, driving down the December unemployment rate to 3.8 percent, less than half what it was just four years ago. The economy of the Bay Area ranks 19th in the world when compared to national economies. Incomes are among the highest in the nation. Those are impressive numbers.

Yet that prosperity brings us challenges. Home prices and rents are out of reach for many. Gridlocked roadways and packed buses, trolleys and BART cars make it tough to get to work or pick up school kids. Our public-education institutions, including San Francisco State University, are strong, but we know that we can do more to build pathways to successful careers for our children, while providing a diverse, highly skilled and innovative workforce for regional employers.

All of these are deep concerns of the business community, and they underscore the importance of business and education leaders working together. Much of San Francisco’s remarkable prosperity can be attributed to our region’s ability to grow, attract and retain top talent, the talent that not only fuels the economy but expands the tax base. Now the question is: How do we sustain that prosperity?

That’s the key question that a diverse array of speakers will tackle at the Chamber of Commerce’s CityBeat Breakfast on March 4. The theme of the program: It’s All About Talent.

While the local tech industry may get the biggest headlines, San Francisco’s health care industry is a $28 billion economic engine, employing 121,000 people in The City, more than any other sector, according to a 2014 report by the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California.

That’s why we invited Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, to speak to more than 1,000 CityBeat attendees about how Kaiser — which is based in Oakland and employs 175,000 people nationwide — plans to stay on top of the race for talent and what the region needs to accomplish to grow local talent.

Expanding opportunity and growing talent starts with education. Timothy P. White, chancellor of the California State University system, the largest four-year educational system in the nation, will speak about the need to keep higher education affordable to all. He will speak from experience: He began his higher education at Diablo Valley College, attended two Cal State campuses and received a doctorate from UC Berkeley.

Pat Wadors, vice president of global talent organization at LinkedIn, will reveal workplace trends and what talented individuals are seeking in the workplace and in their careers.

We have also invited Mayor Ed Lee to give the business community his perspective on the future of San Francisco and how the city can manage growth.

What’s important to know is that discussions about The City’s future are taking place, whether or not you can attend CityBeat. As for the city’s future, the Chamber supports strategies to fund affordable housing, improve transit and transit options and expand educational opportunities.

We will continue this dialogue throughout the year at our events and we invite you to learn more on our website — — and connect and engage with us on social media.

Bob Linscheid is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Leslie E. Wong is president of San Francisco State University.

Much of San Francisco’s remarkable prosperity can be attributed to our region’s ability to grow, attract and retain top talent.

Now the question is: How do we sustain that prosperity?

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