Going to bat for business

Life seems pretty good this time of year. Spring training is well underway in Arizona. The Giants have a new closer, we beat the Cubs last Saturday in Scottsdale, the rain is hopefully behind us and Opening Day at AT&T Park is only 40 days away.

And yesterday morning, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce celebrated its CityBeat Breakfast with nearly 1,000 business and civic leaders. The annual CityBeat Breakfast is Opening Day for the Chamber of Commerce. It’s our opportunity to gather the business and civic community together to discuss the issues we face and to take an honest look at life in San Francisco, both for the residents of our great city as well as for our corporate citizens who do business here.

As prosperous as the economy is, there is always work to be done, especially to improve the business climate and the quality of life for those who live and work in San Francisco and our region. I am often asked, “What is the role of the Chamber of Commerce?” To me, it’s crystal clear: The role of the Chamber is to represent the diverse business community in all aspects of life and commerce in San Francisco, because a healthy business community equals a healthy and prosperous city.

In 2017, the Chamber of Commerce will be in the middle of every significant conversation that affects San Francisco’s economy. I guarantee that we will not sit on the bench; there is too much at stake for our city.

We are committed to new ways of thinking and engaging with our businesses, civic leaders and the broader community. And while we may disagree at times, I believe we share a common goal: a vibrant, inclusive, innovation-driven city where everyone has an opportunity to succeed and to thrive.

We are indeed living in interesting times, one in which everyone is paying attention both nationally and locally. With that said, along with all of the debate, there is also a point of view that successful businesses and true prosperity are somehow part of the problem in society. But business is not the enemy.

A strong business environment supports a healthy economic environment. Businesses create products and services we use, create jobs we need, donate to local charities we support, and produce tax revenue streams that support vital social services, education, and infrastructure.

In 2016, an estimated $1.7 billion dollars in taxes were generated by San Francisco businesses. That amount supports more than $4 billion of General Fund services. And where does the $1.7 billion come from? From business license fees, payroll and gross receipt taxes, hotel and parking taxes, utility taxes, property transfer taxes … the list goes on.

The bottom line is a strong business climate means added revenue for The City, which translates into the ability to provide services to make San Francisco the ideal place to work and to live.

We will continue to push policies that stabilize the cost of doing business and ensure that businesses from all economic sectors are not priced out of San Francisco. We will lead the conversation that strikes the right balance between businesses paying the appropriate amount of taxes versus paying too much and getting strangled by regulations that force business out of our city.

Attracting business to San Francisco is key to the Chamber’s mission. In 2016, The San Francisco Center for Economic Development, under the Chamber’s Foundation, brought more than 500 direct new jobs to San Francisco with an economic impact of $64 million through the recruitment of international companies by our ChinaSF, SFAsia and LatinSF initiatives.

San Francisco is changing. And so is the Chamber of Commerce. It’s a new era at the Chamber, but our mission remains the same: to hit economic homeruns by attracting, developing and retaining business in San Francisco so everyone can succeed and thrive.

Mario Alioto is chairman of the board of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and executive vice president of business operations at the San Francisco Giants.

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