2015: Advancing the Agenda

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As the Chamber prepares to dim its lights for the year and spend the remaining days of 2015 focused on family and friends, I’d like to reflect and take stock on some of our key activities over the past year as we look at the year ahead and all there is to achieve in 2016. 

For the Chamber, 2015 was a busy year filled with an array of programs and events all focused on furthering our primary mission of attracting, supporting, and growing business in San Francisco. I’ll begin by assessing what might appropriately be characterized as the “Main Event” – the November local elections.

San Franciscans 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 – including putting over 20,000 residents back to work – won an easy reelection campaign. Citywide voters overwhelmingly approved the Mayor’s Bond and the Giants’ Mission Rock development, while rejecting measures to shut down home-sharing and impose a housing moratorium in the Mission. By all measures, the city’s continued economic development was a winner at the polls.

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A captive audience at ForecastSF 2015.

If the election results act as a strong measure of the success of our advocacy efforts this year, then the Chamber’s annual ForecastSF event – the region’s leading economic forecast and jobs summit – serves as a key indicator of our region’s economic health.

This year more than 300 business and civic leaders convened at the sold-out event. With a theme of “Cities of the Future,” this year’s ForecastSF focused on how cities that succeed in the coming decades will be the ones that attract, retain and grow a talented workforce.

The event also featured trends in consumer spending and the outlook for the region’s and the nation’s economy, including remarks from Wells Fargo Chief Economist John Silvia who provided an overview of the continued strength of the Bay Area economy. Additional distinguished speakers included Wayne Best, Visa, Inc. Chief Economist; Kim Majerus, Vice President, US Public Sector: State, Local and Education West Area for Cisco Systems; Rick Hutley, Program Director, Clinical Professor of Analytics, University of the Pacific; and Jay Nath, Chief Innovation Officer, Office of Mayor Ed Lee. 

In 2015 the Chamber again honored San Francisco businesses for their innovation, celebrated their vision

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Steph Curry address the audience at the 2015 Warriors Tip Off Lunch.

and their contributions to their employees and our community at the 2015 Excellence in Business Awards (Ebbies). More than 600 business and community leaders were on-hand for this year’s Ebbies that featured an exceptionally strong field of deserving nominees in each award category – and we added new categories to the program to better represent the diversity of Bay Area businesses and the ways they enhance our region.

Our Warriors’ Tip-Off Lunch at the InterContinental San Francisco was a tremendous event, made extra special due to the Warriors’ NBA championship title. More than 350 people came to watch exclusive interviews and take photographs with top players including Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, as well as hear remarks from Mayor Ed Lee.

Chamber partners help shape public policy and earlier this year we again led delegations to Washington, DC, and Sacramento to share San Francisco perspectives with lawmakers. Our pilgrimage to the nation’s capital, “CityTrip Washington DC”, featured Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Matt Welbes, Executive Director of the Federal Transit Administration, and several other key officials. On the Chamber’s advocacy trip to Sacramento, “CityState 2015”, our delegation of government, business, and community leaders met with California State Treasurer John Chiang, Senator Mark Leno, Assemblymember Phil Ting, Assemblymember David Chiu, and Will Kempton, Executive Director of the California Transportation Commission, among others.

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The 2015 CityTrip attendees talk with Senator Dianne Feinstein.

The Chamber’s largest annual event, “CityBeat Breakfast”, brings together 1,000 of the Bay Area’s top business and civic leaders where they apply fresh thinking to today’s greatest economic challenges. At this event, attendees are the first to hear the results of the highly anticipated annual Dignity Health CityBeat voter poll that takes the political pulse of San Francisco, which in 2015 revealed that affordability topped the list of major issues, followed closely by homelessness. The quality of our neighborhoods and parks were viewed as having improved, while traffic and parking were seen as worse, and there was also overwhelming support for the Warriors event center in Mission Bay. The poll also tracked the ultimate outcome of the November election in favor of Proposition A, the Mayor’s housing bond.

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Mayor Ed Lee at the 2015 CityBeat Breakfast.

This year’s CityBeat featured an all-star lineup of speakers and topics that included Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Kaiser Permanente, Timothy White, Chancellor of California State University, Mayor Ed Lee, and Pat Wadors, Vice President of Global Talent at LinkedIn. Next year’s CityBeat Breakfast will take place on March 16, so, make your plans now to be a part of this can’t-miss business event.

This passage is little lengthier than usual, so I appreciate your sticking with me. That said, I’d note that the above is only a glimpse of the more than 250 events and programs the Chamber hosted in 2015 to boost your business and improve our city. We have much to accomplish together in the year ahead – and your continued engagement will be critical to our collective success. In the meantime, thank you for all that you do for San Francisco – and here’s wishing you and yours a joyful holiday season.

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