Progress on S.F.’s Economic Strategy

San Francisco is making progress on the economic development plan initiated seven years ago when voters passed Proposition I. Knowledge-based industries are growing. Experience industries continue to benefit from a healthy tourism sector. And investments in infrastructure are helping to drive future economic growth across the city.

This progress was the focus of the Chamber’s inaugural Forecast SF event hosted last week in partnership with the San Francisco Center for Economic Development. Deemed the city’s “job summit” by local media, the event brought together city and state officials with leaders from top Bay Area companies to discuss San Francisco’s economic horizon and the key industry sectors that will enable the city to sustain long-term prosperity.

One such sector is hospitals and health services. According to a new report unveiled at Forecast SF, the city’s hospitals and healthcare-related spending generate $15.3 billion annually and support nearly 99,000 jobs – approximately 18 percent of the city’s workforce. In addition to spending money on health-related wages, benefits and supplies, hospitals are responsible for 30,000 non-health related jobs and will create more than 47,000 construction jobs on upcoming retrofitting and expansion projects.

This is particularly important when you consider the city’s economic structure, which continues to grow jobs in information technology and professional/business services, but not in traditional blue collar industries. Wells Fargo Chief Economist John Silvia remarked at the event that this disconnect is making San Francisco an elite city which looks “a lot more like Paris and a lot less like Denver.”

The city can help address this divide in part through continued investments in infrastructure and tourism – two key components of its economic development plan. Investments in projects like the Moscone Center expansion and the America’s Cup will continue to make San Francisco a leading destination, attracting more than 16.4 million visitors each year who patron local hotels, restaurants, retail outlets and other businesses. Generating $8.5 billion in annual spending, tourism is also the single largest source of sales tax revenue for the city.

Indeed, San Francisco is making progress on economic growth, particularly when it comes to knowledge-based industries. But this does not mean our work is done. The city’s economic development plan rightly calls for tax and regulatory improvements to the local business climate. Governor Brown’s newly appointed Senior Advisor for Jobs and Business Development Michael Rossi suggested several potential statewide improvements at Forecast SF including the creation of a California “Department of Commerce” and a concierge-like system to attract new business to California.

The Chamber thanks the many employers, elected officials, advocates and residents who are working to grow San Francisco’s economy. We also thank the participants and supporters of Forecast SF: Wells Fargo, Catholic Healthcare West, California Pacific Medical Center, Degenkolb, Kaiser Permanente, Gensler, Lennar Urban, Microsoft, San Francisco State University and Webcor. San Francisco is making progress and it’s more important than ever that our elected leaders continue to focus on jobs and economic growth.