Taking Pause to Honor Business Success

Tuesday’s election should be a wake up call when it comes to the economy and government. Still feeling the squeeze of the economic recession, voters rejected measures that would have hurt job growth with the defeat of Propositions J, the local hotel tax increase; 23, the initiative to delay the state’s clean energy economy; and 24, the repeal of business tax reforms. Voters also showed they are serious about government reforms that improve efficiency and accountability with the passage of Propositions G, the Muni reform initiative, and by retaining and expanding the role of the state redistricting commission.

With so much attention on the economy and government efficiency, now is the perfect time to acknowledge what is working and recommit to economic development in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce did exactly this at the Excellence in Business Awards presentation last week, where we honored six leading businesses for their accomplishments and contributions to our economy and community. Now in its 19th year, the awards competition, better known as the “Ebbies,” has become one of the most prestigious honors for local businesses. Even as the Giants took on the Rangers in game two of the World Series, nearly 1,000 business and community leaders came to celebrate this year’s honorees while keeping an eye on big screens showing the game.

This year’s recipients exemplify the entrepreneurship, innovation and resilience that are driving San Francisco’s economy forward. We honored top social gaming company Zynga, whose success has created 900 jobs in our city with more to come. We acknowledged VerticalResponse, a leading email marketing company, for its unprecedented recent growth. We honored Millennium Partners, the developers of Millennium Tower, for its vision in reshaping urban living in our city. We celebrated McRoskey Mattress Company, whose third-generation business is helping to keep manufacturing jobs in San Francisco. And we honored University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), a true pioneer in establishing the city as a world hub in biotechnology and medical research and delivery.

But success in our communities is just as important as success in our economy. That is why, this year’s highest honor was bestowed upon AT&T, one of the most successful and generous companies in the Bay Area. Giving more than $18 million to charitable organizations and tens of thousands of employee hours to community projects and causes each year, AT&T is clearly an important pillar in our city and our region.

As the Chamber celebrates our 160th year, we also took the opportunity to honor the many centurion companies that have been in business 100 years or more and have helped shape San Francisco’s unique character and robust economy. In total, we acknowledged 40 centurion businesses including Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction, PG&E, Bechtel Corporation, Levi Strauss, Macy’s, Walgreens, DelMonte Foods and many others.

San Francisco’s economic recovery depends on the success and growth of business. Tuesday’s election results are a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to sustain a healthy business climate that supports job creators and revenue generators.

As the Chamber takes pause to celebrate business success in San Francisco, we are reminded of the need to clear the way for other employers that seek to locate and stay in our city. Whether it’s incentivizing future business growth, easing onerous regulations on small businesses, or supporting city-wide events such as the America’s Cup, now is the time to recommit to San Francisco’s long-term economic development and prosperity.

How We See it is a bi-weekly blog by Steve Falk, President & CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. This commentary was also published in the San Francisco Examiner.