The Silicon Valley Index for 2013 was delivered this week at the State of the Valley Conference in San Jose, CA. Since 1995, the report has been released in February of each year and provides a comprehensive study based on several indicators to track and measure economy strength, health and education, society, governance, and more. It also includes an analysis of trends in the region.
Prepared by Joint Venture and Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the 2013 report highlights Silicon Valley and the surrounding region as leading in innovations, investment, creation of new businesses and jobs, and more. Employment numbers have increased 4 percent from 2011 to 2012 in most economic sectors. For example: Santa Clara and San Mateo counties added over 42,000 jobs in the private sector. San Francisco added almost 16,000 jobs at the same time.
Silicon Valley’s unemployment rate is an average of 7 percent, where employment opportunities are rosier for higher education levels and professionals than for people without a high-school diploma.
The report indicates that, although Silicon Valley is thriving economically and experiences job growth, prosperity is not shared by all residents. The middle class population continues to shrink and lower income families fared worse. In fact, the region faces the same challenges it identified prior to the recession (as of 2009 and on), as well as encounters new challenges.
Russle Hancock, President and CEO of Joint Venture, described existing and long time issues, such as the outdated public trasportation system in the San Francisco Bay Area, its complexity, the multiple players, and the region’s failure to streamline and create efficient transport options.
Some of the interesting numbers included environmental sustainability progress and here are a few highlights from the 2013 Index:
- Waste - daily waste disposal per capita has decreased 36 percent since 1995 and a decrease if 6 percent in 2012.
- Energy - electricity consumption was reduced by 2.5 percent, per capita, and electricity productivity improved 5.2 percent.
- Transit - public transportation ridership increased 1.3 percent in 2012.
Silicon valley is facing looming decisions. The report’s Special Analysis suggests need for better regional planning. Regional decisions affect all the counties and cities in the area. The 2013 State of the Valley Conference emphasized regional thinking. Russell Hancock and Emmett D. Carson, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, said that we need to think more expansively about all the challenges we face, work on becoming more regionally integrated, and ensure that prosperity is more widely shared by everyone in Silicon Valley.
Paul Saffo talked about long term resiliency. A well known and bold futurist thinker, he talked about the Bay Area as a separate single body. For over 20 years he has explored large-scale and long term change in our economy and statehood and shared his observations: California has been referred to as an Earthly Paradise a few hundreds of years ago. CA existed as a myth of adventure, prosperity, and sunny skies. "Myths guide our future," Saffo said, "but we also need to maintain them. This means addressing infrastructure, employment, education, and economy."
CA has the 9th world largest economy, based on data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Saffo urged Silicon Valley leaders and government to change the thinking: to create a powerful region, we need to move from nation-states to city-states approach of governance. He further explained that the Bay Area and Silicon Valley already functions as a separate entity, as a city state, but needs to recognize and acknowledge that. Saffo urged the Bay Area governance needs to progress toward that goal. We should not relate to the area as a collection of cities, but as a cohesive region. We may need new models of governance here. "Thinking about the Bay Area as a single region is the way to go," he said, "We should speak as one voice and act on this idea."
Saffo gave the public transit problem as an example: The Bay Area much debated high speed rail has been an unproductive process, where various cities were squabbling about the project, arguing whether we should go with it, or not. In a regional view, this project is necessary.
Another concept is resource sharing among cities. For example, fire fighting efforts can be under one organization for the entire region, saving on separately purchasing costly equipment in each city, such as helicopters. Further more, we have too many cities and too many counties; why not simplify and reduce counties and the number of cities? Streamlining governance may actually increase service levels. He called to cooperate more as a region to get a stronger leverage at the state level and move more efficiently on goals and policies.
The message was clear: can we view California is a collection of city-states? Adapting to this approach will benefit us all.
1. The 2013 Silicon Valley Index – the annual study from Joint Venture Silicon Valley and Silicon Valley Community Foundation findings indicate strong growth in Silicon Valley and out of the recession for most. However, some populations are still struggling.
Click here for the 2013 Index: http://www.siliconvalleyindex.org/
2. Joint Venture – Established in 1993, the non-profit organization provides analysis and action on issues affecting Silicon Valley’s economy, people, and communities. Joint Venture brings together Silicon Valley's top leaders in government, business, academia, labor and other important community organizations to work together on solving these challenges.
3. Silicon Valley Community Foundation - Provides visionary community leadership by identifying emerging issues in the region and focusing on solving the most challenging problems, improving the quality of life and inspiring greater civic participation throughout the region. The Organization utilizes grant programs, conducts research and establishes collaboration of diverse groups to solve problems. The foundation builds and energizes a community of philanthropists, individual and corporate donors, whom strengthen the common good.