Business outreach revived to promote The City 

Attracting and retaining jobs in The City is often a political matter, but a new proposal for a development center aims to steer clear of polemics.

With unemployment hovering near 10 percent in San Francisco, the long-discussed concept has resurfaced of an independent economic development center that would not play politics but rather promote The City as a place to grow and support new businesses.

The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, a public policy think tank, released a report outlining a series of recommendations to create the new economic development center.

“For a long time, we have just relied on being a beautiful city and the result has been that we have not added jobs for 40 years in San Francisco,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of SPUR. “Employment has grown regionally and you see more people commuting outside The City to jobs elsewhere.”

In 1981, there were roughly 601,000 jobs in San Francisco, compared to 594,707 in 2008, according to Ted Egan, The City’s chief economist. Egan attributes the disparity to current high labor costs, expensive commercial space, increasing business fees and a heavy tax burden on companies.

Bringing the private sector on board with the economic center would broaden resources and opportunities for marketing and business campaigns, according to the report. SPUR estimated that the new center would cost $3.2 million and would be funded not through City Hall or donations, but through public funding such as a citywide business improvement district or a surcharge on the current business license fee, Metcalf said.

Much of San Francisco’s economic development is handled piecemeal, either through the Mayor’s Office or the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Streamlining the business of promoting economic growth in The City is long overdue, business leaders say.

“We can’t have one mayor beefing up an economic development office only to have a future mayor cut it back,” said Jim Lazarus, vice president of public policy for the chamber. “If we are to fill 13 million empty square feet of office space or add back the tens of thousands of jobs we have lost the last decade, we need to get serious about economic development.”


Job market

Decade-to-decade changes:

Year :::: Jobs
1970: 529,002
1980: 598,094
1990: 612,931
2000: 643,859
2008*: 594,707

* Most recent data available

Sources: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

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Erin Sherbert

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