Mayor: Businesses face 'challenges' in city 

Doing business in San Francisco will never be the "best financial deal," Mayor Gavin Newsom said to a group of business leaders Thursday, but its "extraordinary work force" keeps it competitive with other cities.

Newsom made the comments during a breakfast meeting of the Bay Area Council, held at the Westin St. Francis. Joining Newsom on stage for a panel discussion were Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. Newsom was responding to an audience remark that San Francisco and Oakland were not business-friendly cities.

"I’m not naïve to the challenges associated with the cost of living and mandates like health care and minimum wage," Newsom said, referring to one new city law that will require businesses to pay for employees’ health care and an existing ordinance that requires employers to pay a higher minimum wage than in other cities. "But we’re not going to compete with suburban or rural areas. We can’t."

San Francisco’s financial health is built upon two main economies, Newsom said. One is based on knowledge generation, including such businesses as financial services, information technology, media, biotech and professional services, according to an economic study produced for The City last year.

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"There’s a reason why Google is moving to San Francisco. There’s a reason why Yahoo is in San Francisco," Newsom said, adding that The City’s unemployment rate is down.

San Francisco’s other main economy is based upon "experiences" such as shopping, arts and culture, restaurants and tourism.

Although employers worry about the costs of doing business in San Francisco, more are concerned with The City’s "philosophical outlook" on the private sector, said Nathan Nayman, executive director of the business advocacy group Committee on Jobs.

"It’s businesses that create the jobs, build the homes, do the hard work in order to generate the revenue that the cities need for their social programs and other types of programs," Nayman said. "All they want in return is some sense of constancy — don’t change the rules in the middle of the game, don’t increase costs, don’t make it take more time to get our job done."

A new economic analysis of The City, published by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, a government public policy think tank, asserts that The City’s future depends on its ability to nurture "an entrepreneurial culture that encourages innovation" but also the larger businesses of "implementation" that support middle-class jobs. San Francisco is experiencing a major increase in high-income jobs, but is losing its middle class, according to the report.

"The principal job of government is job generation," SPUR President Jim Chappell said after the panel discussion. "People with choice will come to San Francisco because it’s a nice place to live ... but with global communication, businesses can locate anywhere."

City leaders see cooperation as route to regional goals

(AP Photo/Ben Margot) Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, far right, says Bay Area cities need to work together to solve common problems. He is shown here with Calif. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and rock star and international AIDS activist Bono, who came to Oakland to learn about how the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is impacting the African American community in the United States and efforts to stop the disease.

The chief executives of the Bay Area’s three largest cities say cooperation among them can help improve disaster preparedness, public safety and health care in the region.

San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland were forced to cooperate after a decision last year by the Department of Homeland Security to require some urban areas — including the Bay Area — to apply as a region for emergency-preparedness funds, Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

Among the region’s main disaster priorities is to address concerns about communication "interoperability" between each city’s public-safety agencies, he said. Additionally, a regional emergency-response plan is near completion.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said most urban cities shared similar problems, such as health care and crime, and advocated for mayors to speak collectively with state and federal legislators.

"We all have the same problems," Dellums said. "The extent to which we speak in one voice is the extent we change the national conversation."

During a one-hour panel discussion at a gathering of business leaders sponsored by the Bay Area Council, the three mayors also discussed strategies to abate crime, the high costs of health care and public employee pensions, and sports teams.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said he believed the San Francisco 49ers — who are considering a move to Santa Clara in order to build a new stadium — "should stay in San Francisco if they can."

"But if they can’t, Santa Clara is fine, as long as they stay in the Bay Area. They’re a regional asset," Reed said.

Each day until voters go to the polls Nov. 6, The Examiner lays odds on local figures beating Mayor Gavin Newsom. Check out our exclusive blog: San Francisco's Next Mayor?

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