Stop scapegoating the tech industry 

click to enlarge Traffic congestion linked to tech-company shuttles is one of many concerns of local residents. - ANNA LATINO/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • anna latino/s.f. examiner file photo
  • Traffic congestion linked to tech-company shuttles is one of many concerns of local residents.

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the impact of tech workers on our city. Many people are concerned about the availability and rising costs of housing, the displacement of minority and low-income residents, and the gentrification of neighborhoods. Others are frustrated with corporate buses, traffic congestion and parking on city streets. Some observers have gone so far as to say we have reached a tipping point, where the influx of young entrepreneurs has changed the culture of our city forever.

Unfortunately, these unchecked concerns have escalated into some very bad actions that reflect poorly on our city. Last month, threatening graffiti appeared in the Mission district targeting tech entrepreneurs. In May, a group of protesters held an "Anti-Gentrification Block Party" and smashed a Google bus pinata before the police intervened. These actions are senseless and do nothing to help address the issues of affordable housing, transportation and diversity.

What is notably absent from the public discussion about our changing city is the positive impact the tech community has on our community and economy. San Francisco is now home to more than 1,800 tech companies. These businesses employ 42,000 people and create 7.5 percent of The City's jobs. What's more, high-tech jobs have a significant multiplier effect, creating thousands more jobs in other sectors in San Francisco and across the Bay Area.

According to leading UC Berkeley professor and economist Enrico Moretti, Menlo Park-based Facebook alone employs 1,500 employees, but has created 53,000 jobs in app development and 130,000 more in related business services. Cupertino-based Apple has 12,000 employees, but has created more than 60,000 indirect jobs. On a smaller scale, local tech companies have had the same positive impact on local job creation. In an economy where every job counts, these significant economic contributions should not be overlooked.

From the Gold Rush to the dot-com boom, San Francisco is a city that attracts innovators, risk-takers and those seeking a better way of life. We are — and always have been — a city that thrives on the density of like-minded people and ideas. This is what makes us unique and what is now fueling the growth of the technology industry and the knowledge-based economy that is powering our recovery.

Instead of targeting the techies, we should embrace them and engage them in our communities. The Chamber of Commerce represents many tech companies and they are as much a part of our community as businesses from any other industry sector.

In San Francisco, we all have skin in the game. We all need housing. We all need jobs. We want mobility and a safe and vibrant quality of life for ourselves and our families. Whether you get on a Muni bus or a Google bus to get to work, we are all San Franciscans. It's time to stop scapegoating one industry or another and work together on the important issues that impact us all.

Bob Linscheid is president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.

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Bob Linscheid

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