Federal Issues

Free Trade is Vital for America’s Economy

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June 3  |  Federal Issues  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . 95 percent of the consumer base for tech products is outside of the United States.

Without free trade, our companies and workers lack access to the foreign markets on which American workers depend in order to sell American goods and services.

How important is free trade to America and Silicon Valley’s economy? Today, nearly 40 million U.S. jobs depend on trade, meaning more than 1 of every 5 American workers has a job linked to the export and import of goods and services.

American manufacturing employees in the “most trade-intensive industries” earn on average 56 percent more than those in manufacturing companies that were less engaged in trade.

That’s why President Obama has staked as one of his highest priorities the passage of Trade Promotion Authority, to help him complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership involving the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Combined, those 12 countries represent 40 percent of the world’s GDP and one-third of global trade.

For more than 20 years, American presidents have been granted “fast-track authority” by Congress. It is critical to the success of Silicon Valley that President Obama be granted this same level of authority.

Without Trade Promotion Authority, manufacturers and American workers risk being locked out and left behind as other countries negotiate dozens of trade agreements that exclude the United States.

That’s why the vote on Trade Promotion Authority passed overwhelmingly in the United States Senate, with a bi-partisan vote of 62-37. If Trade Promotion Authority stalls in the House, it will hurt almost every household in America. Urge your member of Congress to stand with Silicon Valley and America’s innovation economy. Urge them to vote yes for free trade.

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Raise Yourself Up Without Tearing Others Down

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May 27  |  Community, Federal Issues, Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought … You can raise yourself up without tearing others down.

On the same day, I recently found in my mailbox two separate letters. One from a prominent Democrat member of Congress and one from a top-tier Republican presidential candidate.

Along with the expected appeal for money, both envelopes contained rather lengthy letters that seemed to spend as much ink tearing down the other political party as it invested in praising their own.

From the Republican presidential candidate, I read such red meat as the following:

“I know what the liberal Democrats are capable of, because I understand how desperately they crave power.”

And “Content with the status quo and willing to accept mediocrity, the Liberal Democrats are running our country into the ground.”

From the congressional Democrat, I read such lines as:

“We face a radical Republican Party with … a willingness to do or say whatever it takes to advance their far right-wing agenda and obstruct any and all of our progress.”

Oh my.

Instead of ripping into the purported evils of the other party, why not focus on the solutions your own party has to offer?

I seem to recall our Founders writing eloquently about the “United” States of America, not the divided and divisive parties that would burn bridges down rather than build them.

A note to leaders of both our major political parties: Give the American people credit. We are smarter than you might think. We crave solutions to our nation’s problems, not personal attacks and political ambition.

Candidates, please – run on your ideals and ideas. Lift us up, without tearing others down.


The Visa Lottery

April 1  |  Federal Issues  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s good for thought … “The lottery.”

A random lottery is not how America should recruit for talent.

Yet a lottery system – the luck of the draw – is what the U.S. government believes is the best way for innovation economy companies to compete for top talent born around the globe.

Adding to the irony, April 1st – yes, April Fools’ Day – is the annual day the visa lottery for talent begins.

After 9/11, an artificial annual cap of 65,000 was set for high-skill, high-wage, high-tech workers. The number is so artificially low that the applications exceed it in a single day. Then everyone waits to see if they win the global war for talent based solely on luck.

America can do better. Pass the U.S. Senate’s bi-partisan “I-Squared” bill. Help America better educate kids blessed to be born in the United States while also recruiting the best and brightest kids born around the world.

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D.C. by the Numbers

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March 25  |  Federal Issues  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . “D.C.” may actually stand for “Different Culture.”

Comparing Silicon Valley, the world’s “innovation capitol” with Washington, D.C., our “nation’s capitol” is like comparing the sun and the moon . . . both important, interesting, even intriguing, but very different.


Silicon Valley Leadership Group Board Chair and Silicon Valley Bank CEO Greg Becker and new San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo meeting with Rep. Anna Eshoo, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Zoe Lofgren during our Spring D.C. Advocacy Trip.

Last week, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo led a delegation of 55 CEOs, senior officers and local elected officials to our nation’s capitol.

Here are the results, by the numbers: The executives invested 48 hours in meetings with 85 House members, 19 Senators and 10 Administration officials, on seven core issues of importance to our innovation economy:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Immigration reform
  • Patent litigation reform
  • Funding for BART to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara
  • Funding to further improve Caltrain Commuter Rail Service
  • Tax reform
  • Competitiveness

We have some traits in common – often smart, committed, passionate people working to make a difference. However, the pace of change is eons apart. In Silicon Valley, a product life cycle is as brief as six months. In D.C., even a minor piece of legislation can take years, decades, from inception to completion.

Democracy, especially in our nation’s capitol, is not for the faint of heart. Progress is measured in years, not days or weeks, so we will continue to build the bridges needed to bring together innovators with policy makers.

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CEOs in D.C.

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April 2  |  Federal Issues, Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. – Separated by three time zones? Or the Twilight Zone?

Last week, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group took 50 CEOs and senior executives, along with several local elected leaders, to Washington, D.C. for three days.

It is never a small request to ask executives, running global companies, to set aside the demands of their businesses to travel to D.C.

In a Valley where product life cycles can last as little as six months, CEOs often scratch their heads as Congress takes years, sometimes decades, to tackle issues of great importance to America’s economy:

  • Immigration Reform: More than three decades have passed since major reforms were last enacted.
  • Tax Reform: Four decades.
  • Patent Reform: Before a partial overhaul in 2011, the last meaningful action was nearly 70 years ago.

So why do executives and local elected leaders still slog back to D.C.?

First, through patience and persistence, successes do happen: Consider our victory in securing the Regional Patent Office in San Jose, and $900 million in matching funds for our BART extension.

Second, relationships are strengthened. Silicon Valley is the earth’s epicenter of innovation. D.C. is the capitol of our democracy. Differences will remain, but we must focus on the bridges that must be built. Citizen engagement is good for America, good for our democracy, and good for the innovation that drives our country’s economy.

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CEO Survey: Seeking Solutions

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March 5  |  Education, Federal Issues, Housing, Tax Policy, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . If we want to increase employment, then let’s learn from employers.

Annually, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group conducts a “CEO Business Climate Survey,” seeking direct input from the innovators and entrepreneurs who drive our region’s economy.

This year, 222 executives responded. The results are enlightening:

  • Last year, 2013, 62 percent added jobs in Silicon Valley, with only 9 percent subtracting jobs.
  • This year, 2014, 59 percent expect to add jobs here in Silicon Valley, with only 4 percent anticipating job losses.

Indeed, Silicon Valley continues to lead California and our country when it comes to job growth and economic recovery.

So what do employers, and our employees, need from policy makers to stay successful in innovation and job creation?

  • Locally, CEOs call for improvements on our local streets, roads and transit systems so that employees and their families can get around. We need quality schools for our children, and homes that working families can afford.
  • At the state level, we need meaningful investments in infrastructure to repair aging roads and ease traffic congestion. We need sensible solutions to the high cost of housing and investments in K-12 and higher education.
  • From Congress, we need immigration reform that ensures the best and the brightest can compete for our companies rather than against us, and tax reform that is fair to workers and keep our companies competitive.

This year’s CEO Business Climate Survey underscores that executives are willing to speak out, to search for solutions, to invest in answers. Silicon Valley’s innovation does not end within the walls of our companies, it extends through the neighborhoods in our communities.

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Priorities for 2014: Fighting for Meaningful Immigration Reform

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January 29  |  Federal Issues  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . When we eat a loaf of bread, do we bite one slice at a time, or swallow it whole?

That seems to be the debate in D.C. about meaningful immigration reform.

The U.S. Senate, under Democratic control, passed one large comprehensive bill. Good work, and we applaud their effort.

The U.S. House of Representatives, under Republican control, is looking to pass four to five separate immigration bills, collectively adding up to meaningful reform.

To paraphrase William Shakespeare: A rose by any other name is still a rose. Whether one comprehensive bill or several slices of legislation adding up to the entire loaf, the key is meaningful reform that strengthens our economy for all of our workers – high-tech, low-tech and no-tech.

For Silicon Valley, we need to compete globally with talent born in the United States as well as those adventurous enough to come here.

For California’s rich agriculture industry, workers are needed who grow and harvest our fruits, vegetables and nuts.

For kids and parents who came here seeking freedom and a better quality of life, a well-lit path to leave the shadows and engage as legal residents is also important.

We are a nation of immigrants – whether my father’s parents who came here from Sicily at the dawn of the last century, or folks arriving every day. It is time America’s immigration system was updated, and I applaud members of both the House and Senate – Democrat and Republican – for taking this on, one slice at a time.


The Leadership Group’s Top Five Priorities for 2014

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December 18  |  Education, Federal Issues, Government Relations, Tax Policy, Transportation, Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Make your goals transparent and accountable.

Each year, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group creates a three-year rolling business plan. Designed by our 392 members, it sets priorities in 10 distinct areas in which we can add value to the Valley, state and nation: education, energy, environment, federal issues, local government, health care, housing, tax policy, transportation and the community. All told, we have 62 distinct deliverables in our rolling business plan.

Each initiative is selected, and each effort must be measurable.

For 2014, our top five priorities were set last week at our Annual Shareholders Meeting.

  • Number 1: Work for comprehensive U.S. tax reform that is fair to taxpayers at home and keeps us competitive abroad.
  • Number 2: Strengthen California’s higher education systems
  • Number 3: Advance the BART extension from Berryessa to Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara
  • Number 4: Fight for meaningful immigration reform
  • Number 5: Enhance California’s economic competitiveness through our 14-member Silicon Valley Caucus serving in our state Legislature.

By making our goals public – both to our members and to the broader community of citizens and stakeholders – we make ourselves accountable to everyone in our community.

To view our complete set of priorities in each of our ten priority areas, please visit the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s website. We would welcome the opportunity to engage you and your company in our work.

We face tremendous challenges in 2014, with plenty of opportunities to work together to forge our future success. We do this by setting clear goals that make us both transparent and accountable.

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Creativity Trumps Calamity: Bringing the Regional Patent Office to Silicon Valley

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November 20  |  Federal Issues  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Creativity is almost always the result of calamity.

On November 19, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and I announced at a news conference that our long-sought regional patent office is back on-track, set to open at San Jose City Hall in late 2014.

Finally, after four-plus years of effort, this dream will become a reality.

Yet our goal to secure a regional patent office was faced with significant hurdles:

  • Hurdle one: Securing language in the America Invents Act legislation that President Obama signed in September 2011. Without the stewardship of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and her colleagues, language allowing for three competitively selected regional patent offices would never have been included.
  • Hurdle two: Competing against 500 other bids for just three regional offices was difficult, especially because cost of living was a key criteria in the selection process.
  • Hurdle three: The sequester. Even though America’s patent system is funded by fees from America’s innovators and entrepreneurs, the federal government held it hostage in the sequester process. Once again, creativity overcomes calamity, especially in innovative Silicon Valley. Mayor Reed offered space at City Hall. Assembly Speaker John Perez secured funds for the office. Congressmembers Lofgren, Anna Eshoo and Mike Honda championed the cause within the Capitol and our own Silicon Valley Leadership Group pushed for a solution around the sequester.

The result – in late 2014 the Silicon Valley office will open. Patent examiners and judges will meet with innovators and entrepreneurs in the heart of America’s innovation economy – rather than making inventors travel all the way to Alexandria, Virginia to file and protect their patents.

So like Silicon Valley – we see a problem and design a solution. Creativity once again trumps calamity.

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America Needs Immigration Reform

August 1  |  Federal Issues  |   Carl Guardino

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group is once again taking a delegation of 12 CEOs – each running globally competitive, demanding companies – away from their own businesses to tend to our nation’s business. Investing three full days in Washington, D.C., these 12 CEOs will meet individually with more than 50 key members of the House of Representatives, pressing for comprehensive immigration reform.

What makes this trip unique is what makes Silicon Valley’s innovation economy unique:

  • First, we are primarily not going to D.C. to preach to the converted. Our meetings are with 50 members of the House who are not yet convinced we need comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Second, while the Leadership Group’s 400 member companies are primarily headquartered in Silicon Valley, our members have facilities and employees in all 50 states and in almost all 435 congressional districts. Our visits with 50 House members will underscore that we have one or more of our companies that has a physical presence in each of those districts.
  • Third, while our expertise in immigration reform is strongest on the need for high-skill, high-wage workers to continue to fuel America’s innovation economy, we also recognize the need for workers from around the globe engaged in high-tech, low-tech and no-tech; which is why our trip to D.C. is also coordinated with California’s essential agriculture industry. Together, we will make the case that a strong economy requires workers in all industries who were born here in the U.S. or desire to legally come here and contribute to our country.

Our country’s immigration system is broken. As Silicon Valley CEOs, we are committed to working with Congress to fix it.

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