Government Relations

In Conversation with Senator Dianne Feinstein

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September 3  |  Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino
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Here’s food for thought . . . Words are weapons; they can build people up or tear people down.

Recently, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group had the pleasure of hosting California’s senior Senator Dianne Feinstein – a leader I have long admired for bringing civility and bipartisanship to the United States Senate.

In our 55-minute, on-stage conversation before 315 CEOs and Silicon Valley leaders, the Senator shared her views on important economic issues ranging from cybersecurity, immigration reform, patent reform and BART to San Jose; as well as ominous global issues like the violence in Ukraine and the Middle East, with senseless slayings of American journalists and thousands of Christians and other minorities by the terrorist organization known as ISIS.

What was most inspiring about Senator Feinstein was much more than her deep grasp of a wide range of issues, or her solid advice on the politics of moving intricate policy items forward. Instead, it was her genuine warmth for everyone in the room. Whether a Fortune 500 company executive, a startup CEO or the interns who volunteer in our offices, the Senator was generous with her time and gracious with her comments.

The luncheon session ended with a question on what brings her hope. Her response: Citizens in our state and nation who care about our communities, and contribute with their time and talent.

For 55-minutes, the entire hall of Valley leaders was spellbound – listening and learning from a leader who has earned our respect and admiration. Rather than tearing others down, we once again witnessed a leader dedicated to lifting others up. Our country would be well-served by more leaders like her.

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Anna and Zoe: Covering Silicon Valley from A to Z

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July 8  |  Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . In Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley is covered “from A to Z.” Anna and Zoe, that is.

Last week, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group had the pleasure of hosting a small group CEO roundtable with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo.

The week prior, the Leadership Group held a similar roundtable with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.

For nearly two decades, Silicon Valley – in fact, much of America’s innovation economy – has been fortunate to have these two key leaders represent our priorities in the halls of the United States Congress.

Just how do they add value? Let me count the ways . . .

Anna is a senior member of the important House Energy and Commerce Committee. Its jurisdiction oversees roughly one-fifth of the U.S. economy. She is our point person on numerous issues of importance to Silicon Valley’s success.

Zoe serves on the House Judiciary Committee, and is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee that oversees immigration reform, and is our go-to leader on issues like patent reform and cybersecurity.

They are effective individually, work well together and with the rest of our Bay Area delegation. In fact, Zoe serves as the Chair of California’s Democrat Caucus, weekly pulling together 33 Congress members.

Anna is currently campaigning to become the Ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, a pivotal role which would make her even more influential in representing technology issues in Congress.

What makes them even more effective is their ability, and willingness, to often reach across the aisle to partner with members of the Republican Conference. Yes, smart politics also makes for sound policy. With Anna and Zoe, Silicon Valley gets both.

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Good Guys Finish First

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June 26  |  Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . “Good guys finish first.”

My friend and mentor Tom Werner, the successful CEO of SunPower Corporation, one of the largest solar companies in the world, lives by that mantra.

It underscores his core belief that decency, ethics and genuine concern and care for your employees, their families and our community is a positive force for business success.

I believe it is also true for political success, which seemed to be the case a week ago when Congressman Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield was elected by his colleagues to the second most powerful role in Congress as majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

What makes McCarthy’s rise even more impressive is that he has only served in Congress for less than eight years. In a system that seems to reward seniority more than anything else, his ascent is unprecedented.

Yet his rise also underscores the maxim by Tom Werner that “good guys finish first.” You see, McCarthy leads – not by confrontation – but by collaboration. With his colleagues he has a simple three-part request, “vote your conscience, vote your district, don’t surprise me.”

One of McCarthy’s strongest traits is an inherent ability to first listen and learn, and then lead.

He has also taken a long-time, long-term interest in Silicon Valley’s innovation economy. While many politicians try to treat Silicon Valley like an ATM machine – only visiting long enough to make withdrawals of campaign cash, McCarthy is different. Rather than withdrawals, he has invested more than a decade making deposits of time and interest in the technologies and policies to help keep Silicon Valley competitive on a global scale. I often say about Congressman McCarthy – we may not always agree 100 percent of the time, but I know he listens 100 percent of the time.

In the rough and tumble of politics in D.C., it is encouraging that a decent guy, with small town roots and values, has risen to such an important position.

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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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Priorities for 2014: Enhance California’s Economic Competitiveness through Our Silicon Valley Caucus

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February 5  |  Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Silicon Valley is one of the strongest brands in the world. Those who represent our region in the state and nation’s Capitol should be equally strong.

It is with that belief that the Silicon Valley Leadership Group reached out four years ago to the 14 state legislators who represent our region in the state Capitol, with the idea of forming a “Silicon Valley Caucus.” The Silicon Valley Caucus now consists of those 14 legislators along with approximately 30 CEOs from innovation economy companies ranging from young startups to global leaders; high-tech, bio- and med-tech, clean and green tech, VCs and financial services.

The first meeting, four years ago, was like a junior high school dance, with the “boys” on one side of the room and the “girls” on the other. Today, our legislators and employers are working together, tackling issues of importance to our region, state and nation.

In the last legislative session, together we championed legislation by Senator Jim Beall for traffic improvements, by Assemblyman Rich Gordon for affordable housing funds, by Assemblyman Phil Ting on job creation and by Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Nora Campos to assist startup entrepreneurs.

In 2014, California faces a drought, the crumbling conditions of our roads and bridges, high rates of homelessness, a need for streamlined regulations, strengthened K-12, pre-K and higher education systems, and a whole host of other issues of importance to employers in their board rooms and workers and their families in their living rooms.

That is why the Silicon Valley Caucus continues. The Leadership Group neither endorses nor contributes financially to candidates. That is the role of our citizens. Our role is to work closely with whomever our citizens elect, for the good of our region and our state. If we are successful, the brand we call Silicon Valley will continue to create jobs and innovation right here in the Golden State.

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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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San Jose’s Samsung Partnership is Smart Public Policy

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March 27  |  Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s Food for Thought . . . San Jose’s Samsung partnership is smart public policy.

For the past two weeks,headlines have read that San Jose was preparing to give Samsung Semiconductor $7 million to expand its Research and Development facilities on North First Street.

The incentive package was not in cash, but rather, in reduced fees like traffic impact fees, utility taxes and production and assembly equipment purchases.

The upside? Samsung will grow its Research and Development workforce from its current head count of 370 high-tech, high-skilled, high-wage jobs to an anticipated 2,000 employees ten years from today.  That’s 1,630 new high-tech jobs in San Jose.

Much has been written about the $7 million incentive package, but little of the coverage has mentioned the $23 million that will be generated for city residents from the Samsung expansion in terms of property tax revenue, business and utility taxes. That is a net gain of $16 million.

In addition, the City wisely included “Claw Back” provisions that Samsung would need to pay if the promised jobs and expansion never materialize.

Why does this matter to San Jose residents? Easy.  Samsung is creating hundreds of new jobs for future employees, on a project which will also create hundreds of construction jobs to build the ten-story building and nine-story parking structure. In addition, San Jose shows it can compete against other regions, states and nations. Kudos to Mayor Reed and the City Council for a wise investment with a three-fold return.

Turning Red Tape to Red Carpet

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March 19  |  Government Relations  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s Food for Thought…  “Turning red tape to red carpet.”

The phrase coined by my friend and colleague Lucy Dunn, my counterpart at the Orange County Business Council, could not be more appropriate in describing the leadership of Assembly Speaker John Perez and his Assembly colleagues. The Assembly unanimously passed Speaker Perez’s Assembly Bill 113 on Monday to ensure the business filing processing time at the Secretary of State’s office is streamlined from a currently unacceptable 63 days to no more than 5 business days by November.

It recently came to light that the Secretary of State’s office has a backlog of at least 122,000 business filings, primarily from startups and small businesses. In an increasingly competitive world, large states like New York manage their filings within seven business days and Texas is down to five business days. Adding insult to injury, in the Golden State where the heart of technology reigns, much of the business filings process cannot even be done online as it is in these other states.

This is sound policy, coupled with standards and accountability, and solid leadership by Speaker Perez. It’s also why I was proud to be asked to serve as his primary witness before the Budget Committee and to speak first at his press conference upon passage of the bill off the Assembly Floor. I later met with state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg who proactively promised, similar quick action, in the upper House.

This is the type of bi-partisan action we need in Sacramento to keep California moving.

Bay Area Bid for Super Bowl

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March 13  |  Government Relations, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Bringing the Super Bowl to the Bay Area would be – well – super!

Last fall, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee asked me to serve on the bay area Super Bowl Bid Committee, to bring the championship game to the 49ers new Santa Clara stadium in 2016 or 2017.

Joining 16 other Bay Area leaders, we have focused on logistics, transportation, media, hotel space and fundraising.

To successfully secure the Super Bowl, we must also show pledges totaling $30 million or more.  Thanks to the generosity of several companies in the Bay Area, many right here in Silicon Valley, nearly half of those pledges have been realized.

It all comes down to one day.  On May 21st, the 32 NFL team owners will gather to select the winning bid.  We have two chances:

>> For 2016, the bay area is competing against Miami, which has hosted more Super Bowls than any other region.
>> The loser of that vote then immediately competes against Houston for the 2017 Super Bowl game.

The economic impact of landing a Super Bowl exceeds $500 million for our region.

The social impact – priceless.

You don’t have to be a football fan to recognize the value in bringing tens of thousands of visitors to our region for the two weeks leading up to the game.

There’s another benefit as well.  Regional collaboration. Setting any vestiges of parochial politics aside, the mayors of San Francisco, Santa Clara, San José and Oakland have made for a formidable offensive line to bring the Bowl to the bay area.

Together, we can win this.  Game on.

CEO Business Climate Survey: Celebrate our Strengths, Work on our Weaknesses

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March 6  |  Education, Environment, Government Relations, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

We recently released our tenth annual CEO Business Climate Survey – completed by 177 Silicon Valley CEOs and senior officers, who drive the earth’s innovation economy.

The message was clear – celebrate our strengths, while also acknowledging and addressing our weaknesses.

First, our strengths, which I call the “six “t’s” of Silicon Valley’s secret sauce:

* Access to skilled labor – talent
* Entrepreneurial mindset – temperament
* Proximity to customers and competitors – territory
* World class universities – training
* Access to venture capital – treasure
* The climate and weather – temperature

Second, our weaknesses:

* High housing costs
* High personal income tax rates for our workers and families
* Business regulations – especially the misuse of the California Environmental Quality Act
* Traffic congestion

The full survey results are available on our web site at svlg.org. Let’s make time to make a difference.