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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We Are What We Eat

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March 26  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s Food for Thought . . . We are what we eat.

Healthy bodies are fueled by healthy food; but there’s more – healthy food also produces healthier students with healthier minds, fueled to learn.

That’s why the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation has teamed up with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and Lam Research CEO Martin Anstice to support our “Salad Bars for Schools” initiative, funded through our Lam Research “Heart & Soles 5K” run.

Our three-year goal is to provide salad bars in 105 Silicon Valley schools; with our year-one “stretch goal” to fund 30 salad bars.

Well, with the help of our 5K community sponsors – the San Jose Silicon Valley Changer of Commerce, South Bay Labor Council and the Santa Clara County Office of Education, we blew that goal away, funding all 60 schools that applied for salad bars.

Does it matter? Consider the facts:

  • Currently, 3 of every 4 kids don’t eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables.
  • Salad bars significantly increase the percent of low-income kids that eat fruits and veggies.
  • Salad bars improve the diets of kids by consuming fewer calories, less fat and less cholesterol.

All kids deserve healthy school meals. Our Foundation’s goal is to place a salad bar in every interested school in Silicon Valley. If you have the appetite to help, watch for news soon about next year’s “Heart & Soles 5K” and join us.

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Downtown San Jose, Spur to Action

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March 19  |  Uncategorized  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . When it comes to strengthening downtown San Jose, it is time we are spurred to action.

And thanks to a recent report by the civic group appropriately named SPUR, we have renewed reasons to focus on the future of downtown San Jose.

As the report shows, the key is to get more people into downtown San Jose to fill it with vibrancy and life. Downtown streets are packed episodically – for the Jazz Festival, our Silicon Valley Turkey Trot or Sharks games, for example – but on a day-to-day basis it still lacks the density of other downtowns, including regional neighbors like Oakland and San Francisco:

  • With roughly 36,000 jobs, downtown San Jose has less than half the employment of downtown Oakland – with more than 80,000 jobs – and less than one-eighth that of downtown San Francisco – with more than 300,000 jobs.
  • Downtown San Jose is home to less than 14,000 residents, just over half the number in downtown Oakland – with 23,000 residents – and about one-fourth of the residents in downtown San Francisco – with nearly 56,000 residents.

So what should we do about it?

  • First, focus on high-quality urban design and dense development of all kinds in downtown. This will not only result in a more connected, attractive place, it also encourages walking, biking and transit.
  • Second, maximize regional transit investments by holding sites adjacent to BART and Caltrain stations for job-generating uses. This is the best way to ensure high transit ridership and allow for the vibrancy and density downtown San Jose needs without causing gridlock.
  • Third, downtown San Jose is already the cultural, entertainment and creative urban center of the South Bay. Build on this strength by making it easier to start creative businesses and activate the streets and other public spaces.

Reports are great. Eliciting action is even better. Let’s use this report to spur action. Let’s build a downtown worthy of Silicon Valley.

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An Attack is an Opportunity to Correct

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March 12  |  Housing, Tax Policy, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Attacks are often opportunities to correct, rather than cower.

A wonderful opportunity recently occurred from a somewhat surprising source: A column in the well-respected San Francisco Chronicle that referenced our 11th Annual CEO Survey. The columnist opined: “… that Silicon Valley somehow operates in a self-contained world of greatness, where it takes no responsibility for the very problems it complains about.”

What a head-scratcher.

Here’s what our nearly 400 member companies have done to address broad community issues.

On housing, the Leadership Group:

  • Created the nation’s most innovative Housing Trust Fund, which has raised nearly $70 million in voluntary contributions, leveraging $2 billion in private development, already assisting more than 10,000 families.
  • Was one of two Co-Chairs of the 2002 $2.1 billion statewide Housing Bond and the 2006 $2.85 billion statewide Housing Bond, which provided housing opportunities for more than 200,000 low income Californians.
  • Is currently convening major Silicon Valley stakeholders to determine what meaningful and measurable role we can play to help eradicate homelessness in Silicon Valley. Homelessness is not a “bottom-line business issue,” per se, but a moral imperative to help the most vulnerable in our Valley.

On traffic, the Leadership Group:

  • Has led, not just supported, four successive sales tax measures collectively contributing $10 billion for regional transportation improvements, including:
    • A 1984 measure to fund Highways 85, 101 and 237.
    • A 1996 measure to fund 19 key road and transit improvements, all delivered on-time and on-budget.
    • Measures in 2000 and 2008 to fund the Silicon Valley BART extension and major Caltrain improvements.
  • Currently, we are convening stakeholder meetings for a new traffic relief measure slated for the 2016 ballot.

When one considers that businesses in Silicon Valley pay more than 40 cents of every dollar in sales taxes collected, this investment in our communities are costs we cannot pass on as we compete globally.

On taxes, the Leadership Group has:

  • Supported more tax increase proposals than it has ever opposed, including measures we have championed for education parcel taxes and school bonds, housing, homelessness, transportation, open space, parks, flood protection, clean water and even general fund revenue for local governments.

Yes, attacks can be opportunities. My goal is not to attack back, but to dialogue rather than to give in to divisiveness. The Chronicle columnist would have known better had he picked up the phone before picking up his pen.

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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“UC” is Everywhere “You See”

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February 27  |  Education  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . “UC” is everywhere “you see.”

When it comes to California’s higher education systems, the Golden State still rules the world. This includes our global-leading UC, CSU, community college and private university systems. Let’s focus for a moment on California’s ten-campus UC system.

First, our UC System is a ladder that lifts students up our economic ranks:

  • 42 percent of UC graduates come from lower-income households.
  • 46 percent of UC graduates were the first in their families to earn a college degree.
  • Nine of every 10 UC students are from California.

Second, our UC system is a hotbed for cutting-edge research and innovation:

  • Whether it’s high-tech, bio-tech, med-tech, clean or green-tech, innovators throughout the region earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from Berkeley or from one of the nine other UC campuses throughout the state.

Third, our investment is inadequate. The UC system, a jewel in the crown of our state’s economy, only receives 6.5 percent of its funding from the state of California. In fact, in real dollars, California invested only $6,000 per UC student in 2013. In 1993, 20 years ago, that investment was $16,000 per student. It is hard to get where we need to go when we are headed in the wrong direction.

We can do better, California. One way to ensure that we do is to invest in our world-class UC system; which maintains our world-class economy.

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100 Percent

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February 19  |  Community, Housing, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Whether you are part of the “1 percent,” or the “99 percent,” why don’t we all focus on the “100 percent?”

For the past 17 years, it has been my pleasure to serve as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group – a group of 385 progressive, proactive, problem-solving CEOs who focus on solutions to some of our region, state and nation’s most pressing problems. Perhaps it is simply the culture of our remarkable region, but we focus on issues that impact all of us – 100 percent:

  • Do homeless issues in San Jose and San Francisco, and every city in between, impact tech companies’ bottom-line? Not really. But from our vantage point, turning a blind eye to people in need is morally wrong; which is why working to help abate homelessness is a key goal in our work plan.
  • Does traffic congestion and a lack of transportation options effect our employers’ ability to recruit and retain top talent? Only tangentially, as other resilient regions like New York, Chicago, London and Tokyo have equally challenging traffic conditions. Yet we have led numerous successful efforts to provide traffic solutions; to bring BART to Silicon Valley, improve and electrify Caltrain, build Highways 85 and 237, and numerous other specific solutions. Yet, traffic is back, and so are our efforts for a new iteration of traffic solutions – to serve all of us – which will be our focus for the next three years.

Here’s a thought. If through hard-work, risk and an element of luck, you are part of the “1 percent,” never forget those who aren’t. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to help others.

If you are part of the hard-working “99 percent” of American citizens fighting each day to hold a job, pay for housing and feed your family, let’s count the blessings we do have, and continue to serve others with the time and treasure we can afford.

In Silicon Valley, let’s never allow sharp elbows to replace joined hands. Together – 100 percent – we can make positive change.

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Kids, Eat Your Veggies

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February 12  |  Community  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . “Kids, eat your veggies.”

How many times did each of us hear that admonishment as a child? In my house, it was often met with groans and grumbles.

Yet it worked. By making fruits and vegetables attractive and accessible, my parents engrained in me a love for healthy foods.

This should take place in every child’s house, as well as every “school house” – and through our “Salad Bars for Schools” campaign with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the Health Trust and title sponsor Lam Research, our Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation is doing just that.

Our ambitious 3-year goal is to place salad bars in 100 Silicon Valley K-8 schools. The research is clear and compelling: If kids have healthy choices, they actually eat them. Imagine that.

In year one of our 3-year goal, we are able to fund salad bars in 35 local schools through our inaugural Lam Research “Heart & Soles 5K” run. On February 8, on a soggy Saturday morning at San Jose’s Hellyer Park, nearly 900 hearty soles registered for our run. Along with the generous support of 20 Silicon Valley Leadership Group companies, thousands of school kids will eat better every school day.

Fruits and veggies. Salad bars in schools. Now that’s an effort that’s easy to swallow.

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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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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.

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