Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project

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March 9  |  Education, Housing, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . There are two ways to weather a storm – buy umbrellas or build boats.

In Silicon Valley, to battle the economic storms of international competition, the better way – the most successful way – is to build boats that lift everyone in our Valley when the inevitable rainstorms occur.

That’s why we commission the “Silicon Valley Competitiveness & Innovation Project,” in partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, comparing Silicon Valley with the other top five tech regions in the United States, as well as international regions like London, Seoul, Berlin and Beijing.

The findings – like our Valley – show that we have “high-highs” and some “low-lows.”

Our strengths are to be celebrated:
* Talent, risk-capitol and R&D, idea generation, commercialization and business innovation, labor productivity and jobs in innovation industries.

Our challenges are to be assessed and addressed:
* Cost of doing business, home and rental rates, traffic congestion, math proficiency in 8th grade, reading proficiency in 3rd grade and pre-school enrollment.

Take traffic – The average Silicon Valley commuter loses 75 minutes each week due to traffic congestion, above their normal commute time. As a region, we lose $5.4 billion annually due to congestion – in lost productivity, vehicle wear and tear and increased gas usage. During commute hours, our economy – literally – comes to a stand-still.

Concerned? Read more at Silicon Valley is still the innovation engine of the world, but resting on our laurels will move us from the driver’s seat to the back seat, which we cannot allow to happen.

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Deep Fried Fat

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March 2  |  Education, Health Policy  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Deep Fried Fat.

When I was a kid, the three words I heard most often from my mom were “eat your veggies.” I was fortunate to grow up in a middle-class home that focused on healthy foods and had the income to provide them.

Sadly, in many of our poorest neighborhoods, healthy food choices are less common, and foods often offered in our school cafeterias emphasize less healthy fare. “Eat your veggies” is all too often replaced with “deep fried fat.”

With your help, we are changing the game.

Our Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation, in partnership with Lam Research, is providing our schools and students with better options, through our “Salad Bars for Schools” initiative, funded through our Lam Research “Heart & Soles 5K” run or walk.

On Saturday morning, March 12th, at beautiful Lake Cunningham Park in East San Jose, please join me, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, State Assemblywoman Nora Campos, County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, City Councilman Ash Kalra, Lam Research CEO Martin Anstice, and County Office of Education Superintendent Jon Gundry for our 5K run or walk. Registration is easy here.

Context: In just the past two years, thanks to the generosity of our title sponsor Lam Research, The Health Trust and dozens of Leadership Group member company CEOs, we have already funded salad bars in 120 Silicon Valley schools, providing fresh fruits and vegetables every school day to 97,000 local students. This year, our ambitious goal is to provide salad bars to another 70 local schools, serving nearly 50,000 more kids.

Please join us. Bring family and friends. To meet our goal, we need at least 2,000 paid registrations for our 5K run or walk. Please register here today. If you cannot come, but want to contribute, you can do so at our “Heart & Soles 5K” website at

Thanks for your support. I look forward to seeing you Saturday morning, March 12.

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Diversity is the Strength of Silicon Valley

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January 6  |  Education  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Diversity is the strength of Silicon Valley. Yet we can and must be much stronger.

At the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the second highest priority in our 2016 work plan is to further diversify the STEM pipeline to meet the needs of our students, communities and companies.

This work is not for the faint of heart.

To diversify our high-tech workforce, our efforts must start at the cradle and extend through careers.

  • It’s why the Leadership Group was a founding partner for Educare Silicon Valley, providing early childhood education in East San Jose’s Santee Neighborhood for kids zero through four.
  • It’s why we helped champion the efforts of then state Senator Joe Simitian to offer all California school kids transitional kindergarten.
  • It’s why we partner with Mayor Sam Liccardo through our “1,000 Hearts for 1,000 Minds” tutoring initiative to match caring adults with K-8 kids in reading, science and math.
  • It’s why we have raised funds and placed 122 salad bars in 120 underserved schools, serving 98,000 Silicon Valley school children with more nutritious meal options.
  • It’s why we have hosted 15 Young Men’s and Young Women’s Leadership Summits, so that middle school students are aware that there are role models and mentors to keep them in school and on track.
  • It’s why we partner with Mayor Liccardo and Silicon Valley Education Foundation for “STEM with Mayor Sam” to motivate parents and students about careers in STEM.
  • It’s why our companies champion paid summer fellowships for teachers throughout the region through our partnership with IISME.
  • And it’s why we are now partnering with the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley to secure 500 scholarships for Latinos eager to major in STEM in colleges and universities.

Are these efforts worthwhile and important? Absolutely. Have we only scratched the surface? Absolutely. It’s also why we need you. If you are drawn to any of these initiatives, contact the Leadership Group today. Silicon Valley can further diversify our high-tech workforce. But it will happen sooner, and deeper, if we all work together.

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We Stand Tallest When We Help a Child

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December 9  |  Education  |   Carl Guardino

YMLS - Willie Brown

Willie Brown with 100 boys from Willie Brown Middle School and 70 male mentors

Here’s food for thought . . . We stand tallest when we bend down to help a child.

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group hosted our latest “Young Men’s Leadership Summit” on December 8 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.

With 70 caring, adult mentors and 100 middle school students from the Willie L. Brown Middle School in San Francisco’s Bayview District, we focused on the future of these bright, alive and energetic young men.

Coming from an area where nearly 90 percent of their student population is eligible for the government’s “Free and Reduced Price Lunch” program, these are great kids living in financially challenging neighborhoods.

Our focus was on a future made better by staying in, and excelling at, school. By studying math and science. By engaging with others through sports, the arts and in-school and after-school clubs.

A day of inspiration is always a step in the right direction. But a bigger step, the one we as adults all can make, is to take the next step to support and tutor a child. This holiday season, give a kid a better gift. For 2016, commit to just 1 hour a week, for as little as 10 weeks, through Reading Partners or other tutoring programs that link caring adults with K through 8th grade kids in a safe, supportive environments.

Want more information? Contact the Leadership Group. Check out our “1,000 Hearts for 1,000 Minds” tutoring initiative. Bend down; lift up a child. In turn, you will stand taller than you ever have before.

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Hearts 4 Minds

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July 29  |  Education  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . the ability to learn depends on the ability to read.

Up until 3rd grade, our kids learn to read. After 3rd grade, our kids read to learn.

That’s why reading at grade level by 3rd grade is considered a gateway skill – and why so much is known by 3rd grade as to whether a child will eventually graduate from high school or drop out of high school. Reading is essential.

It is also why my heart breaks that nearly 5 of every 10 3rd graders throughout Silicon Valley are not reading at grade level.

The good news . . . is that there is good news. Enter “1,000 Hearts for 1,000 Minds,” a tutoring initiative initially launched by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, which links caring adults with children – grades K-10 – for one-on-one tutoring in reading, science and math.

For as little as 45 minutes a week, for as short of a time duration of 10 weeks, each of us can change the life of a student.

School starts in just a few weeks. Will you join us in answering the bell? For more details, go to

If our kids can read, then they can succeed. The best part – YOU can help.


Whine or Win; It’s our Choice

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May 21  |  Education, Housing, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Whine or win; it’s our choice.

Are we here to whine about our problems, or work together for solutions?

On Friday, May 29, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and 24 incredibly diverse community partners will co-host our 4th Annual Regional Economic Forum, bringing together leaders from throughout the region.

The purpose of the forum will be to truly tackle what we call THEE issues.

The “T” is for Transportation & Traffic.

The “H” is for Housing & Homelessness.

The “E” is for Education & Workforce.

The second “E” is for Equity & Economic Opportunity.

Yes, we all know those issues are among the top challenges we face in Silicon Valley. But here’s the catch: No one at our Regional Economic Forum is allowed to whine about the problem, or re-state the challenge. Panelists and participants will only be allowed to discuss solutions – and preferably solutions that they will either personally lead or support.

When it comes to real solutions for transportation, housing, education and economic opportunity, it is past time we stopped whining, and focused on winning solutions to these seemingly intractable problems. We can continue to wring our hands together in discouragement, or join our hands together with encouragement.

If you agree, then come join us. Find out more at

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When Policy Gets Personal

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April 29  |  Education  |   Carl Guardino

Women leaders and middle school girls at our 2015 Young Women’s Leadership Summit

Here’s food for thought . . . Often, the best policies are driven from personal experience.

On May 16, 2009, the call came. A brave 17-year-old Latina from a small town in Utah had given birth to a 5-pound, 6-ounce baby girl — her second child in two years. Without a job or high school diploma, she made the gut-wrenching decision to entrust her newborn into the hands of strangers …my wife, Leslee, and me.

As we look at the trajectory of Latinas in Silicon Valley who graduate from high school, go to college, graduate with a STEM degree and work for one of our Valley’s innovation economy companies, the odds decrease to single digits.

This must change. Silicon Valley’s population is 27 percent Latino, a number that will grow to 40 percent by 2050. Already, kindergarten-aged students are close to 50 percent Latino, yet we are collectively not equipping those kids with the tools needed for 21st Century success.

It’s why yesterday, as one step in a long STEM pipeline, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group hosted its 14th “Young Women’s Leadership Summit” in just the past six years. More than 3,500 middle school girls have been inspired – and inspired us – with their dreams and determination for a life better lived with a diploma in hand.

For the Leadership Group’s workplan, the pipeline for education success is long – early childhood education; transitional kindergarten; tutoring in reading, science and math; healthy school meals, summer fellowships for teachers in tech-companies and scholarships for Latino students studying STEM in college. Yet we know that making meaningful change in the life of a child is not limited to one day of inspiration. Rather, it is a lifetime of validation.

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Role Models Matter

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June 4  |  Education  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Role models matter

Over the past four years, we have held 13 Women & Girls Summits at 13 underserved middle schools from San Jose to San Francisco, directly connecting with more than 3,000 girls and young women between the ages of 11 and 14.

Women tech leaders and elected officials have contributed time and treasure to these Summits to further ensure that middle school girls learn, first-hand, that women – often with similar life experiences growing up – have become successful both in their lives and livelihoods.

This fall, the Leadership Group will host our first “Young Men’s Leadership Summit” at an underserved middle school in the Franklin-McKinley School District in East San Jose.

The point is simple yet stunning – it is hard to overcome adversity. Too many low-income kids go to school hungry, have language barriers, are raised by single parents, are confronted by crime and may have inadequate or over-crowded housing.

Kids need – and deserve – to meet successful adults with shared experiences that they can emulate. They need you, and me, as role models and mentors.

Whether a one-day school-based Summit with young women and men, or tutoring opportunities with caring adults, our wealthy Valley can produce more healthy kids – often simply with the gift of time.

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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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“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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