San Francisco often gets a bad rap when it comes to our business climate. Far too often we are known as a city with many costly mandates, taxes and fees. This may be true. But San Francisco is a great place for business.
As the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, our mission is to attract, develop and retain businesses in our city. Each year, we work with thousands of local companies to connect with resources and grow the bottom line. Working through the San Francisco Center for Economic Development, we talk to hundreds more seeking to relocate or expand in our city.
What we hear from these organizations helps explain the greatness of our city. These are the real truths behind San Francisco’s economic success, and they deserve repeating for all the businesses that have already chosen San Francisco as their home, and for those considering coming here.
At its core, San Francisco is a great place for business because it is hotbed of innovation. Whether it’s researching medical advances, developing new technology or coming up with the next big thing, San Francisco is a city of thinkers, creators and entrepreneurs.
This innovative spirit has helped make our city home to more than 5,000 creative-industry companies supporting 69,000 jobs, which continue to grow more than 4 percent each year. The biotech and cleantech sectors have created an additional 140,000 and 14,000 jobs respectively, with continued growth still on the horizon.
San Francisco’s culture is fueled by a diverse and highly educated workforce – which also makes the city attractive to business. Recently named as the “Best Educated City in the Nation” by Money Magazine, San Francisco boasts a population in which 51 percent of adults have a bachelors or graduate/professional degree. Reflecting today’s global society, 44 percent of local residents are bilingual, speaking over 112 different languages.
Success begets success, and San Francisco’s people and work ethic attracts a significant pool of capital funding, backed by a strong network of venture and private equity technology funds. The largest concentration of environmental investors is also located in our region. In total, the Bay Area receives 46 percent of all U.S. venture capital investment.
The city’s geographic location opens doors for global commerce. Easy access to shipping, trade offices and more than 75 international consulates has bolstered trade throughout the region. As a result, the Bay Area is now the largest exporting region to Asia and the Pacific and the seventh largest in the U.S. Initiatives like ChinaSF are further bolstering U.S. business abroad, while also attracting Chinese investment to San Francisco. Since its debut in 2008, the initiative has recruited more than 15 Chinese companies creating over 120 jobs in the city.
And let’s not forget about the quality of life in San Francisco. From the climate, to the arts, to the urban landscape, San Francisco’s unique character and lifestyle have made it not only a great place to live and work, but also a top tourist destination attracting more than 16 million visitors spending $8.3 billion every year.
All of these factors are keeping San Francisco on a positive economic trajectory. As many other cities in California and across the nation continue to struggle, San Francisco has held its unemployment rate at around 7 percent, well below state and federal trends. Commercial vacancy has declined to 11 percent. And median Bay Area home prices recently reached their highest levels in nearly four years.
Make no mistake; San Francisco has its challenges. Business must invest in themselves and work hard to succeed in our city, but the rewards are many. At ForecastSF, the Chamber’s annual job and economic summit on October 3rd at 8 am, we will be taking a closer look at what makes our city great, and the economic opportunities coming next for local businesses. We hope you will join us and join the conversation on Twitter with #ForecastSF.