Last week, over two dozen Bay Area business and civic leaders traveled to Washington, D.C. with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to make their voices heard on issues important to jobs and commerce in our region. This year’s CityTrip DC delegation met with more than 15 top lawmakers and administration officials to express support for critical infrastructure projects, clean and green energy investments, disaster preparedness and many other legislative priorities.
According to our delegation, there is wide recognition in Washington that the San Francisco Bay Area is a leader in economic recovery. During last week’s meetings, lawmakers and federal officials acknowledged the significance of the regional economy and expressed interest in supporting knowledge-based sectors – such as technology, research and medicine – to help bolster continued recovery efforts. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the Bay Area “a model for California” and stressed the role of innovation in creating jobs and reducing the deficit.
Skilled Worker Immigration Reform is one key area where lawmakers and the Chamber are aligned. Congressional leaders and representatives from the Department of Labor and the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness indicated that comprehensive immigration reform is imminent and will include Chamber-supported programs to expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and enable more college graduates to stay in the country to develop new technologies and industries in the United States. National immigration policy has proven inadequate to address the needs of companies competing in a global economy, and these actions will greatly help encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.
Lawmakers also remain committed to California High-Speed Rail – a key initiative championed by the Chamber. From the Department of Transportation, to the Federal Railroad Administration to Congressmembers Barbara Boxer, John Garamendi, Jackie Speier and others, policymakers are putting their full support behind the nation’s first High-Speed Rail project. While Congress awaits President Obama’s budget, administration officials signaled confidence that the first phase of the project – soon to begin in the Central Valley – will be constructed and remain committed to partnering on future phases. Administration officials are also optimistic about funding for key local projects such as the Central Subway Expansion and the Transbay Transit Center.
Attended by San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, Supervisor Malia Cohen and several other local leaders, this year’s CityTrip DC included a tour of the Red Cross Operation Center and meetings with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials to discuss building safety incentives, security communications such as the Chamber-supported BayWEB and other programs to promote disaster preparedness. The Chamber continues to work with SPUR and other organizations to help strengthen the region’s structural and economic resilience following an earthquake or other disaster.
The Chamber thanks our city leaders, members and sponsors who joined us in advocating for our city in Washington, D.C. last week. We also thank the lawmakers who met with us to hear firsthand about the challenges and opportunities facing our region and its businesses. And we again pledge our commitment to advancing our agenda for economic success throughout the year ahead.