CREW Silicon Valley Presents: Silicon Valley Economic Development Panel

We were very pleased to be the program sponsor for the February meeting of CREW Silicon Valley. (

Christine Velasquez of AEI Consultants was chosen to be the moderator with three distinguished guests from local municipalities. Christina walked the panelist through questions regarding new developments, trends and their outlook for the new year.

Kim Walesh, Chief Strategist and Director of Economic Development for San Jose, gave a compelling argument for the pent up growth needs in the area and the desire to work together with surrounding cities to make Silicon Valley, regardless of city limits, the place for thriving high wage jobs. Ms. Walesh discussed the changing demographics of the area, which are projected to dramatically effect housing and workspace needs going forward.

Two segments of the population projected for dramatic growth are single, educated, under 35, professionals and the aging demographic moving into active retirement living. Highly visible national sports teams, cultural centers, effective mass transit and small single bedroom/studio apartment living spaces are all regarded as important factors in the competitive development of San Jose.

One of Ms. Walesh’s most humorous, and perhaps telling, comments reminding us of the time in our youth when we all just couldn’t wait to get our driver’s licenses. We dreamt about it, clipped pictures of our favorite cars and pestered our parents. However, the generation coming up wants to avoid driving and seems to do everything possible to delay getting that once coveted driver’s license. This generation overwhelmingly wishes to live close to work in small low maintenance units.

Ruth Shikada, Economic Development Officer at City of Santa Clara, echoed much of Ms. Walesh’s assessments and added that the city is working hard on the new stadium build and there will likely be some delays in services throughout the city departments as they work hard to meet deadlines on the build. The term “halo effect” was referenced several times in relationship to the larger projects in the area namely the new 49er stadium. The surrounding cities are fielding inquiries related to growth in supporting services such as hotels and hospitality. Ms. Shikada referenced that transportation issues around the stadium are the most pressing issues to be addressed in the coming months.

Connie Verceles, Economic Development Manager at the City of Sunnyvale, came with a message of service. Ms. Verceles presented strongly that the core focus of the city from the top down is to provide excellent service in all dealing with the public and business communities. Ms. Verceles noted that their most interesting and exciting trend has been the growth in manufacturing and R&D. Automotive R&D is very much alive in Sunnyvale with BMW, Audi and Nissan creating a presence in the market.

Overall the general consensus was that good growth is here and continuing. Solid mass transit options linking multiple types of transportation modes is critical to the overall success of growth initiatives and will require a collaborative effort of great proportion to get to the right solutions in place.

There was one somber note in the lively discussion: Each member of the panel responded to a question from the audience inquiring how each city is dealing with the absence of the Redevelopment Agency dissolved in early 2012. To which there were no good answers other than they are doing the best they can with what little is offered through the federal government in relation to incentives for affordable housing builds.

The CREW Silicon Valley board put together an outstanding lunch hosted at the Capital Club in San Jose with a lively and informative panel. The even was well attended with an estimated 120 attendees. It was a great honor to be the program sponsor for such an exceptional event.

Posted on September 23, 2015 .