SAN JOSE — A key business organization has charted paths for Silicon Valley to extricate itself from the economic quagmire created by the coronavirus and business shutdowns, according to a report released Wednesday.
The wide-ranging Silicon Valley Leadership Group report tackles multiple issues, including business recoveries from coronavirus-linked shutdowns, job creation, affordable housing, and protection of vulnerable residents affected by economic dislocations.
The proposals emerged from a group called the Silicon Valley Recovery Roundtable. That group began meeting months ago to fashion ways to get people back to work, help small businesses reopen their doors or avoid collapse, and to ensure that vulnerable residents participate in the economic recovery.
The Recovery Roundtable determined before much time had passed that the scope of its work would have to expand, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a letter that was part of the report.
“We soon realized we had an even bigger challenge to tackle: ensuring that we would return to a ‘better normal’ with a more equitable and sustainable economy,” Liccardo wrote.
The group met over the course of 100 days through mid-August in a series of meetings that included 59 chief executive officers and was headed by co-chair Carl Guardino, former president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
“The goal of this report is two-fold,” Guardino said. “We want to help our community through a global pandemic while emerging with a better new normal following an economic pandemic. We want to further ensure the health of our citizens and the economic health of all of our workers.”
One huge challenge facing Silicon Valley, according to the report: It’s simply not clear how quickly — and under what restrictions — countless businesses will be able to reopen in Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Alameda counties.
“Looking ahead, we face ongoing uncertainty as to the course and duration of the pandemic, creating the possibility of protracted periods of closing and reopening,” the report stated.
Fresh complications could emerge if the already bleak economic landscape persists or worsens. The report urged business, political, and health leaders to cobble together a game plan to address the prospect that after the deadly bug retreats, it could later intensify.
“To create the conditions that would make it easier for businesses to reopen and stay open during future resurgences of COVID-19, we recommend five initiatives,” the report stated.
The initiatives include the creation of a public and private partnership with health agencies to compare public health orders in the nine Bay Area counties, maintain a contact tracing task force, urge county agencies to create a team to help businesses establish internal contact tracing efforts, continue a coalition of mayors, called “the mayors’ circle”, that would test region-wide best practices for responding to ongoing coronavirus issues, and promote collaboration with small businesses.
One of the complications facing the region is that even before the onset of the coronavirus, Silicon Valley was already facing challenges from income inequality, a housing crisis, and crushing commutes.
The report stated that the region should promote six priorities to nudge Silicon Valley towards the ‘better normal’ the group seeks:
— Strengthen financial stability for individuals and businesses including better banking services for people of color.
— Drive job creation and support displaced workers.
— Preserve existing housing and create affordable housing.
— Reimagine local neighborhoods and reinvest in small businesses.
— Create a new generation of transportation.
— Bridge the digital divide.
“Our intention is for this report to function as a marketplace of ideas and an open-source tool for the entire Silicon Valley community to build upon,” the report stated.
Joint Venture Silicon Valley president Russell Hancock, whose group played a key role in the meetings and report, said the longer-term goals are crucial to the endeavor’s success.
“I’m most proud that the report goes beyond mere recovery,” Hancock said in comments emailed to this news organization. “The report is asking not only how we can come back, but how we can come back better. The Bay Area is already terrific, but we could be world-class if we put our minds to it.”