A Message About the 2021 Index
They say it takes a crisis to reveal one’s true character.
That certainly seems to be the case with Silicon Valley and the upheaval wrought by COVID-19. It has shown our region to be many laudable things: compassionate, resilient, resourceful, dynamic, and possessing an economic engine that performs remarkably well under stress.
This year’s Index shows all of these enviable qualities in living color, including more than $94 million generated (and quickly!) for emergency response and relief, the centrality of Silicon Valley products and services in a sheltering world, the resulting market share of our driving industries, their prodigious performance on the stock markets, venture capital somehow approaching record highs ($46 billion), and the Valley making major contributions—through genomic sequencing and supercomputing—to the race for a vaccine.
Improbably, we even found our home values rising by five percent, despite general tumult and a striking pattern of techies relocating.
But the crisis has revealed another aspect of our character more clearly than ever, and it is deeply disturbing: Silicon Valley has a grotesque set of disparities. Our high-octane tech economy has masked the despair in our service sector for many years, but the pandemic has ripped the cover off, showing that despair turning into grief and destruction.
We used to lament that in Silicon Valley the rich kept getting richer while the poor became poorer. Today we must frankly admit that the pandemic has made the rich richer while the poor are dying. Hispanic rates of COVID infection are fifty percent higher than the rest of the population. Unemployment in the service sector and the “in-person” economy shot up beyond 30 percent, while the “work from home” economy essentially maintained full employment. Fully half of our Black and 42 percent of our Hispanic households are facing high risk of eviction and living with food insecurity. In the past year Silicon Valley’s essential workers have had to make impossible choices between sheltering (and therefore not working) or working (but exposing themselves to the virus).
But they also say crisis breeds opportunity. Ours is the chance to build back better. Our region has the wherewithal, the ingenuity, and a renewed commitment on the part of our leaders. Our noble service providers and heroic frontline workers emerge from the crisis with newfound stature. Employers express heightened resolve to create new ladders of opportunity, and to make diversity and inclusion a priority in their hiring practices. There is even a sense that we can keep the air quality gains that sheltering forced on us, and that Silicon Valley can bring fresh leadership to the planet’s climate crisis.
In terms of our character, the coming months will be the most telling. This organization is committed to providing the framework—and the data—for the decision-making ahead.
President & Chief Executive Officer
Joint Venture Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies