The year past was one of dramatic change for our region.
Twelve months ago Silicon Valley was experiencing above-average growth rates and we were still somewhat insulated from the financial crises taking hold on the nation. This is no longer the case. Since November we have seen a steep spike in job losses and a sharp rise in commercial vacancies. The pace of these losses is increasing.
Over the years, the Index has documented the way Silicon Valley has weathered many similar downturns. In the 1980s, we faced down stiff global challenges in our mainstay, the semiconductor industry. In the 1990s, we coped with major downsizing in the defense sector. In the early stages of this decade, we dealt with the dot-com bust and some severe external shocks. Each time Silicon Valley retrenched, restructured and rebounded.
Today we’re racked by the collapse of our nation’s financial institutions, a meltdown in the housing markets and a global climate crisis, and yet here too we may already be seeing the seeds of a Valley comeback. It is being driven by our newly emerging “green” economy and the pages here show investment in clean technology growing 94 percent since 2007. Jobs in this sector grew 23% since 2005. We document how we’ve become a magnet for green innovation and a new epicenter for solar technology. We see these as hopeful trends, and not merely because they chart a path out of recession; they also show the nation a path to a new energy future.
Capitalizing on the opportunity requires some fundamental restructuring, particularly with respect to our region’s workforce. The growth sectors have functional characteristics that require training and re-tooling, and transitioning our present workforce out of the old and into the new is far from automatic. More than ever, we need effective institutions helping the Valley’s workers upgrade their skills and shift occupations.
In response to these changes—and to seize upon our opportunities—this year’s State of the Valley conference features the release of three complementary reports:
- The Index, expanded this year to include all of San Mateo County, continues to track overall trends in the economy and community.
- A separate “Special Analysis” provides a more in-depth look at the impact of economic restructuring on workforce transitions.
- Additionally, Joint Venture is providing a “Greenprint” outlining the region’s opportunities in the green economy and proposing a game plan for the coming decade.
Our two organizations are proud to provide a careful accounting of where Silicon Valley stands, and to do it on an annual basis. Regions that want to thrive first of all need a means to assess themselves, and we’re glad to provide it.