Silicon Valley has entered a new phase in its dynamic evolution. The economy is clearly growing and transforming, evidenced by the region adding more than 30,000 jobs over last year’s total. Moreover, the employment gains are quite broadly based, spanning most sectors of the economy and not just our driving industry clusters. Per capita income, average pay, and value-added per worker have been on the rise now for three years running, but over the past year they showed substantial increases. Venture capital, always our strength, is showing a shift into some important new areas like renewable energy and clean technology.
Is Silicon Valley leading America to a new energy future? It’s too early to tell, but it is interesting that local entrepreneurship in these new sectors is being matched by some significant trends in the way we develop, and the way we live.
The density of new housing units is at a historic high, and continues to increase. Forty percent of new units are located near transit. Valley residents are embracing alternative energy, in their vehicles and in their homes. Protected and accessible open space continues to grow.
Yes, there’s a great deal that is encouraging in our report, and yet we have some major challenges to address. Some of these challenges are old and familiar: though our income averages are impressive, we all know that averages don’t tell the whole story. The portion of residents unable to afford median-level housing is increasing, and foreclosures are spiking upward. Too many are unprepared to compete in today’s economy. It’s alarming to see juvenile crime on the increase. Our cities, overly dependent on the most volatile revenue sources, face shrinking budgets. Our educational institutions are straining under the demands heaped upon them.
But some of our challenges feel new, or at least less familiar. They relate to our competitive position in the global economy, and our transformation as a global region. You can read about them in our Special Analysis section, where we observe that Valley companies are now thoroughly global—including even our start-ups, from the time of their inception. You’ll also read that Silicon Valley now ranks among the world’s most culturally diverse regions, with forty percent of our workforce coming from overseas.
These are developments to celebrate, because they go to the heart of our success, but they also raise important questions: how do we address local issues when our companies and even our people are increasingly less tied down to place? Are we looking at a future where our companies do well in the global scheme, and yet the region doesn’t prosper? At Joint Venture we want to be as innovative about these broad community challenges as the Valley’s entrepreneurs have been with their commercial challenges. We invite you to join us.