Business Groups Urge Community Leaders to Help Solve Regional Issues

Residents of the Tri-Valley enjoy a high quality of life, a beautiful location, and a strong economy. Perspectives on the Tri-Valley: A Thriving Micro-Economy details many of the region's strengths. "The Tri-Valley is leading the Bay Area, and the state of California in job growth, income, quality of life, and growth in venture capital investment," notes the 2017 report from Mirador Capital Partners, a Pleasanton-based investment management firm.

But while the Tri-Valley economy is doing well now, that could change. Regional business organizations like Innovation Tri-Valley, the East Bay Leadership Council, the East Bay Economic Development Alliance (East Bay EDA), and the Bay Area Council have noted issues that could threaten the Tri-Valley's future - and are urging business leaders and residents to join together to find solutions.

Housing, transportation, and workforce education are the most immediate challenges facing the region, according to these organizations. They say that resolving these issues is critical to the future health of not only the Tri-Valley but the entire region.

Housing and Transportation

Between 2000 and 2015, the population in the Tri-Valley grew by 37%, while the Bay Area population as a whole grew by only 13%, according to Perspectives on the Tri-Valley. During that same period, Tri-Valley businesses created approximately 40,000 new jobs. Last year the Tri-Valley had the lowest unemployment rate, a tiny 2.7%, of the entire greater Bay Area.

The state's overall economic boom has sharply pushed up home prices to crisis levels, as reported recently by the New York Times in "The Rise of the Super Commuter." Those high housing prices have, in turn, led to a jump in the number of "super commuters," the people who must travel 90 minutes or longer to reach their workplaces.

"We're at a tipping point where we have people and jobs coming here but we don't have a place for them to live necessarily," says Dale Eldridge Kaye, CEO of the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group. "What creates the congestion and the transportation problem is people not being able to live in or near the communities where they work."

Darien Louie, the Executive Director of the East Bay EDA, agrees that housing is a key issue. "Housing seems to touch everything," she says. "Our employers are telling us that if there's not adequate housing in our region, it's really tough for them to attract employees at every level."

The rising cost of housing "is bad for people, is bad for families, is bad for businesses," says Kristin B. Connelly, President and CEO of the East Bay Leadership Council. Her group supported the Alameda County housing bond in the last election cycle and continues to work toward more housing. It is also examining ways to improve traffic congestion.

"I don't know a single company in the Bay Area that's not concerned about transportation and housing," says Michael Cunningham, Senior Vice President of Public Policy for the Bay Area Council.

Community Involvement Is Key

Kaye warns that the Tri-Valley must deal with these infrastructure issues or, like San Francisco, risk losing residents and companies to other areas. Business leaders noted that workforce development is another critical challenge that must be met to ensure that businesses new and old have access to the highly skilled employees they need.

Additional challenges include maintaining access to clean, ample water supplies; the growing yet largely hidden poverty found in suburban areas; and the potential impact of recent restrictions in immigration. "People underestimate our ties to immigration and how much that has contributed to the success to our region," says Louie.

Business group executives say Hacienda community members can help by joining their groups, joining other groups, or working independently to shape a better future.

"It's up to business leaders to go to city council meetings, talk to their elected officials, and make a case for why we have to focus on our young people, both educating them so they can work here and making it possible for them to live here," says Kaye.

Promising Possibilities

There are no quick solutions to the urgent challenges facing the Tri-Valley community, but there are reasons to be optimistic. Last year the California State Assembly passed a bill, supported by the business community, that eased restrictions on Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), or so-called granny units.

According to the Bay Area Council, an ADU is more energy and water efficient than a standard stand-alone home and cheaper to build. Moreover, income from renting an ADU may allow a homeowner to stay put in an increasingly expensive area. If ADUs become popular in the Bay Area, they could create 100,000s of additional housing units in a relatively short time, which would help ease an overly constrained housing supply. Several additional business-supported bills designed to help improve housing availability are also working their way through the legislature.

When it comes to transportation, in 2018 Bay Area residents may have an opportunity to vote on a measure to increase bridge tolls. If such a measure passes, it would fund several billion dollars of regional transportation improvements in the Bay Area. Those improvements would include expanding the number of BART cars to accommodate future growth and funding new carpools in areas without them.

But that is just the beginning of expected changes to the region's transportation system. "As long back as any of us can remember, transportation has been essentially a government monopoly," says Cunningham. That is changing. Many companies, including Hacienda, have developed small, private regional transit systems to fill gaps for their employees - and there's much more in the pipeline, he says.

The organizations below are actively involved in these important regional policy issues and offer resources, events, and other opportunities to address Tri-Valley challenges.

The Bay Area Council mobilizes business leadership on the key issues that affect the business climate and quality of life in the region. For more information about the Bay Area Council, visit .

The East Bay Economic Development Alliance is a unique cross-sector partnership of private, public, and nonprofit leaders in the East Bay counties of Alameda and Contra Costa. The group will hold its 2017 Fall Membership meeting at Hacienda's Rosewood Commons Conference Center on September 14. The breakfast meeting, which is free to the public, includes a presentation on the Bay Area Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and an update on the challenges and opportunities in regards to the cannabis industry. For more information about the East Bay EDA, visit .

The East Bay Leadership Council engages on issues of critical importance to the business community and the residents of the region through strategic public policy advocacy. On October 4 it is sponsoring an East Bay Leadership Series Part II: Leadership on Display luncheon featuring local Assembly members discussing California's biggest policy problems. For more information about the East Bay Leadership Council, visit .

Innovation Tri-Valley is a network of business leaders working to advance the business climate and quality of life in California's Tri-Valley. On October 5 the group sponsors the Dreammakers and Risktakers Awards Luncheon, which salutes student entrepreneurs from the Tri-Valley region whose ideas hold the promise to change the world. For more information about Innovation Tri-Valley, visit .

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