Getting on the calendar of a major metropolitan mayor is no small task. But San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee manages to squeeze in a weekly site visit to a local company. Oftentimes, these visits take place at a technology company — he has more and more to choose from these days, thanks to an aggressive agenda of luring tech startups to San Francisco.
Focused efforts to ensure that small companies mature to tech heavyweights within San Francisco’s borders are reaping rewards — media reports document evidence that the epicenter of Silicon Valley could be shifting north. High-tech job growth in San Francisco and surrounding San Mateo and Marin counties is outpacing that of the San Jose area by more than three times. The city’s 1,800 startups and tech firms together drew more than $1 billion in venture capital funds in just the first quarter of 2013.
When social media powerhouse Twitter told Lee that the city’s payroll tax would force the company to move, Lee seized the opportunity to keep it in San Francisco, while redeveloping downtown’s Mid-Market area. A targeted tax break turned a seedy neighborhood rife with vacancies into a thriving technology sector.
And the momentum seems only to be building. Lee’s Office of Innovation launched the San Francisco Entrepreneurship in Residence program in 2013, offering an on-premises incubator at City Hall, meant to apply startup ingenuity directly to “pain points” within government itself. Nearly 200 applications came in from domestic and international locales, and the handful of participants selected will work alongside city officials on developing urban solutions that can be scaled for other communities.
Lee also is proving himself a champion of the open data cause, furthering the work began under his predecessor, now Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, on the city’s open data portal, DataSF. On Lee’s watch, data sets continue to be added, and new legislation spreads the open data mission throughout the organization, mandates department-level data coordinators, and creates a chief data officer position for the city.