Report Indicates Looming Silicon Valley Tech Bubble

Soaring home prices, clogged traffic routes and a leaking talent pipeline are all hazards that could imperil the region's employment boom.

by George Avalos, Contra Costa Times / March 3, 2016

(TNS) — SAN JOSE — Silicon Valley's tech workforce is expanding more rapidly than nearly every other innovation hub in the nation, and technology employees in the South Bay are far more productive than anywhere in the United States, according to a report released Wednesday.

"While Silicon Valley continues to have a white hot economy and high job growth, there are several warning signs," according to the Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project 2016, which released the study as a kind of report card on the region's economic health.

Home prices that have soared, traffic routes that have become clogged, and a talent pipeline that is leaking as measured by faltering science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees, are all hazards that could imperil the employment boom of the region's technology sector.

The report's authors warned that the region must undertake an array of improvements to help it navigate through treacherous waters. For the purposes of the report, Silicon Valley is defined as Santa Clara County, San Mateo County and San Francisco.

"There are two ways to weather a storm, buy umbrellas or build boats," said Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, one of the authors of the study. "In Silicon Valley, to battle the economic storms of international competition, the better way, the most successful way, is to build boats that lift everyone when the inevitable rainstorms occur."

Improved transportation, additional -- and affordable -- housing, and upgraded education programs for science, technology, engineering and mathematics students, are all needed in Silicon Valley, the report's authors urged.

An estimated 443,000 people work in the innovation sector in Silicon Valley, according to the report. That's an increase of 7 percent in the total number of innovation jobs in Silicon Valley in a one-year period.

"Silicon Valley's economy continues to outpace economic growth in many parts of the country," said Emmett Carson, president of Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

The number of innovation jobs in Silicon Valley has grown 7 percent in a year, the report estimated. That's ahead of innovation job growth of 2 percent in the Seattle area, New York City region, and Boston metro area, and 1 percent in Southern California. However, Silicon Valley's growth is well behind the 11 percent increase in innovation jobs in the Austin, Tex. area.

"Austin may be gaining on Silicon Valley," the report stated.

Nevertheless, technology workers in Silicon Valley appear to be more productive than their counterparts in other regions.

In 2014, Silicon Valley innovation workers produced $225,000 in added value per employee annually, according to an analysis by Collaborative Economics of federal data. The next closest in productivity was New York City, where tech workers produced an average of $205,000 in added value per year.

"Our report underlines that we still struggle with rising housing prices and severe transportation issues that cause many people to leave the area," Carson said. "We will keep pushing for public policy leaders to address these and other issues so that Silicon Valley will remain both the world's center of innovation and a great place for all to call home."

©2016 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.