Phil Ting: ‘Why China Matters to San Francisco’

From San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting in an email from earlier today: 

I recently returned from a trip to Shanghai, China where I was invited as a speaker representing the City and County of San Francisco at the Bay Area Council – Yangtze Council Venture Capital Summit.  I went on the trip because I believe our relationship with China is crucial to the economic and cultural health of our city as China re-emerges as one of the world’s largest and strongest economies.

San Francisco has been intertwined with China for generations, but over the last 30 years the cultural and economic influences of Chinese Americans in San Francisco has risen dramatically and as China has developed, more San Franciscans have been drawn there to invest in and open companies in China and Shanghai. With $1.4 trillion in foreign reserves, it will only be a matter of time before Chinese companies start coming to the U.S. to open up North American operations.  San Francisco needs to be the place to where those companies want to locate.

We know that when a critical mass of Chinese companies decides they want to be in a particular city, then all the future Chinese companies moving to the U.S. will end up in that city.  Just look at the Japanese community in Los Angeles as an example – in the 1980’s all the major Japanese companies located to Los Angeles, resulting in Los Angeles being the city where all future Japanese companies would locate.  If San Francisco loses this race to attract Chinese businesses, I believe our economy will be set back and we will have lost out on one of its most important economic opportunities of this century.

So what can San Francisco do to attract businesses to our city?  First, we must show leadership and actively seek out and encourage businesses to locate to San Francisco.  We can provide incentives like our clean tech payroll tax exemption for companies with 15 or more employees opening up offices in San Francisco.  We can develop consumer incentives like my Solar Task Force’s recommendation to provide an incentive to homeowners and commercial property owners to put solar panels on their roofs.  This incentive of up $6,000 for homeowners and $10,000 for property owners will create significantly more demand for solar power in San Francisco and will make it more attractive for solar companies to locate to San Francisco.  Lastly, we can make sure that when businesses are starting up and rely on our city to provide services such as permits and licenses, we make that process as easy as possible for them.

San Francisco is a center of innovation and a driving force for change in public policy. While many politicians have incorrectly stated that economic growth must be sacrificed to save the environment, we in San Francisco know this is not true.  By investing in clean technology companies like SunTech, the largest Chinese manufacturer of solar panels, we know we can do both.  SunTech is a great example of the link between the public and private sectors’ drive to combat climate change and protect our environment.

I am now working with Mayor Newsom to help establish the China Desk.  One of our goals is to attract clean technology companies from China and encourage them to set up their North American headquarters in San Francisco.  By planting the seeds today, we know this relationship will bear fruit for San Francisco for years to come.

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