During a statewide energy crisis, renowned Hewlett Packard co-founder, David Packard, hosted a gathering of 32 Valley visionaries on July 18, 1977. The luncheon conversation sparked the creation of a proactive employer organization to advocate for economic vitality and quality of life priorities in the region: the Santa Clara County Manufacturing Group, now known as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, was formed. The Leadership Group’s 33 original charter members focused on three timely and pressing issues; easing traffic congestion, improving housing opportunities, and promoting energy policy. Guided by three CEOs一namely Peter Giles and Gary Burkeduring in its first 19 years and Carl Guardino for the last 21 years 一the association has prospered, expanding to nine policy areas and nearly 365 member companies.
During its history, the Leadership Group called for more compact development to lower housing costs through an effective use of the Valley’s limited resources. With the establishment of the “Housing Action Committee,” crossing several cities and the company’s first housing study in 1981, the Leadership Group emphasized the need for jobs-housing balance. Its first success came in 1981 with the endorsement of Villa Vasona, a development for senior citizens and low-income residents.
By 1985, the Leadership Group partnered with six cities to form the Golden Triangle Taskforce linking transportation, housing, jobs, and land usage in policy initiatives. In the following decade, the Leadership Group formed the Housing Action Coalition to advocate, legislate, and educate for homes that are high-quality, affordable, and appropriately located to build better communities. The Leadership Group also created Silicon Valley’s “Housing Trust Fund” in 1998. In its first 17 years, the Silicon Valley Housing Trust has raised more than $110 million in voluntary contributions and leveraged more than $2.5 billion in private development, helping 25,000 individuals and families.
Leading collaborative efforts and partnerships, the Leadership Group continued to advocate for innovative transportation efforts in addressing the Valley’s stubborn but solvable transportation issues. During the 1980s, the Leadership Group was pivotal in key traffic initiatives such as creating the “Route 237 Task Force,” championing the County’s first Carpool Lane on Lawrence Expressway and the historic success of Measure A to build and/or improve Highways 101, 85 and 237.
Between the 1980s and early 2000s, the Leadership Group led six successful transportation measures including measures in 1984, 1996, 2000, 2008, and 2016. It was also the lead business voice to advocate for funding of the Altamont Commuter Express. However, 2016 proved to be the most successful year on record with the Leadership Group simultaneously leading two regional transportation ballot initiatives. The first was Measure B in Santa Clara County to fund “BART Segment Two” to Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara, with an additional $1 billion to further modernize Caltrain along with other important road, rail and transit improvements. The Leadership Group also co-led Measure D in Santa Cruz County to generate $400-500 million in funds for strategic transportation improvements.
The Leadership Group’s third core policy area in the 1980s and 1990s focused on energy. Joined by City Managers and environmental groups, policy leads drafted a stringent countywide ordinance to add further controls on toxic gases. In 1995, the newly named-Santa Clara Valley Manufacturing Group led the “Cash for Clunkers” program attracting more than 30 major employers to buy back more than 400 gross polluters, reducing pollution by more than 400 gross tons. The Leadership Group stepped into a key leadership role in 2010 defeating Prop. 23, thereby preventing enormous damage to California’s green economy and clean-tech sector.
In 2016, the Leadership Group took another giant leap in co-leading a nine-Bay Area counties initiative, Measure AA, generating $500 million over 20 years for San Francisco Bay wetland restoration and flood protection.
In addition to housing, transportation and energy, the Leadership Group solidified its policy leadership on education, the environment, health, tax, tech & innovation, and government relations. The Leadership Group’s more than 365 members collectively provide nearly one of every three private sector jobs in Silicon Valley and contribute more than $3 trillion to the worldwide economy.