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The Leader – March 2013

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Welcome to The Leader – Annual CEO Business Climate Survey

By Carl Guardino, President & CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group

We recently released our 10th Annual CEO Business Climate Survey – completed by 177 Silicon Valley CEOs and senior officers, who drive the earth’s innovation economy. They are cautiously optimistic about the Valley economy in 2013, with roughly half expecting to hire this year and only 10 percent expecting staff reductions.

The survey also identified strengths to celebrate and challenges to address.

The strengths, which I call the “six t’s” of Silicon Valley’s secret sauce:

1. Access to skilled labor – talent
2. Entrepreneurial mindset – temperament
3. Proximity to customers and competitors – territory
4. World class universities – training
5. Access to venture capital – treasure
6. The climate and weather – temperature
The challenges:
1. High housing costs
2. High personal income tax rates for our workers and families
3. Business regulations – especially the misuse of the California Environmental Quality Act
4. Traffic congestion
The full survey results are available here. Let’s make time to make a difference.

The Push for Immigration Reform

By Grace Kay, Federal & State Policy Associate

The drumbeat for comprehensive immigration reform is getting louder and louder – and from all corners of our country. Many expect that Congress will make 2013 the year for meaningful change.

But we need to keep pushing.

That’s why the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, in coordination with New York Mayor Bloomberg’s office, and other tech partners, launched the “March for Innovation.” The march is an effort to galvanize the tech community and others to participate in a “virtual march” on Washington in mid-April to create an internet “thunder clap” of support at one time specifically for high-skilled workers reform to keep our Valley and country competitive in the global economy. We hope you will join us. You can participate by signing up at

Our country has long-struggled with the need for reform, especially in Silicon Valley where there are countless stories illustrating how our H-1B and green card system is broken. Tech firms struggle to fill open positions with talented workers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, while those educated at our universities encounter many obstacles to obtaining visas.  Our competitors have already made necessary reforms to their immigration systems to attract talent, the U.S. cannot afford to keep losing the best and the brightest who seek to both work and start businesses here.

Fortunately, many diverse groups are also calling for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform package that deals with both high-skilled and low-skilled immigration issues. Both Congress and the Administration released comprehensive immigration proposals earlier last month.  A final, comprehensive bill is expected to begin moving through Congress in mid-April.

We applaud the bi-partisanship in Congress and support a comprehensive immigration package that accomplishes the following goals:

Earlier this year we took a dozen startup CEOs to Washington to press for reforms to allow more foreign high skilled workers innovate here. We’re going back at the end of this month with 60 mature company CEOs and senior executives to do the same thing. We hope you’ll join us in any way you can to make 2013 the year of meaningful immigration reform.

California and Silicon Valley needs a Delta Solution

By Mike Mielke, Vice President, Environmental Programs & Policy

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River supplies some 25 million residents with water, and helps irrigate millions of acres of farmland. Silicon Valley relies on water from the Delta to meet over 50 percent of our annual water needs. Yet, after decades of inaction, the Delta is at serious risk.  For example, we know that an earthquake could dissolve the Delta’s 150-year old network of fragile levees, allowing saltwater from San Francisco Bay to contaminate the water supply for much of the state.  The Delta’s complex ecosystem is also in decline due to agricultural, industrial, and urban runoff and an influx of invasive, non-native species. Left unaddressed, this crisis will adversely impact California’s economy, environment, and millions of residents throughout the state.

Few think the current status quo is sustainable, yet solutions have been mired in political stalemate. Some groups have recently come forward to suggest a “portfolio alternative” that calls for a scaled-down water transfer facility and additional, complementary investments in local water supply sources, south of Delta storage, levee improvements, and habitat restoration. While this approach has some merit, we believe the most reliable and cost-effective  approach is the plan backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, which would construct tunnels to channel water around the Delta, while at the same time addressing the ecological challenges in the estuary.  State and federal officials have invested nearly six years in developing this Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), and over the past several years, the Leadership Group has been actively working with the Brown Administration to help support the process. While the details are debated, the process has brought together local water agencies, environmental and conservation organizations, state and federal agencies, agricultural and other interests to develop science-based solutions that are publicly-available and reviewed by independent scientific experts.  As part of this process, the Brown administration is expected to publish an administrative draft of the plan later this month in order to give the public a better idea of what the actual proposed project will look like and to invite comments in an informal manner.   

As currently outlined, the BDCP will likely cost $14 billion. While this is considerable, we know that the cost of doing nothing would be far higher. In the meantime, the Delta’s ecosystem continues to deteriorate and its levees remain vulnerable, hurting the reliability of our water supplies.  This must be reversed as soon as is possible. We believe there is a strong business case for the kind of economic and environmental stability the BDCP would provide.



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