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Public Affairs

President discusses education/economy linkage

March 23, 2005

Photo of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, President Corrigan and San Franciso Chamber of Commerce President Steve FalkMore than 1,200 business, community and city leaders from throughout San Francisco convened Monday, March 13, at Moscone Center West for the annual CityBeat luncheon of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Mayor Gavin Newsom, Chamber President and CEO Steve Falk, and SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan, the Chamber's board chairman for 2006, were among the officials and dignitaries who addressed the gathering.

President Corrigan's remarks follow:

Thank you, Steve. And thank you Carl Nolte, for so eloquently capturing the unique character of this city, and its exceptional ability to create, transform and always move forward.

You were right, Carl, in observing that this is a city like no other. Correct to say there seems to be something in the air that makes San Francisco special. But I don't think it's fog or sourdough -- I think it's the electricity of so many brain synapses firing away.

As a university president I'm acutely aware of just how smart this city is -- and acutely aware that while a good amount of muscle and brawn helped San Francisco rise from the ashes a century ago, it is the remarkable brainpower of our population that has kept the city on a path of growth and accomplishment.

In any successful city, the business community and the educational community are tightly intertwined. Each benefits from the other; each supports the other. In San Francisco, the bond is especially strong, which makes it a rare honor and privilege for me as a university president to serve as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce board.

Let me outline briefly the ways in which I think education -- specifically higher education -- and the San Francisco business community have worked together, and can work together in the future.

Photo of President Corrigan speaking at the CityBeat luncheonConsider first the size of higher education as an industry, as a key employer in the city. The latest list of San Francisco's largest employers, compiled by the San Francisco Business Times, reveals that three of the city's top 15 employers are in the business of higher education: the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), City College and San Francisco State University. Together, they provide jobs for 24,973 individuals.

That figures means that together, these three institutions have more employees in San Francisco than Wells Fargo, PG&E, the Gap, Macy's and Charles Schwab combined. With its 19,138 employees, UCSF is, in fact, San Francisco's second largest employer, behind only the City itself.

Higher education's economic impact is enormous. San Francisco State University alone spends $567 million in the Bay Area each year, generating a total economic impact of nearly $1 billion. Our university sustains more than 13,000 jobs in the region, and generates nearly $53 million per year in tax revenue.

But it's not the number of employees, or the dollars spent, that truly measure higher education's value for the City. The true impact can be seen in the product: our graduates.

Today, with rapid changes in technology and the emergence of a global marketplace, business and industry have never depended more upon the educated and skilled workforce created by our colleges and universities.

Whether it's animation at the Art Institute, biotechnology at UCSF, psychology at Saybrook Graduate School, law at Golden Gate University or public administration at the University of San Francisco, our institutions of higher education are graduating the teachers, leaders, artists and scientists who will continue to enrich life in the Bay Area for years to come and generations unborn.

Together, UCSF, City College and SFSU educate about 127,000 students per year. Add in the 25-plus other postsecondary schools in the city, and there are more than 157,000 students living and learning across San Francisco.

San Francisco State alone sends more than 7,000 graduates into the work force each year.

And as those of you who live or work in the greater Bay Area know, the innovation, culture and ideas of any university or college can't help but extend into its surrounding community.

Make no mistake. San Francisco is a city that operates like a "college town," rivaling Boston, Austin, Madison or Ann Arbor as a center of learning, innovation and exploration.

College towns are smart towns. They respond creatively to challenges. They explore alternatives -- from foods and foreign films to public policies and products. They start trends, and they have the backbone to buck a few trends, too. They create clusters of knowledge and experience that lead to clusters of productivity and profit. Whether it's research that spawned biotech, or some fiddling with zeroes and ones that opened up a whole new way of viewing our world and working within it, higher education's ability to stimulate and grow our economy is clearly evident.

At San Francisco State, we're pleased to be partnering with Mayor Newsom and his Digital Media Advisory Council to develop another important economic cluster for the city: digital entertainment. We're working on a film festival, have partnered with industry leaders and like-minded communities on our Digital Sister Cities initiative, and continue to explore ways that our exemplary cinema, broadcast and animation programs can strengthen the city's leadership role in the digital economy.

In addition to the leadership effect of college and universities, there is, to quote a U.S. president who was not too popular in our left-leaning city, a "trickle down" effect as well. Offspring Magazine and in a recent study of the impact of higher education on its surroundings -- including its impact on local K-12 education -- concluded:

  • College towns breed communities that put education first.
  • Colleges and universities have vast resources that benefit school district administrations, teacher training and classroom experiences.
  • Colleges and universities offer a wealth of after-school and weekend programming in sports, culture and educational enrichment.
  • And college towns have more heterogeneous student populations, exposing students to the diversity they'll encounter in a multicultural and global society.

Best of all, unlike some college towns, San Francisco keeps many of its graduates right here, where they benefit not only the economy, but the social fabric of the city. San Francisco college and university graduates run the restaurants we dine in, give the performances that bring us to our feet for standing ovations, and update us on the news that affects our daily lives. They not only teach our children but treat them when they are sick –- 150,000 alumni, living and working in the Bay Area.

A remarkable 45 percent of persons 25 and older in San Francisco hold at least a bachelor's degree, according to the most recent census. That compares to roughly 24 percent nationally, and 25 percent in Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Perhaps that higher educational attainment helps to explain why our city's median household income -- $55,000 -- is significantly higher than the $42,000 to $44,000 of those other California cities.

I have to believe brain power equals economic power. When I compare the three cities, I see nearly $15,000 more per-capita income in our educated city. Up to $1,550 more per capita in retail sales. And fewer persons living below the poverty level -- nearly 7 percent fewer, when compared with Los Angeles.

Over the next decade, 83 percent of the jobs in the 30 fastest growing occupations in the United States will require some post-secondary education or training. Almost one-half of these jobs will require a bachelor's degree or graduate-level classes.

I firmly believe that San Francisco has risen -- and will continue to rise -- on the shoulders of its thinkers, its problem-solvers, its leaders and its innovators. We have seen what business and education, together, can raise up on the shores of Mission Bay. Let's continue to work together, to find the next intersection of academic excellence and business success that can drive San Francisco further forward.

Thank you.

-- Public Affairs & Publications
Photos: Andy Berry, Orange Photograpy


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