At BOMA San Francisco's monthly membership luncheon on Thursday, November 19, the association was proud to not only welcome George Gascón, San Francisco's new Police Chief, but to also recognize Michael Cohen as our 2009 Public Official of the Year. Mr. Cohen serves as the Director of the City of San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and has extensive expertise in economic development and working with communities to promote investment, innovation and business growth in the City.
In accepting his award, Mr. Cohen offered up a few comments on San Francisco's current economic situation and what he saw for the City’s future.
Creativity is Key
Mr. Cohen stated that the City's economic outlook is bright and that San Francisco is still the "center of innovation" due to our well-known freedom of expression--the ability to allow people to create thriving new industries. Mr. Cohen has a blog where he wrote an article entitled How Burning Man Saved San Francisco's Economy that talks about his thoughts on how San Francisco’s fostering of personal creativity has reaped economic benefit to San Francisco.
Cohen cautioned, however, that we still have a long ways to go to reduce the over-regulation, whether real or perceived, by local government on all businesses in the City, including new ones. He said part of the solution to keeping the City's economy rolling is to make sure San Francisco stays fun, interesting and edgy. In fact, supporting the arts and our multitude of counter-cultures is part of San Francisco's economic imperative. Staying fun means, for example, continuing to allow joggers to run nude in the Bay to Breakers race if they want to!
Increasing San Francisco's Economic Vitality
While fostering a creative spirit is an important auxiliary to job creation, the OEWD is involved in other areas to increase the economic vitality of San Francisco. Mr. Cohen mentioned that the OEWD has been successful in drawing more biotech, digital media and IT industries to Mission Bay and other parts of the San Francisco. It has been deeply involved in workforce development for San Francisco residents and businesses and attracting businesses from China to establish offices in San Francisco via the ChinaSF initiative to name just a few.
Mr. Cohen elaborated on the ChinaSF initiative, and said he was bullish on new business growth from China, particularly Shanghai, where San Francisco has established its own outreach office. Cohen said attracting Chinese solar companies into the City was a major success story, and is helping bring other Chinese companies to SF, including banks, Chinese biotech, life science, and digital media companies.
Removing Government Barriers to Business
Nurturing job creation and "getting out of the way" should be the primary functions of our local government, according to Mr. Cohen. Specifically, removing or restructuring of San Francisco's archaic zoning laws would allow business to grow and adapt in an ever changing global economic environment. "Industries of the future are not static, unchanging entities that can be put into a box. Rather, they are going to be dynamic, fast-growing, ever-changing organizations that will need a local government that is flexible and quickly responsive to their changing needs or they will leave," said Cohen
- Click here to access the San Francisco Office of Workforce Development, and here to access the San Francisco Center for Economic Development's November 2009 Quick Facts
BOMA San Francisco’s Public Official of the Year award acknowledges individual public servants for outstanding service benefiting the City. Selection criteria include: the impact of the nominee’s actions in making government more effective and efficient, taking into account the relevance of the issue or issues championed and the long-term benefit to the commercial real estate industry and the community at large.
We were proud to honor Michael Cohen with our Public Official of the Year Award for 2009. We look forward to working with the him in the near future to promote the economic well-being of the commercial real estate industry.