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SF Up Close - Culture, Economy and More

Long known for its unique culture, famed landmarks and steep rolling hills above a sparkling bay, San Francisco has constantly been at the forefront of both cultural and entrepreneurial movements. From the Gold Rush to the dot com boom of the early 90s, San Francisco is a place for those with big ideas. Today, the city is home to entrepreneurs from every industry and sector, from high-tech to clean-tech to small business. San Francisco is the global epicenter of entrepreneurialism, invention and collaboration.

Though the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s is often considered San Francisco's beginning, the city's history can actually be traced back much further. Originally inhabited by the Ohlone tribe, the land was colonized in 1775 by Spanish missionaries.

During this time of Spanish ownership, the land was known as Yerba Buena for an herb that was abundant in the area. The Mission San Francisco de Asis, San Francisco's oldest building, and one of few that would survive the 1906 fire, was established during this time and still stands today.

The area of Yerba Buena changed hands from Spanish to Mexican ownership in 1821, then to United States ownership in 1846. In 1847, the land was given its new name, San Francisco.

It was just one year later, in 1848, that miners struck gold. The discovery occurred outside of San Francisco in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Central California, but much of the riches were spent in San Francisco. As quickly as the word “gold” spread through the U.S., miners began flooding into California. It is said that the San Francisco population doubled every 10 days, resulting in a population of 56,000 by the year 1860, with 30,000 landing here in the year 1849, alone – hence, “49ers.”

The next 50 years were a time for San Franciscans to enjoy their newfound prosperity through the establishment of a booming city. While most San Franciscans were working toward the greater good, this era also included “gentleman robber” Black Bart and the lawless Barbary Coast.

On April 18, 1906, devastation struck in the form of a terrible earthquake and a resulting fire. The fire tore through all but a tiny fraction of the thousands of buildings that had been constructed and left the city covered in ash. But San Francisco is a resilient city, and reemerged from the ashes in time to host the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915.

The years following the earthquake maintained the same spirit of innovation and progress as the years before. The 1960s were a time of liberal activism in San Francisco including the gay rights movement and 1967's “Summer of Love.” This cultural revolution was followed by a technological one, with the birth of the dot com era centered in San Francisco. Today, tech companies of all sizes are flourishing in San Francisco, from tech giants such as and Twitter, to start-ups like Yammer and Square, to incubators like RocketSpace.

A mainstay of San Francisco undoubtedly has been the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Founded on May 9, 1850, the Chamber's early accomplishments included promoting the transcontinental railroad and petitioning Congress for an exemption to the Tariff Act – one of the first steps in making San Francisco a gateway to the Pacific Rim.

Following the great earthquake and fire, the Chamber helped bring the Panama-Pacific International Exposition to the city; extend U.S. Route 40 from Salt Lake City to San Francisco; and develop the bay's two great bridges, the Hetch Hetchy water system and the nation's first municipal public transit system.

The Chamber continues to be a champion for business and the economy in San Francisco and throughout the region. Recent accomplishments include: helping to create the city's office of Economic Analysis; creating ChinaSF, an initiative to increase business and investment from China; helping advance approval for critical infrastructure and development projects such as California High-Speed Rail, Treasure Island Redevelopment, the Hunters Point Shipyard and Parkmerced; and many other economy-boosting initiatives.

The true heart of San Francisco lies in the people who call the city home. With a diverse population of more than 810,000, The city is a reflection of today's global society. Nearly one-third of Bay Area residents are immigrants and over 44 percent of local residents are bilingual, speaking over 100 different languages.

San Francisco also boasts one of the most highly educated workforces around the globe and was recently named as the "Best Educated City in the Nation" by Money magazine. According to the Bay Area Census 2010, nearly 30 percent of San Franciscans have earned a bachelor's degree and more than 16 percent hold a graduate degree. This talented workforce provides a clear link to the city's economic prosperity.

San Francisco continues to be a bright spot in the nation’s economic recovery. Recent economic indicators show strong growth in knowledge-based industries, which are in turn creating jobs and moving the economy forward.

Leading Industries — Jobs
Professional & Business Services — 238,700
Government — 129,000
Leisure & Hospitality — 142,600
Trade, Transportation & Utilities — 155,500
Education & Health Services — 113,700

Growth Sectors
• Healthcare Delivery & Research
• Life Sciences & Biotechnology
• Social Media & Networking
• Clean Technology
• Information Technology & Software Engineering

Business Investment
California received just about half of the country's $12.6 billion of venture capital funding in the U.S. as of the 2nd Quarter of July 2013. Eighty-one percent of California’s venture funding received and 78 percent of all deals made in the state went to companies in the San Francisco Bay Area during the first two quarters of 2013.

International Travel
San Francisco International Airport is the second-busiest airport in California and the eighth-busiest in the U.S. by passenger count. Total airport passengers increased by 0.7 percent domestically and 0.9 percent internationally from 2012 to 2013, helping to reach a milestone of 44.7 million passengers in the last year.

San Francisco’s unemployment rate continues to fare better than the nation, standing at 5.9 percent in July 2013. California’s unemployment for the same period was 8.7 percent.

The 2013-2014 budget for the City & County of San Francisco is $7.8 billion, up 18 percent from 2012-2013. The City & County employees 26,000 workers.

All data and analysis provided by the San Francisco Center for Economic Development.

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