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The Heart of the Matter: Opportunities in the Tri-Valley Help Businesses Stay in the Bay Area

Updated: May 27

Published by the San Francisco Business Times Tri-Valley Supplement: Read the article.


Aug 2, 2019

Situated about 30 miles from San Francisco and 35 miles from Silicon Valley, the Tri-Valley’s proximity to other regions known for innovation gives it an edge when attracting companies and people to settle there. LAWRENCE LIVERMORE NATIONAL LABORATORY / JACQUELINE MCBRIDE

In the last two decades, the five main cities that make up the Tri-Valley, San Ramon, Danville, Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton, have flourished into a community that has contributed significantly to the vibrant economy of the greater Bay Area. In the past year alone, public companies with headquarters in the Tri-Valley grew by 20%, while venture capital investment totaled more than $590 million in 2018, an increase of more than 30% from 2017. With its advantageous geographic location, access to world-class talent and affordable housing options, the Tri-Valley is uniquely positioned to foster the growth of businesses in the area.


Location Matters

Situated about 30 miles from San Francisco and 35 miles from Silicon Valley, the Tri-Valley’s proximity to other regions known for innovation gives it an edge when attracting companies and people to settle there. Many refer to the commute into the Tri-Valley as a “reverse commute,” because workers aren’t fighting to travel along congested routes into the rest of the greater Bay Area. As Burton Goldfield, the president and CEO of TriNet observes, “So many people get up early every day to head into San Francisco. TriNet is a great opportunity for them to work locally. They can spend less time commuting and more time with their families and pursuing their hobbies.”


Connecting with Talent

The potential for better work-life balance and the high quality of life in the Tri-Valley makes it an especially compelling place for professionals to consider when looking for jobs. With shorter commute times and easy access to nature, restaurants, recreation and culture, the Tri-Valley area entices people to stay. Companies like GILLIG, a manufacturer of heavy-duty transit buses that recently moved their headquarters to Livermore, recognize the importance of supporting their employees. Derek Maunus, President and CEO of GILLIG, says that the move was “a conscious decision to invest in our GILLIG team, the foundation for our success. In 2017, 40% of our employees worked on the other side of the Altamont Pass, with about 25% living in Hayward; Livermore was the half-way point for both groups of workers. After our move, 95% of employees stayed on with GILLIG.”


Goldfield echoes this idea, explaining that “our people are the heart of TriNet and we wanted to maximize our access to great talent. We saw a unique opportunity moving to Dublin, with great access to public transportation, retail and recreation.” Similarly, Ken Gitlin, Robert Half’s Senior Vice President, Operational Support, says, “We have tremendous retention levels within our San Ramon-based Corporate location, with many members of our team having been here since day one when we moved to the Tri-Valley. In many cases, we have second-generation employees that work for us now. We’re working hard to create an environment where people are happy and engaged.”


Lower Costs

The lower cost of living and building a company in the region has encouraged those who have made the move to the Tri-Valley to remain in the area as well. The affordable housing in the region is particularly attractive to current and potential employees.


What’s behind the Tri-Valley’s affordability? The dense populations in neighbouring San Francisco and Silicon Valley have driven residential and commercial rents up, leading people and companies to expand out to the Tri-Valley. In 2018, the average asking rent in San Francisco was $3,695, 55% more than the rent in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Monthly housing costs at median house prices were also about 42% higher in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties than in Alameda County. On the commercial side, rents in the Tri-Valley are significantly lower than in the rest of the Bay Area. Whereas the average commercial rent in 2018 per square foot in the Tri-Valley was $2.66, the averages in San Francisco and San Jose/Silicon Valley were $7.66 and $4.40 respectively.


An Educated Workforce

The region also offers immense recruitment advantages due to its range of highly educated talent. The Tri-Valley is home to the highest percentage of individuals with post-graduate degrees in the Bay Area and has seen a rise in the number of incoming foreign-born engineers and scientists. This is due in part to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Sandia National Laboratories, which draw those with advanced degrees to the Tri-Valley.


A Community of Innovation

In fact, the technology being developed at the National Labs has helped form the basis of a business community that is collaborative and focused on innovating. In addition to their commercial partnerships, the Labs have established initiatives that promote entrepreneurship and transfers of technology. Two of these are the National Laboratory Entrepreneur Academy (NLEA) and the LabCorps program, which are co-sponsored by the Labs and offer attendees the chance to develop ideas into presentations for investors in a boot-camp like atmosphere.


The close-knit business community in the Tri-Valley encourages success through collaboration. Scott Walchek, founder and CEO of Trov, explains, “If we weren’t in the Tri-Valley, we would not have been able to hire and scale as effectively as we have. The Tri-Valley community has been positive and empowering for our teams, both inside and outside of the office.”


With its communal approach to innovation and geographical location that attracts a highly educated talent pool to the quality of life, the Tri-Valley provides a wealth of opportunities for businesses. As Ben Hindson, 10x Genomics’ co-founder and Chief Science Officer, notes, “You can’t recreate that anywhere else.”

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