Editorials

Don’t sell Sacramento short, but also measure the gains

Barry Broome, the Sacramento region’s chief economic development recruiter, has embarked on a mission to snag jobs that companies on the rise might send off-shore or to lower-cost regions in the country.
Barry Broome, the Sacramento region’s chief economic development recruiter, has embarked on a mission to snag jobs that companies on the rise might send off-shore or to lower-cost regions in the country. Sacramento Bee

Many years ago, 27 or so, before the Hyatt and Sheraton and Citizen, a San Franciscan had occasion to stay in a downtown Sacramento hotel and noticed creepy six-legged guests in his room.

Apologetic hotel staff gave the guest another room, and, when he checked out in the morning, sheepishly handed him the bill, with the price reduced due to what they labeled a “cockroach discount.”

The guest did what any self-respecting San Franciscan would do: He told the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, the late great San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, who happily turned it into an item, further cementing The City’s dim view of its sad and distant cousin up Interstate 80.

Barry Broome, the Sacramento region’s chief economic development recruiter, has his work cut out. But ever the salesman, Broome has a vision and a pitch, and that’s important for a city that is, as Bay Area snobs are wont to say, halfway between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.

Broome and Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg told The Sacramento Bee editorial board Tuesday that they have embarked on a mission to snag not necessarily Google, Apple, Tesla, Intel, Facebook or other blue-chip corporate headquarters, but jobs that they and smaller companies on the rise might send off-shore or to lower-cost regions in the country.

Some 119,000 local residents commute each day to the Bay Area, and 89,000 Bay Area residents come to Sacramento. In some ways, the merger has already begun.

Broome’s counterpart, Jim Wunderman of the Bay Area Council, appears to be on the same page, telling an editorial board member that he supports boosting the concept of a mega-region that includes Sacramento. Wunderman and Steinberg will appear on a panel Wednesday at an incubator on Market Street in San Francisco.

They don’t have specific goals; as this project evolves, Broome and Steinberg should set a target for net job and payroll gains, preferably for the benefit of people in need who currently live in the region. Without specific goals, no one will be able to gauge success.

No one expects Sacramento to supplant Silicon Valley, and it never will be San Francisco. But Sacramento has much to offer. Broome touts the Sacramento region’s universities, its educated workforce, the ports of Stockton and West Sacramento, and its proximity to the gold that can be mined from the San Francisco area. Sand Hill Road, the Wall Street of venture capital, is a short drive from Sacramento, traffic permitting.

Sacramento land and housing prices are higher than, say, Indianapolis, but they’re lower than anything in San Francisco, on the Peninsula, or in much of the East Bay.

In some ways, the merger has begun. Who knew that 119,000 Sacramento-area residents commute each day to the Bay Area, and that 89,000 Bay Area residents come to Sacramento? That’s 21 percent of the workforce.

Therein lies one of the rubs. How to get the 90 miles from downtown Sacramento to downtown San Francisco? The drive takes two hours, or more in rush hour – or, more accurately, rush hours, because jams and bottlenecks go on all day.

Seamless rail service is one answer. Steinberg, the former state Senate leader, vowed to focus on extracting funds from the Capitol as soon as he takes office. The hope, he and others say, is to push rail commute times from San Francisco to Sacramento down to 90 minutes, preferably 60. It couldn’t happen soon enough.

Caen, the Sacamenna Kid who defined all that was proper in San Francisco in his day, still would need some convincing.

But Steinberg and Broome made their pitch as Paul McCartney was preparing to christen Golden 1 Center. Sacramento does have more going for it now than it did when a hotel manager felt compelled to discount hotel rooms due to vermin. The task of Broome and hizzoner-elect will be to tell that story to the outside world.

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