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Tale of Two Cities

Jul
27
2003

The Sunday Chron has a Q&A with Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich, part of a surprisingly good series of interviews they’ve been conducting over the past few months. But unlike Doug Shorenstein, who sat down with the paper’s business staff a few weeks ago, Kovacevich falls into a common trap — the kind reporters set just to see what happens.
First of all, he clearly doesn’t know what the Chron has said about him and his company. And he talks about politics — specifically Assemblywoman Jackie Spier’s privacy bill — with the contempt that many in business like to use for situations they find intolerable or ineffecient. Mistakes both.
But Kovacevich does something that’s truly puzzling, particularly since he’s a banker. He talks about the creation of manufacturing jobs in the city’s suburbs as evidence that California or San Francisco is becoming more business-friendly. This sounds a bit dated. Not that you want to bring back the outrages of the dot.com era but many of the services and products that are created in Silicon Valley — San Francisco’s biggest suburb — make the city what it is today by employing — and paying well — lots of people who live in the city but work in the valley.
That’s one of the reasons San Francisco is still seeing lots of nightclub/restaurant activity south of Market, in the Mission, Castro and Noe Valley neighborhoods. There’s plenty of money left over from the Bubble; check out all those home renovation dumpsters on 23rd Street.
But over the past few months, things have started picking up down south. The Mercury News says some $2.5 billion flowed into Silicon Valley companies so far this year.
The Merc specifically cites Plaxo, an address book software company, that’s plenty popular with the Geeks. Other up-and-comers: Music downloads (hey, Napster’s back), spam filtering and on-line retail (eBay uber allies). Those aren’t traditional manufacturing jobs, Mr. K. But they’re jobs.
Kovacevich highlights some of San Francisco’s biggest political problems: The outright hostility that “old” San Francisco — the city that still thinks of San Jose as a small sleepy farm town — has toward the new influx of young, wealthy residents that is, slowly but almost inevitably, changing the city.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 11:55 PM | Permalink

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