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Inside San Francisco

Inside San Francisco

San Francisco is an iconic city known for its steep rolling hills, famed landmarks and unique culture. The city is the fourth-most populous in California and the 12th-most populous in the U.S. Encompassing a land area of just over 46 square miles, San Francisco is the second-most densely populated city in the U.S., behind only New York City.

Often called a “Gold Rush” town, San Francisco is known for its spirit of innovation that has attracted entrepreneurs—and those seeking a better life—for more than a hundred years. Whether the Gold Rush of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, the post-war era of the late-forties or the dot com boom of the late 80s and early 90s, the city’s entrepreneurial spirit continues to influence the economy and lifestyle of San Francisco.

Today, San Francisco is one of the largest economies and most popular travel destinations in the world. As the city continues to invest in its cutting-edge industries, infrastructure and communities, there is no doubt San Francisco will remain at the forefront of business and leisure for years to come.


San Francisco’s roots lie largely in the Gold Rush. The gold was actually discovered in central California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and foothills, but much of the riches were spent in the City by the Bay. In 1847, the population of San Francisco was a modest 400 residents, but by 1860 the population had grown to over 56,000 people. Thanks to the Gold Rush, many more people were calling this far west city home in hopes of striking it rich. In fact, in 1849 alone, over 30,000 “49ers” traveled across the continent to try to make their gold digging dreams a reality.

Though San Francisco started with a boom, devastation struck on April 18, 1906 when the great earthquake and fire occurred. About 700 were killed and over 28,000 buildings destroyed. Although the earthquake and fire ravaged much of the city, like a phoenix, San Francisco was rebuilt from its ashes. The San Francisco flag now depicts a rising phoenix for this reason.

San Francisco served as the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater during World War II. After the war, the city experienced another boom when servicemen returned from duty. During the 1960s, the city became a center for liberal activism leading to the famous “Summer of Love” in 1967 and ultimately the gay rights movement.

For the next three decades, the Bay Area experienced a period of slow and then rapid economic growth with the founding of high-technology giants such as Apple Computer and eventually the start of the famous dot com era, which transformed the regional and world economies.

The backbone of San Francisco today is undoubtedly the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Founded May 9, 1850, the Chamber’s early accomplishments include promoting the transcontinental railroad and petitioning Congress for an exemption to the Tariff Act—one of the first steps helping to make 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; extended US Route 40 from Salt Lake City to San Francisco; and developed the bay’s two great bridges, the Hetch Hetchy water system and the nation’s first municipal public-transit system.

Today, the Chamber continues to be a champion for business and the economy. Its recent accomplishments include: the launch of ChinaSF, an initiative to increase business from China; supporting the construction of California High Speed Rail; and supporting numerous other economy-boosting industries and projects throughout the region.


San Francisco is truly a city that reflects today’s global society with a diverse population of over 805,000 people. Nearly one-third of Bay Area residents are immigrants and 20 percent of San Franciscans are bilingual.

San Francisco’s workforce is also among the most highly educated in the nation. Nearly 30 percent of San Franciscans have obtained a bachelor’s degree, and more than 16 percent hold a graduate degree (according to the Bay Area Census 2010). This talented workforce provides a clear link to the city’s economic prosperity.

San Francisco’s neighborhoods are as diverse at the city itself—filled with businesses, civic institutions and events catering to its many ethnic communities and lifestyles.d SAN FRANCISCO’S


San Francisco

As the nation’s economic recovery continues at a slow pace, San Francisco is a bright spot in the region, the state and beyond. Recent economic indicators are encouraging, showing strong growth in knowledge-based industries, which are, in turn, creating jobs and moving the economy forward.

Leading Industries — Jobs

Professional and Business Services — 120,390

Leisure and Hospitality — 77,084

Trade, Transportation and Utilities — 61,084

Education and Health Services — 56,521

(Measured by average monthly employment, 2010)

Growth Sectors

Life Sciences and Biotechnology
Digital Media / Gaming
Clean Technology

Business Investment

California businesses have received more venture capital investment than businesses in any other state, taking in more than $250 million in the past 10 years. The Bay Area has received the lion’s share of this investment, totaling $9 million in 2010, with San Francisco receiving $4 million.

International Trade

The two-way value of trade passing through the San Francisco Customs District grew by more than 24 percent in 2010 to $107.2 billion, ranking 10th in North America. The Port of Oakland ranks 5th and is considered the busiest port in the nation in terms of International Container Traffic.

San Francisco International Airport is the second-busiest airport in California and the 10th-busiest in the U.S. by passenger count. Domestic and International air travel increased 5.4 and 0.7 percent respectively year-over-year in June 2011, accommodating close to 40 million passengers annually.



San Francisco home sales were up 7 percent as of August 2011 to 484 from 451 a year earlier. The median home price experienced a 5.2 percent reduction over the same period. The home ownership rate is 37.9 percent in San Francisco.


San Francisco’s unemployment rate continues to fare far better than the nation, standing at 8.8 percent in August 2011. California’s unemployment for the same period was 12.1 percent.


The 2011-2012 budget for the City and County of San Francisco is $6.5 billion, up 4 percent from 2010-2011. The City and County employ 26,000 workers.

All data and analysis provided by the San Francisco Center for Economic Development. Contact Dennis Conaghan at dconaghan@sfced.org or (415) 352-8819.


Plastic Products Co., Inc.









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