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Opinion: Has the Silicon Valley Leadership Group lived up to David Packard’s expectations?

In 1977, a gallon of gas was 77 cents, a Georgia peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter was sworn in as president and a small start-up called Apple Computer was incorporated by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
That summer, another momentous undertaking was launched. Hewlett Packard Co-Founder David Packard assembled a luncheon with 32 other Silicon Valley visionaries, including Intel Co-Founder Bob Noyce and AMD Founder Jerry Sanders, to create what is now the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.
Today, the Leadership Group is driven by 375 employers, from start-ups to the globe’s most iconic brands, with a mission to make our region, state and nation a better place.
Packard and his fellow pioneers were looking at regional issues, like traffic congestion, and saying: “This problem needs to be fixed, and we’re in.”   They chose to lead and collaborate, partnering with elected officials and private advocates of all persuasions.
From our vantage point, as former and current public officials, the unique problem-solving nature of the Leadership Group remains a rare model of collaboration.
This approach has made the Leadership Group a game-changer for our region. It has helped transform the Valley’s transportation infrastructure and has made positive impacts on housing, the environment, education and the economy.

Traffic: Starting in 1984, the Leadership Group has successfully championed six transportation funding campaigns  – $20 billion for specific traffic-relief and transit solutions – to benefit residents and commuters. Among other things, these measures led to the construction of Highway 85, the first segment of BART into Santa Clara County and improvements to electrify and modernize Caltrain.
Housing: In 1998 the Leadership Group Co-Founded the “Silicon Valley Housing Trust,” with over $20 million from employers like Applied Materials, Cisco and Intel and the county and cities.   The Housing Trust has helped 25,000 individuals and families afford homes in high-cost Silicon Valley through $100 million in voluntary contributions, leveraging $2.3 billion in private development.
Environment and Sustainability: Underscoring the importance of a quality environment to a strong economy, the Leadership Group co-led the campaign that created the Santa Clara County Open Space District, which has permanently preserved thousands of acres.  Last June, working with Sen. Dianne Feinstein and others, the Leadership Group co-led “Measure AA,” the Bay Restoration and Flood Protection initiative for the 9-County Bay Area.
Education and Equity: Seeking to better build our middle class and diversify our high-tech workforce with home-grown talent, the Leadership Group has focused on programs that benefit low-income students, like the “1,000 Hearts for 1,000 Minds” tutoring initiative and the new “Community College to Career” campaign.
The Economy and Innovation: In partnership with Silicon Valley’s congressional delegation, the Leadership Group was the private sector force in securing one of only three competitively selected Regional Patent Offices in U.S. history, from 500 applicants nationwide.

The Leadership Group, through its Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation, has focused on families often forgotten in our Innovation Economy.  In 2005, the foundation created the Applied Materials “Silicon Valley Turkey Trot,” now the world’s largest timed Thanksgiving Day race now donating nearly $1 million annually — $7.2 million since its inception.
David Packard’s legacy lives on. When asked why he created the Group, his response was simple and profound: “Our job, as CEOs, is not to sit on the sidelines to cheer or jeer. Our job is to get into the game and move the ball forward.”
We know first-hand the Leadership Group’s value in working with policymakers and advocates to improve our community — and what can be accomplished in its next 40 years.
Cindy Chavez, a Democrat, is a Santa Clara County Supervisor and former CEO of the South Bay Labor Council.  Jim Cunneen, a Republican, is a former state Assemblyman and former CEO of the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. They wrote this for The Mercury News.

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