Christina Briggs
Economic Development Manager

Last week, Fremont hosted the Cleantech Open’s 2014 Western Regional Awards for the second year in a row. The two-day event was packed with innovative ideas, riveting speakers, comments from thought leaders, stimulating discussions, and tours of Fremont-b…

Last week, Fremont hosted the Cleantech Open’s 2014 Western Regional Awards for the second year in a row. The two-day event was packed with innovative ideas, riveting speakers, comments from thought leaders, stimulating discussions, and tours of Fremont-based cleantech companies, including GenZe (pictured below), Oorja, and RETC.

Co-sponsored by the City of Fremont, OpTerra and the Fremont Marriott Silicon Valley, the event brought together more than 230 bright-minded cleantech innovators and 30+ cleantech startups from across the western region, including some Fremont locals.

In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights from the event:

1. The morning keynote was delivered by Mike Biddle, a self-proclaimed “plastics nerd” and President and Founder of MBA Polymers, Inc., a leader in post-consumer recycled plastics. With 600 billion pounds of plastic consumed every year, Biddle urged the audience to help change the conventional wisdom of plastics disposal, closing with one of his favorite quotes from Alan Kay -  

 “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

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2. The first of two panel discussions focused on how cities and entrepreneurs can work together to achieve sustainability goals. Without the proper infrastructure and planning in place, cities can often be viewed as part of the problem when it comes to sustainability. The panelists urged cities, especially motivated ‘Tier 2’ cities, to become part of the solution.  
 
3. The second panel focused on the increasingly rich resources that are available to early-stage entrepreneurs in the clean tech space. The panel featured key insights from venture capitalists, accelerators, and incubators whose sole mission is to help cleantech entrepreneurs succeed.

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4. The afternoon’s keynote was delivered by Greg Horowitt, Co-founder and Managing Director of Silicon Valley’s T2 Venture Capital, as well as author of The Rainforest: The Secrets to Building the Next Silicon Valley. A “renaissance man” with degrees in music, biochemistry and economics, Greg talked about innovation and what it takes to be a great storyteller: painting a compelling picture of the future, and showing how other people fit into that picture.
 
5. A BIG congratulations to the final four contestants: Maxout Renewables, Dragonfly Energy, Axiom Exergy (pictured below) and BlueMorphUV! They are headed to Cleantech Open’s November Global Forum event at Treasure Island, where they will have the chance to compete for the prize of $200,000 and the title of 2014 Cleantech Open champion.

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As host to the Cleantech Open Western Regional Awards for a second year running, it’s inspiring to see the advancements made  by so many of the participating companies from such a wide spectrum of technologies. We look forward to collaborating with this new group of entrepreneurs and can only imagine what bright, new innovations lie ahead.

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Tags: Clean Tech
Category: Clean Tech

Mouse or Mallet — There are Many Career Pathways for Local Youth



David McFeely
Senior Consultant at Craft Consulting Group

Previously we reported on National Manufacturing Day, October 3rd, which focuses on introducing high school and college age students to manufacturing careers. This is important, because even though the area has experienced a loss of manufacturing jobs thi…

Previously we reported on National Manufacturing Day, October 3rd, which focuses on introducing high school and college age students to manufacturing careers. This is important, because even though the area has experienced a loss of manufacturing jobs this last decade, manufacturing is still a relevant element of the regional economy and a great source of middle-income wages.

Another important element is construction. Each October, local construction trade apprenticeship programs host Career Expo day for high schools and community colleges. This year’s event was hosted by the Pipe Trades Training Center in San Jose and attracted 173 students from 16 different high schools to experience a day of hands-on trade-craft.

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Fourteen student groups rotated among carpenters, electricians, sheet metal workers, plasterers, surveyors, automotive workers, operating engineers, drywall/lathers, roofers and waterproofers, cement masons, sound and communications experts, iron workers and pipe trade workers. For many of these young adults, it was the first time they’d handled any tools more complicated than a kitchen knife. For those of us who can still recall the old high school industrial arts classes, this was a fantastic sight to see.

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Just as with Manufacturing Day, the event introduced these young job seekers to career opportunities and training. The Valley is witnessing an economic resurgence driven by the high-tech sector that is driving new construction. A wide variety of         construction projects are underway, including the high priority development areas of Fremont, such as Warm Springs. For young people who prefer working with their hands, these jobs can lead to a career path with strong growth potential

In addition to the individual trades, several private schools, community colleges and contractors participated. Many pre-apprenticeship training programs are offered at our 28 community colleges as well as management and other construction science courses. Most programs are now accredited, and students are encouraged to complete their certifications and AA degree for that point in time when they decide to move into management. “Today’s construction industry is ideal for creative smart young adults. The traditional construction industry image no longer applies,” said Brenda Childress of the Santa Clara County Construction Careers Association. Private schools, such as the Silicon Valley Career Technical Education (see below), as well as YWCA programs targeting younger at-risk youth were represented.

Equally important are the companies who donated their time to meet with the young job seekers: Cupertino Electric; SGI; and Skanska/Shimmick/Hersog. Their collective projects are impressive ranging from the Merritt College library upgrade to the BART extension to the Berryessa district. 

Our region’s career options for the next generation go well beyond high-tech to include “high-touch” industries. Whether its manufacturing, education, hospitality, health care or construction, there are programs to help young people discover their passion and path to remain and prosper in Silicon Valley.

 

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Category: Fremont

Today's Retailer Wants to Reinvent Your Experience



Christina Briggs
Economic Development Manager

While it seems that technology is transforming every aspect of life, how and where we shop is still fundamentally about convenience. Case in point — I am writing this blog right after ordering a new iPhone case, my son’s Halloween costume, and coffee filt…

While it seems that technology is transforming every aspect of life, how and where we shop is still fundamentally about convenience. Case in point — I am writing this blog right after ordering a new iPhone case, my son’s Halloween costume, and coffee filters all with one click on Amazon! 

As the retail industry convened last week at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Western Division conference, this “era of change” was definitely put into perspective. The thoughtful remarks of ICSC Chairman and Blackstone Group Global Retail Real Estate Advisor Robert (Bob) Welanetz articulately summarized the state of retail today. Here are the highlights.

  • A changing demographic landscape. Increased middle class growth in China, India, and Africa has led to a shifting balance of real estate investment increasingly from the West to the East as Asia continues to grow more steadily than the United States and Europe.
  • While customers look the same today, they don’t act the same. Psychographics are more important than pure demographics in determining the right end-user experience. 
  • RELEVANCE. In order to draw people off their devices and into an actual store, retailers need to create a relevant user experience, not just a predictable store format. (Think about it … Apple may not have a single store layout/format, but you never question the brand that’s being sold.)
  • Innovate what? For retailers, innovating their shopping environment is just as important as innovating their products. Those who are good at this are actually creating demand in a whole new way.
  • Food is fun. Reinforcing the fact that experience is the major driver for shopping now, food is now the most important underpinning of any tenant mix — nearly 50 percent in China!

Indeed, shopping is no longer about “stuff.” It’s about activity and entertainment. We see this trend playing out in Fremont in new and exciting ways. Take the Tap Room in Whole Foods or Vestar’s plans for additional outdoor lounge spaces at Pacific Commons. Savvy retailers get it and are finding ways to evolve their offerings to include more lifestyle components. Good news for my husband when I go off to try on shoes!

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Category: Fremont

Celebrating National Manufacturing Day



Jennifer Chen
Economic Development Coordinator

Along with 1,600 manufacturers across North America, Fremont celebrated the third annual National Manufacturing Day last Friday. Companies hosted open houses and tours showcasing their technologies and facilities to the public. This peek inside the factor…

Along with 1,600 manufacturers across North America, Fremont celebrated the third annual National Manufacturing Day last Friday. Companies hosted open houses and tours showcasing their technologies and facilities to the public. This peek inside the factory floor is helping to shift public perception of manufacturing from dirty, declining and dull — to clean, complex and cool.

The City of Fremont coordinated with educational leaders such as Mission Valley ROP, DeVry University, Ohlone College, and Northwestern Polytechnic University as well as the Tri-Valley One-Stop Center to provide over 65 students, teachers, and job seekers with guided tours at AlterG, Alom, Asteelflash, Bay Area Circuits, CalWeld, Lanner, Plexus, and Sonic Manufacturing. From printed circuit boards and supply chain management, to specialized anti-gravity treadmills, Fremont’s manufacturers are helping to spread the word that things do get made in Silicon Valley (as noted in our nifty new infographic). Students were exposed to career opportunities in manufacturing, and companies had the chance to meet the next-generation workforce.

With the help of local schools, lead manufacturing sponsor Asteelflash, and the full list of participating manufacturers, the events of the day were well-attended and successful. Want to learn more about local efforts to grow jobs? Check out these stories on CNET and Bloomberg.

While this was only our second year promoting Manufacturing Day, we envision even greater opportunities in the years ahead. It’s not too early to sign up for #MFGDAY15. Just drop me a line!

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Category: Manufacturing



Kelly Kline
Economic Development Director

Every caterer needs a kitchen, and every food truck needs a place to spend the night. Marry these concepts together, and you have a unique enterprise that serves two entrepreneurial audiences. “BAKR” — Bay Area Kitchen Rental was created by Kathy Hernande…

Every caterer needs a kitchen, and every food truck needs a place to spend the night. Marry these concepts together, and you have a unique enterprise that serves two entrepreneurial audiences. “BAKR” — Bay Area Kitchen Rental was created by Kathy Hernandez in Fremont when she herself was looking for such a space.

Not only did Hernandez find that space was in short supply for mobile chefs, but she also discovered that many food truck commissaries lacked basic business-oriented amenities — a place to receive deliveries, prepare food, refill ice supplies, hold interviews and team meetings, compost and recycle materials, as well as a decent place to use the restroom. 

Hernandez purchased a 20,000 square foot facility in South Fremont just over a year ago, and now can hardly keep up with demand. Food trucks in particular (who are no strangers to long lines) have a waiting list for space in her facility. Not surprisingly, Hernandez is already in expansion mode — creating larger cold and dry storage areas.

Anywhere between 20 to 30 caterers utilize BAKR at any given time. They rent space by the hour, with a guaranteed minimum of 10 hours a month. Some clients are actually small restaurants that need additional prep space. As a 24x7 facility with online scheduling, BAKR can accommodate many different needs.

BAKR's Fremont facility is significant for two reasons. First, it provides critical infrastructure for the incubation of new food concepts that will hopefully expand and grow in our area. Second, the concept demonstrates the creativity of our talented population who can adapt existing ideas into powerhouse institutions.

We wish Kathy much success with BAKR, and hope to see her business grow along with our local creative talent. 

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Category: Fremont

Highlighting the Importance of Manufacturing in Fremont



Jennifer Chen
Economic Development Coordinator

Friday, October 3rd is the 3rd annual nationwide Manufacturing Day. In anticipation of the day, the City of Fremont released an infographic telling the story of U.S. manufacturing growth, California’s role in this growth, and Fremont’s status as a Silicon…

Friday, October 3rd is the 3rd annual nationwide Manufacturing Day. In anticipation of the day, the City of Fremont released an infographic telling the story of U.S. manufacturing growth, California’s role in this growth, and Fremont’s status as a Silicon Valley Manufacturing Hub.

The infographic highlights the following points about manufacturing nationally: 

  • Strong IP protection and rising manufacturing costs in other countries are a couple of reason for the reshoring of manufacturing.
  • U.S. manufacturing growth over the past five years increased from $4.4 billion in 2009 to $5.9 billion in 2013
  • The Top 5 states for manufacturing jobs in the US are California, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.
  • Within the City of Fremont, manufacturing makes up 23 percent of the total workforce. Between 2011 and 2012 alone the City had a growth of 9.3 percent in manufacturing Gross Regional Product. In addition, manufacturing export revenue increased by about 7 percent.

Adding to the release of the infographic, the City is participating in Manufacturing Day by having local manufacturing companies host tours at their various facilities on October 3. These tours will give those who are interested in manufacturing an opportunity to get an insider’s perspective into Fremont’s resident manufacturers. For a complete list of Fremont manufacturers participating MFGDAY, click here.

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Category: Manufacturing



Larry Carr
Executive Vice President, Joint Venture Silicon Valley

Anyone who follows Silicon Valley policy conversations about regional challenges knows that Joint Venture Silicon Valley is at the forefront of convening leaders and addressing these issues. As an active member of JVSV, Fremont recognizes what great value…

Anyone who follows Silicon Valley policy conversations about regional challenges knows that Joint Venture Silicon Valley is at the forefront of convening leaders and addressing these issues. As an active member of JVSV, Fremont recognizes what great value JVSV brings to our entire region, which is why we were excited when it recently announced the appointment of veteran elected official and public affairs executive Larry Carr to the newly created position of executive vice president. We had the opportunity to ask Larry a few questions about his new role and what he thinks about the state of our Valley.

1. You must have a unique perspective on policy matters, given your experience in the public sector, private sector, and as an elected official. Can you describe how these different roles influence your approach in your new role?

Silicon Valley is full of people with interesting and varied backgrounds. It’s one of the things I love about working and living in this area. I do have a background that is broad in terms of my experiences and, hopefully, one that is of value to JVSV and to Silicon Valley. I draw upon my role as an elected official in the City of Morgan Hill when thinking about the ways that policies can affect entire communities or in the manner that public outreach is sought and included. I have worked for two different members of Congress representing different parts of Silicon Valley, so I have a perspective on how the federal government can be a part of the success of the Valley instead of an inhibitor to innovation. I’ve been in academia and the private sector and have an appreciation for the importance of talented people and preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators, and public servants.

I’m excited to have such an important opportunity to engage others as Joint Venture continues to be the organization that convenes all of Silicon Valley’s varied interests and leaders around solving issues and supporting the region.

2. With the creation of this new role within JVSV, how does it allow the organization to expand in its activities?

Joint Venture’s board of directors set an exciting new course for the organization a little more than a year ago. The board realized the great need to expand Joint Venture’s role in the Valley by forming the Silicon Valley Research Institute. The new institute will for the first time provide first-hand research and data on critical issues right here in Silicon Valley.

The addition of my role in supervising the day-to-day operations and management of the organization allows Joint Venture President Russ Hancock the ability to concentrate more on growing membership, fundraising and overall strategic planning for Joint Venture and its Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies, for which he also serves as president.

3.  What do you think is the most important initiative that you will tackle in the next year?

My immediate focus is on the organization itself. I’d like to provide more support to the program directors at Joint Venture to allow them to expand our existing programs. I’d like to work with Joint Venture’s Investors Council to identify current relevant issues in Silicon Valley where we can engage and look for collaborative solutions.

 4. As a Silicon Valley native, what inspires you most about our region?

The People. We are a collection of smart, committed, passionate people. Visionaries, families, young urban professionals and public servants from varied backgrounds and nationalities. We enjoy the precious environment that our region provides us, and we want to be at the cutting-edge of new ideas. We tend to be pragmatic in our approach to politics, but solution-oriented when addressing issues.



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Category: Fremont

Our Take on Tesla’s Gigafactory Decision



Bill Harrison
Mayor, City of Fremont

Now that the media frenzy over Tesla’s recent announcement to locate their Battery “Gigafactory” in Nevada is subsiding, we thought it was time to weigh in. As home to Tesla’s vehicle production operation, many have asked what we think of the decision. Th…

Now that the media frenzy over Tesla’s recent announcement to locate their Battery “Gigafactory” in Nevada is subsiding, we thought it was time to weigh in. As home to Tesla’s vehicle production operation, many have asked what we think of the decision. The truth is that while everyone else was busy speculating about the Gigafactory’s ultimate home, we have been busy supporting their existing manufacturing business, which remains firmly planted in Fremont and continues to expand.  

Of all the articles that theorize about the reasons why Tesla chose Nevada, we think Silicon Valley Business Journal reporter, Lauren Hepler, got it right in her piece, “4 Reasons Tesla’s Gigafactory Went to Nevada Instead of California.” Below are the four reasons she cites along with our own observations.

  • Recent History: When reports surfaced earlier this summer that Tesla had begun construction on a facility in Nevada, it was a pretty big hint to us where the Gigafactory was likely headed.
  • Strategic Geography: Of all the “out-of-state” options Tesla was considering, we think this works most in our favor, given the short drive time and transit connections between Reno and the Bay Area. In fact, Reno has easier access to Fremont than many California locations that may have been contenders for the Gigafactory.
  • CEQA Red Tape: Yes, this was probably an important factor in the decision. We agree with others who have expressed hope that this serves as California’s wake-up call to finally act on CEQA reform.
  • Taxes: What taxes? As Hepler’s article states, Nevada is known for its extraordinarily low taxes. From my position as mayor, I can tell you that cities are often in the position of responding to business prospects about how we can match tax incentives offered elsewhere. California has made great strides in this area with California Competes and other Go-Biz programs, but at the end of the day we offer a different value proposition.

And as a bonus, we would actually add a fifth item to the list:

  • Lithium Mine: Many don't realize that Nevada is home to the country’s only lithium mine—the crucial ingredient in their lithium-ion battery recipe. Considering that Tesla is expected to use about one fifth of the world’s lithium supply, it seems highly likely this was an important determinant and something no other state could offer.

For those who see this as a loss, we’d like to offer a slightly different view. We see this decision (and Tesla’s ability to ramp up battery production quickly) as a very good prospect for supporting their thriving, growing California manufacturing ecosystem, which has yielded thousands of good jobs and put us on the map for revolutionizing the EV industry. We would argue that Tesla’s contribution to and impact on California will be profound for years to come—something we should applaud them for.

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Category: Manufacturing



Bob Linscheid
President & CEO- San Francisco Chamber of Commerce

What if we thought of ourselves as a virtual city of 2 million people with an integrated housing and labor market? This question was lobbed to a group of cities last week, including San Francisco, Fremont, Oakland,Vallejo, and Concord. All of these citie…

What if we thought of ourselves as a virtual city of 2 million people with an integrated housing and labor market?

This question was lobbed to a group of cities last week, including San Francisco, Fremont, Oakland,Vallejo, and Concord. All of these cities share some important characteristics:

  • They are linked by water.
  • They have assets that contribute to the Bay Area’s Innovation Ecosystem.
  • They are served by a robust University System.
  • They have at least one or more major mixed-use development opportunities that will dramatically enhance the innovation profile of the city and region.

The question was posed by Bruce Katz, Director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, co-author of The Metropolitan Revolution, and most recently, author of a special report on The Rise of Innovation Districts. (Editor’s Note: You can see Fremont’s contributions to this dialogue here.)

As the convener of this discussion, the San Francisco Chamber wished to expand beyond its usual economic forecast event. The idea was to proactively engage with its regional partners in hopes that we can leverage our collective assets to function as one “mega” Innovation District.

Bruce Katz validated our belief that the Bay Area’s assets are indeed unparalleled. If we have any downfall, it’s a meager history in working together to collectively market these assets and create meaningful linkages between our fiercely independent and unique communities.

No longer can we rest on the laurels of our Silicon Valley reputation, or the recent dynamism of San Francisco’s technology sector. We need to nurture more nascent success stories, such as the reemergence of manufacturing, and better leverage our collective proximity to Asia.

If water is the connective tissue of our region, then it’s time for us to do some synchronized swimming. Teamwork is imperative to competing at a national and global level and will help us ensure that prosperity reaches all parts of our communities.

Forging a unified brand won’t be easy. As Katz stated, we are approaching work that is “multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral.” However, with common goals around building an aspirational workforce and creative approaches to financing, the Bay Area can lead the nation.

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Category: Manufacturing

The 'Internet of Things' Revolution - What You Need to Know



Michael Keer
Founder and CEO at Product Realization Group

Last week, Product Realization Group (PRG) hosted our Annual Symposium and BBQ, an event that convenes Silicon Valley’s hardware technology community to learn about the latest trends in new product introduction (NPI) from industry experts. As we collectiv…

Last week, Product Realization Group (PRG) hosted our Annual Symposium and BBQ, an event that convenes Silicon Valley’s hardware technology community to learn about the latest trends in new product introduction (NPI) from industry experts. As we collectively sync up our fitbits to our mobile devices or pre-order the new Apple Watch, the choice for this year’s event theme was obvious - “Internet of Things – from Idea to Scale.”

First of all, let’s define this buzzword for anyone still scratching their head about what Internet of Things (IoT) means. According to Wikipedia, IoT refers to the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing-like devices within the existing Internet infrastructure. That is, everything from heart monitoring devices to smart grid energy solutions to the array of wearables that continues to grow—IoT is truly everywhere. At the Symposium, we were able to break this topic down and explore the market opportunity that IoT has placed on the horizon.

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To put it in perspective, consider the following stats:

  • In 2010, there were less than 2 billion connected devices. Today, there are over 8 billion.
  • With the help of new financing models, like crowdfunding, lean product production and hardware have grown from a $1.5 billion industry in 2011 to a $5.5 billion industry in 2013.
  • There are approximately 4 tweets per minute about “IoT” and Google searches about “IoT” have tripled in the last year.

Yes friends, we are at the beginning of a technology revolution expected to grow tenfold by 2020, thanks largely to the fact that by 2020, the average Silicon Valley family is expected to have over 150 connected devices. And that’s just Silicon Valley!

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So recognizing the market potential is massive in IoT, where does the hardware startup start? Our expert panel shared some sage words of advice. Some of my favorite takeaways:

“Build trust in what you are building. Prototypes prove your idea can be made.” –Kate Drane, High Tech Hardware Lead, Indiegogo

“Clearly identify your users. A cool idea doesn’t go anywhere without them. We are most interested in companies who have everything else in place and all they need is money.” – Salil Pradhan, Venture Partner, Draper Nexus Venture Partners

“We were naïve and blindly optimistic when we chose to develop hardware technology. But resources exist now to make the journey easier.” – John McGuire, CEO/Founder, Active Mind Technology (Game Golf)

Finally, my own advice:

Develop a Product Roadmap. Be sure to include budget, schedule, resources, and key activities. Companies that do this have a much better chance of going from idea to scale, and hitting the big time!

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Category: Startups

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About

Welcome to our blog – Takes from Silicon Valley East!  Our view is slightly different here on the east side of the bay – from the Mission Peak backdrop to the advanced manufacturing companies that dot our boulevards. As we become more urban and strive to interpret the business issues affecting our innovation economy, we want to share with you our observations, insights, photos, arguments, agreements, inspirations and CEO interviews – and here on our blog is exactly where we plan to do this.

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