January has been a busy month for both San Franciscan city officials and entrepreneurs. The city famous for its iconic entrepreneurial Silicon Valley has watched its workforce strengthen year after year. According to a report published by the Employment Development Department (EDD) this month, California’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.3 percent in December, a record low since 1976 when the state started consistently tracking employment data.

The EDD observes that January saw unemployment rates dropping even lower – although this is not their lowest recorded level – in San Francisco’s Bay Area, to 2.4 percent. Working inline with these arguably optimistic figures, San Franciscan city officials have been planning on both the long and short term to nourish and create a financially healthy environment for its workforce (and workforce-to-be).

Just days ago, San Francisco’s Planning Department began offering grants worth $2.8 million to nonprofit and for-profit companies that have ideas to support business, economic, and workforce development in various neighborhoods in the city.

"Invest in Neighborhoods" is a plan to nourish San Francisco's workforce.

“Invest in Neighborhoods” map. Courtesy of SF Planning Department.

The grants are part of the “Invest in Neighborhoods” initiative, a collaboration between different offices in the city. It is led by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and is currently being piloted in 25 commercial districts, with the aim of strengthening existing business, improving physical conditions and quality of life, and increasing community capacity. The Request for Proposals was issued on January 25 by the OEWD and submissions will be accepted until February 5.

The office is offering grants for marketing and activating neighborhoods and/or attracting new or supporting existing businesses through five categories of monetary grants. $800,000 will be granted to business development projects, $610,000 to workforce development proposals, $385,000 to neighborhood events, facade improvement, and beautification plans, $250,000 to residential and merchant engagement programs, and $40,000 to parklet development.

These grants can be categorized as short-term plans to nourish San Francisco’s workforce and overall micro-economy. The city, on the other hand, has been investing in longer-term strategies ever since 2011. The Kindergarten to College Program, better known as “K2C,” is a program launched as a two-year pilot program in 2011. As a result of the success of the program, every child entering kindergarten in the city’s public schools today automatically receives a college savings account containing $50. Moreover, children in the National School Lunch Program receive an additional $50 deposit.

K2C encourages families to save by providing a number of incentives. If a family saves at least $10 month, they are rewarded with an immediate $10 bonus. Also, if a family or a guardian registers on the K2C portal to view their student’s account activity, the student receives a $20 bonus in their account.

The San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment has been offering to help teen students find summer jobs ever since 2012, when Mayor Ed Lee launched the Youth Jobs+ Initiative to connect young adults to summer employment in San Francisco’s businesses, non-profits, and city departments. In 2017, Youth Jobs + Initiative placed nearly 7,000 young students in jobs.