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Don’t listen to the gloomy headlines: A new generation of Bay Area innovators is about to soar

San Francisco is hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
LOREN ELLIOTT - AFP - Getty Images

San Francisco thrives on uncharted ideas, the sort that know where the future is headed and get there first. It’s an epicenter of innovation, and, as a fourth-generation San Franciscan, it’s more than just a city to me. It is a place where my family raised my brothers and me. It is a place where I became a sports fan: I even went to the 1962 World Series and watched the Giants lose in Game 7. I cried. I also raised my family here. In fact, it took leaving the Bay Area for a few years to attend school and work on the East Coast to truly understand the lightning in a bottle I’d left behind.

The resilience, inclusivity, creativity, and innovation that pumps through the veins of this community are infectious. The environment breeds brilliance, of never-been-done ideas that go on to shape the rest of America. It’s no wonder so many iconic businesses began here–firms that, just like the Gap, became what they are thanks to San Francisco’s unique culture.

As the city welcomes the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting and CEO Summit with open arms, it’s the perfect time for San Francisco to reintroduce itself to the world and urge businesses to take another look at the city.

Don’t write San Francisco off

Recent news reports might make you think Fog City is falling off its proverbial cable car rails. But they don’t fool me–and they shouldn’t fool you either. Sure, San Francisco is not immune to the societal problems that cities all over the country are dealing with–homelessness, substance abuse, and high housing costs. However, our city has never been defined by obstacles. It’s defined by how we overcome them. Look behind the curtain, and you’ll see a city where neighborhoods are flourishing, businesses are growing, and signs of its vitality are everywhere: Travel and tourism are and downtown foot traffic . New businesses are , with strength across key sectors such as and .
Our world-class local universities–the University of California San Francisco, University of California Berkeley, and Stanford University–attract brilliant minds from all around the world. And our culture of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking inspires social and scientific innovators every day.
Doris and Donald Fisher started the Gap in 1969 with $63,000 in San Francisco.
Courtesy of Bob Fisher

A rich history that inspires a successful future

San Francisco is the original boomtown. Since the days of the California Gold Rush, people have continued to flock here to find success in textiles, curated foods, design, finance, and technology innovation. Those innovations you: The Bay Area put cable cars and bendy straws on the map, just like it did for denim, televisions, fantasy sports, and America’s 9-1-1 dispatch system. San Francisco birthed the Beatniks and the Summer of Love. Cultivated ideas that grew into Apple, Google, and Uber. Inspired the creation of slot machines, jukeboxes, martinis, popsicles, and fortune cookies. And, of course, the Gap.

My parents, Doris and Donald Fisher, started the Gap in 1969 with $63,000 in San Francisco, each contributing half from their own savings. It was a neighborhood store on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco, California, where we only sold denim and records at first. Today, that small neighborhood store is woven into the fabric of American business and culture–a global apparel company rooted in purpose, creativity, and innovation. The Bay Area’s rich history of forging new paths and leading new frontiers makes for a proud, diverse, and talented workforce that has an unquenchable thirst to do more, discover more, and create more. The best part? We’re just getting started.

It all starts here

This is a city that’s going to keep doing what it does best–leading the way through new frontiers. In fact, signs of a renaissance are all over the place. Conferences such as Dreamforce, the annual downtown takeover from CRM giant Salesforce, remain marquee events that bring young people to the Bay Area. Businesses such as Ikea are opening San Francisco locations, while the likes of Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent are expanding their footprints.

That’s not all. San Francisco’s office market is improving, and small businesses are finding success. Of the top 20 AI companies in the U.S., 11 are . is becoming a key sector. And there are even plans for a . And that troubled downtown you’ve heard about? The and are coming together to help it rebound. San Francisco’s history of cultivating industry-disrupting businesses continues to inspire thought leaders, students, and entrepreneurs. The infrastructure for growth is built into the bones of this city. This city’s best days are all ahead. If you haven’t considered the Bay Area lately, it’s time to take another look. It’s time to invest in San Francisco.

Business owner, philanthropist, and former Gap Inc. chairman, Bob Fisher is the son of Doris and Don Fisher, founders of the Gap.

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