By Johnny Magdaleno.
Chris Schildt, of national research and advocacy group PolicyLink, says the potential for economic opportunity she saw in the San Jose, California, area while being raised there as a kid in the ’80s and ’90s was remarkable. Now, thanks to the tech boom, it’s a totally different city.
“Looking at my generation, we had some of the highest economic mobility in the country, 25 or 30 years ago,” she says. “Today it would be difficult to make that same case. Inequality has grown so dramatically in Silicon Valley and access to good-paying jobs within this economy is segregated.”
So when she and colleagues from the Pratt Center and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance were sifting through possible pilot cities for their Equitable Innovation Economies program, a national initiative to help pull disadvantaged communities up into the middle class through manufacturing and innovation economy jobs, San Jose’s economic divide made it a no-brainer.
This week, the EIE released its first progress report outlining the successes and challenges it encountered over the past two years as it worked with city leaders and local industry in San Jose, New York, Indianapolis and Portland, Oregon, to outline plans to build high-tech skill economies with the help of workers from marginalized communities. Because of its historic role as a host to major tech companies around the Bay Area, San Jose, which calls itself the “Capital of Silicon Valley,” was one of the most fascinating cities they looked at, according to Schildt.