In the News: San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Nashville

Mayor Sam Liccardo at San Jose City Hall

Mayor Sam Liccardo at San Jose City Hall

Click Here to Read the Original Article in the Nashville Business Journal.

PUBLISHED: September 6, 2019 at 1:51pm EDT by Meg Garner

California Gov. Gavin Newsom may be frustrated by companies moving out of the Bay Area, but San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo says it's OK.

Liccardo joined 80 Silicon Valley business leaders in Nashville this week for a four-day trip, hosted by the Silicon Valley Organization, to study Music City and learn from local officials.

On Wednesday, after a panel discussion with Mayor David Briley, he spoke with sister publication the Nashville Business Journal about what he hopes to learn from Music City and why he's not stressed about Silicon Valley companies expanding into other markets.

"This could be attributed to hubris, but we're actually pretty happy to share," Liccardo said. "We've added six times as many jobs as housing units in Silicon Valley over the last six to seven years, and that has created an extraordinary housing crisis. We're happy to share growth, and we recognize that's a nature of markets. … There will be some folks that land here and that's just fine."

He continued: "In fact, my congressman, Ro Khanna, has been actively working in Iowa and Kansas to help grow the tech economy in rural areas to help bridge the gap. For a lot of us, we [believe] what's going on in Washington right now is that a lot of people don't know tech or understand tech, and tech is paying a price for that. We need to see tech grow in a lot of red states or else we're going to continue to see tech pushed to the margin. If Washington doesn't get it, then it means we're going to suffer enormously. … Everyone has to have skin in the tech game. Let's face it: That is the future of job growth in this country. That's where the world is going, and we need everyone to go there, not just us."

Nashville has seen its tech industry explode in recent years, buoyed by the arrival of several high-profile Silicon Valley darlings and tech giants, such as Lyft, Postmates, Pilot.com and, of course, Amazon.com Inc. A recent NBJ analysis found Tennessee has attracted more than 4,000 jobs from the Golden State since 2015. Officials have said those companies are attracted to Tennessee's low taxes, business-friendly environment and relatively low cost of living, something Liccardo acknowledged as well.

"Admittedly, we have dramatically different cost structures, but [Nashville is] hitting it out of the park right now in terms of development and getting housing built and getting cranes in the air, so obviously there are things we can learn about to move things forward," he said. "We have different obstacles, like [the California Environmental Quality Act], building costs and taxation, but that doesn't mean there aren't still things we can learn. While I understand Nashville does have a sizable homeless population, it's much smaller than San Jose's. It would be helpful to know — and I understand there's not much public money invested in it — more about what the nonprofits are doing."

Removing the barriers for housing construction has been a key issue for Liccardo, who noted the cost of building housing is roughly nine times higher in San Jose than in Nashville. Earlier this month, his administration released new legislation that will streamline the permitting process for San Jose homeowners to finance and build small backyard apartments under certain restrictions, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, an NBJ sister paper.

And while Liccardo had plenty of praise for Music City, he said the city's lack of a fixed-transit system was surprising for a city of its size.

"It's kind of amazing to me, but apparently — between the scooters and Uber and Lyft — people make it work," he said.