Economic Development

Economic Development

Jobs Business Size  Green Business ♦ Location Quotient  Total Taxable Sales  Venture Capital

Sustainability Goals

In a sustainable state, employment is spread across industries, and the availability of jobs and workers with matching skills is in balance. Jobs pay at least a living wage, meaning that workers earn the minimum income needed to meet basic needs such as shelter, clothing, and food. Innovation boosts the regional economy, encourages resource use efficiency, and drives growth in other sectors like retail and food services.

Indicator Overview

Job growth expands a community’s economy, while employment spread across industries reduces the impacts of a recession. A growing economy with high employment rates leads to increased business investment and generates revenue for local and state governments to fund public services.

Scientific and technological innovation is the process of continuous improvement, renewal, and change to create more effective processes, treatments, goods, or services. It is a key catalyst for prosperity and human well-being. Through innovation, new ideas like the personal computer, cell phone, drugs to fight cancer, and photovoltaic panels get turned into valuable products that in turn help people live better, more productive lives.

San Mateo County is part of two overlapping highly successful regional innovation clusters: Silicon Valley in the South and San Francisco-Berkeley in the North. While Silicon Valley’s growth first centered on inventions in the semiconductor industry, the conglomeration of so many highly-skilled workers created dense flows of knowledge that have led to new innovations in related and new fields: personal computers, software, consumer electronics, biotechnology, the Internet, social media, and cleantech. The proximity of innovation incubators, skilled workers, venture capital, and business expertise has allowed the area to expand and has driven growth in other sectors like retail, food services, and real estate.

Venture Capital (VC), which provides financing to early-stage growth startup companies, plays a key role in bringing new ideas and inventions to market. VC firms offer not only financial capital, but also give start-up companies the talent and experience of seasoned industry leaders to help them succeed.


  • Industry employment tracks the number of jobs at employers located in San Mateo County.
  • The service sector accounts for 86.9% of jobs in the county, while goods production is only 12.6%.
  • Agriculture jobs constitute .5% of industry employment, a decrease from 1% in 2013.

Service Sector Jobs, San Mateo County, 2015

  • In 2015, the overall number of jobs increased by 3%, and service jobs increased by 5%. For many, the monthly average rent ($2,562 for a 1 bedroom and $2,856 for a 2 bedroom) is half a month’s wage.
  • The average wages for several types of service jobs are listed below (monthly/annually).
    • Chefs and Head Cooks: $4,451 / $53,412
    • Computer Programmers: $8,852 / $106,234
    • Elementary School Teachers: $5,823 / $69,883
    • Financial Analysts: $11,006 / $132,069
    • Forest and Conservation Technicians: $3,190 / $38,805
    • Legislators: $5,743 / $68,919
    • Paramedics and EMTs: $4,695 / $56,336
  • “Professional and Business Services” jobs became the largest category of service jobs in 2015.
  • Within the “Trade, Transportation & Utilities” sector, “Transportation, Warehousing & Utilities” jobs decreased the most, 79% since 2000.

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Business Size

UpdatedMarch2015Percent of Businesses by Business Size SMC 3rd Quarter 2013
  • The majority of the 24,797 businesses in the county are small businesses (0-9 employees).
  • Although the majority of businesses in the county are small (0-9 employees), most of the employees in the county work for larger sized companies with 50 or more employees.
  • The largest employers in the county include: San Francisco International Airport, Genentech, Oracle, the County of San Mateo, and Kaiser Permanente.
  • Other large employers in the county (with more than 1,000 employees) are Visa, Mills-Peninsula Health Services, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Salesforce, Franklin Resources, San Mateo County Community College District, Safeway, Electronic Arts, Gilead Sciences, Guckenheimer, Seton Medical Center, Virgin America, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory.

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Total Taxable Sales

  • Total taxable sales shows retail sales activity for all transactions subject to sales tax and is an important barometer for overall economic activity in a region.
  • Total taxable sales in 2014 (the latest year for which data is available) were $15.7 billion, up 4.7% from the year prior.

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Green Business

A growing number of businesses in the U.S. are recognizing the value of going green—from reducing GHG emissions and using resources more efficiently to building and portraying their brands as more sustainable.

Analysis from the Economic Policy Institute found that green industries are growing faster than the overall economy and that states with a higher share of green jobs have generally fared better during the Great Recession. Manufacturing plays a key role in the green economy, and green jobs are accessible to workers having completed certificate programs or without a college degree. Green jobs also extend far beyond the energy sector, with employment opportunities in the water, pollution prevention, agriculture, IT, and services sectors.

  • As of January 2016, 133 companies in the county had been certified as green businesses under the San Mateo County Green Business Program, compared to 76 in 2014.

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Location Quotient

The location quotient (“LQ”) shows industry strength in a region by comparing the job concentration in a particular sector with that sector’s national average. A score of one means the concentration in jobs is equal to the national average, higher than one means a larger share than the national average, and lower than one means a smaller share.

Industries with high LQs often bring money into a region and through the multiplier effect create jobs in other industries like retail and food services. Industries with high LQs as well as high job numbers form a region’s economic base, but can also leave the region prone to economic disruption in the event of decline in that sector. Industries with lower LQs can be targets for new investment and can increase the diversity of a region’s economic composition.


  • The Information sector has very high LQ scores in San Mateo County and its bordering counties, but only makes up 7.6% of the county’s workforce.
  • The Professional & Business Services sector is also strong and makes up 23% of the county’s workforce.
  • San Mateo County has a lower share of the workforce than the national average in manufacturing, educational services, and healthcare and social assistance.

Clean Tech

Clean tech is a growing industry that includes agriculture, bio products, renewable energy, water and wastewater management, and transportation. Investment in clean tech has increased by 57% from 2013(Q3) to 2014(Q3). Silicon Valley received more funding in clean tech ($179 million) than any other region, nearly quadruple the amount of the second highest region. Solar Energy and Smart Grid and Energy Storage saw the largest growth with increases of 51% and 52%, respectively. Solar energy is becoming an increasingly popular source for renewable energy in homes and commercial buildings. As a percentage of the United States’ renewable power mix, solar has quadrupled in just a two year period. For more information on solar energy, see our energy indicator.

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Venture Capital

updatedApr2015 Venture Capital Funding Silicon Valley-2003-14
  • Venture capital funding in the Silicon Valley grew 80% from 2013 to 2014, totaling $23 million.
updatedApr2015 Share of Silicon Valley Venture Capital Funding in California and the US
  • In 2014 86% of all venture funding in California and 48% of all venture funding in the United States went to Silicon Valley companies.

Samsung’s Innovation Center

In February 2013, Samsung announced the opening of its new Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center in Silicon Valley. Their goal is to tap into the innovation of Silicon Valley and build collaborations with their nine product divisions to generate new ideas and products. Research fellows based at the center will reach out to mentor local entrepreneurs.

One of Samsung’s reasons for opening the center is concern that the VC industry is moving away from the earliest stage of investments that can often lead to the biggest breakthroughs. The $100 million Samsung Catalyst Fund will invest in early-stage and seed-stage start-ups.

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California Employment Development Department (EDD), Labor Market Information division, retrieved from

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics:

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From the 2017 Indicators Report

Between 2010 and 2015, the average rental cost rose by 49% and the median house sale price rose by 52% in San Mateo County.

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‟What is good for our children is good for our homes, good for our communities, and good for the planet.”—Richard Joseph Jackson, MD