Has Silicon Valley and SF eclipsed NYC as America’s Top Region?

by Ken DeLeon

San Francisco Sunset from above Nob Hill looking East

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” This line from Frank Sinatra’s aspirational “New York, New York” reflects the long-held belief that New York is the epicenter of American commerce and progress. Yet, as technology pervades more industries and becomes the ubiquitous driving force of innovation and wealth creation, has Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area surpassed the Big Apple as America’s preeminent region? While the San Francisco Bay Area has only 7 million people compared to New York’s metropolitan population of over 20 million, multiple measurements of wealth, culture, and education indicate that the Bay Area now comes out on top.

One metric illustrative of the success of Silicon Valley’s tech companies would be the increase in market cap value of the top three companies headquartered here versus New York. This pits the combined market cap growth of Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook versus J.P. Morgan, Pfizer, and Verizon. The comparison is startling, and demonstrates how much technology companies have grown recently. According to Ycharts.com, since the stock market rally from President Trump’s election on November 8, 2016, Apple is up $309 billion in market cap value, and now worth an unprecedented $901 billion. Alphabet is up $235 billion in market cap growth, with a total value of $780 billion. Facebook has added $163 billion in market cap, and is now valued at $521 billion. While these tech titans, three of the five most valuable companies in the world, collectively added $707 billion in value in the last 15 months, the top three New York companies collectively added only $223 billion in market cap value, or less than one-third as much. With more value creation now stemming from Silicon Valley’s tech innovation rather than New York’s financial markets, expect the Bay Area to continue to expand and add wealth more than New York or any other US region.

With wealth and education come the desire for cultural amenities and improvements. New York was always viewed as the center of the nation’s culture and food excellence. But just as there has been a flow of innovation and prestige from the East to West Coast, so too has the growth of gastronomic delights followed. While cuisine is highly subjective, there is quantitative data to support this contention. The preeminent of which is the number of three-star Michelin restaurants in each region. According to Eater San Francisco, since 2011 New York has not gained a single three-star restaurant. In this same timeframe, the Bay Area has gained five three-star restaurants. The Bay Area now has seven three-star restaurants versus New York’s five.

Mirroring the trend of tech overtaking finance, Stanford has a brighter future than Harvard. While I would still consider Harvard the world’s preeminent university, Stanford may appropriate that role in coming decades. According to Philanthropy.com, Stanford is the leader in fundraising in recent years, collecting over $2.5 billion in the last two recorded years—more than Harvard and more than double New York’s Columbia University. In addition, according to Times Higher Education, since 2000 Stanford has been ranked as one of the top two universities, along with Princeton, for creating Nobel laureates. While the past belongs to Harvard, Stanford and its excellence in the sciences and entrepreneurial innovation will likely be the leading light for the world in coming decades.

Clearly, which region in America is the most innovative, creative and successful is difficult to answer and everyone will have their own perspective. Yet this article poses more of a question than a clear conclusion. The fact that the Bay Area can even be compared to one of the top cities in the world with three times the population illustrates how amazing this area is which we all get to live in and enjoy. Let us be thankful and appreciative of all that the Bay Area provides: a world class economy set in a stunning natural environment coupled with the benefit of a highly educated population. While it is perhaps the best region in America or even the world, at a minimum, it is a great area to call home.