Brain Drain: SF sees reversal of riches as tech workers flee

By Jeff Elder, The Examiner, July 18, 2022

“A decade ago, young techies poured into The City, driving up rents, [and] crowding the sidewalks of Valencia Street in the Mission … when the tech industry created nearly 121,000 new jobs.

(“A December 2013 story in The Examiner cited ‘Seething anger against what many [saw] as the main source of San Francisco’s wealth driven woes: tech workers.’)

“Bay Area colleges, meanwhile, produced around 31,000 graduates with tech degrees. The resulting gap of 90,000 openings created a … ‘brain gain’ that led the nation. 

“San Francisco’s chief economist, Ted Egan, estimated each tech worker before the pandemic generated roughly $650,000 annually to the city’s economy, based on spending at local establishments and businesses, and employers’ spending on local suppliers [meaning] the brain gain of 2011-2015 brought the city nearly $300 million.

“[But] we resented [the] 90,000 new tech workers who brought [that] revenue. Today, tech layoffs are mounting, workers are leaving SoMa, and mid-Market’s revitalization seems like a distant dream.

“The Bay Area added around 42,000 tech jobs from 2016-2021, while graduating more than 49,000 from colleges with tech degrees. That means a brain drain of 7,000 Bay Area grads who had no opportunity to work here in tech. 

“The Bay Area still has the largest number of tech workers in the nation, 378,870, with the highest percentage of total employment in the nation, 11.4 percent. But the infusion of young workers has stopped. The Bay Area is not in the top 10 regions in the nation by percentage of people aged 20-24.

“ ‘Oh my God, San Francisco from 2009 to 2013 was just heaven on Earth,’ says Jason Hreha, who graduated from Stanford in 2009 and consulted tech companies in the city with his startup, Dopamine.”

“Today Hreha lives in Nashville and is CEO of a company that helps business leaders find executive assistants. ‘I don’t think there really is a tech scene here. But … it matters less where you live than ever before,’ he says.

“It matters to the places where you live. And … some of us think it seems awfully quiet here now.”

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