10 Pilot Projects to Boost the Bay Area Economy
By Egon Terplan, Regional Planning Director
January 30, 2014

From President Obama’s State of the Union speech to local policy initiatives, there’s been a lot of attention lately on wage inequality and the shrinking middle class. As part of a major SPUR initiative, a group of Bay Area pilot projects will tackle these issues head on.

The 10 pilots will test and implement ideas coming out of the Bay Area’s Economic Prosperity Strategy, an initiative SPUR and a group of partners have been working on over the past year. (For more on the strategy, see our blog series.) The projects range in size from $50,000 to $150,000. Total funding is just over $1million and comes from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Bay Area’s Regional Prosperity Plan.

The pilot projects take one or more of the following three approaches to economic prosperity:

1. Focus on moving workers up the career ladder to higher paying jobs. These pilots include a proposal to connect lower-wage workers with middle-wage non-clinical health care jobs and another that helps workers get into middle wage tech jobs.

2. Focus on industries where there is economic growth, particularly an expansion of jobs that pay middle wages. These include a pilot that targets creating more worker-owned cooperatives (think Arizmendi Bakery or Rainbow Grocery) and another that helps people become self-employed entrepreneurs.

3. Focus on treating all workers with dignity no matter what they do. These projects focus on improving conditions for those with the lowest wages and include a project to increase the skill level of day laborers and another to study establishing a higher minimum wage for formula retail workers.

10 Pilot Project Funded by the Bay Area Regional Prosperity Plan

Project title


Lead and partner organizations

Award Amount

East Bay Skills Alliance

Launch new workforce intermediary to align education workforce and economic development

Contra Costa Community College District (with Contra Costa and Alameda County WIBs, East Bay EDA and others)


Santa Clara County Health Services Workforce Collaborative

Establish collaborative to create pathway to middle wage non-clinical health jobs

Community Health Partnership (with Working Partnership USA, Work2Future, Kaiser, Hospital Council, SEIU)


A Blueprint for Creating Pathways to Ownership for Low and Moderate Income Workers in the SF Bay Area

Create academy to help scale worker-owned businesses in the Inner East Bay.

East Bay Community Law Center (with Laney College, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Sustainable Economies Law Center)


Improved Skills, Better Wages and New Opportunities for Latino Day Laborers and Other Immigrant Low-Income Workers

Upgrade day laborers’ skills as a way to command higher wages

Multicultural Institute


Bay Area Tech Career Advancement Initiative

Deliver career navigation curriculum to get workers into Information and Communications Technology jobs

NOVA Workforce Development Board (with The Stride Center, Mid-Pacific ICT Center, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Workforce Investment SF)


Promoting Economic Opportunity at the Fremont Warm Springs BART Station

Design training facility at new BART station and explore policy focus on jobs at transit stops

Urban Habitat (with Communities Organizing for Renewal and Alameda County Board of Supervisors)


Construction Careers Initiative

Field test a model of a pipeline to construction careers that increases low wage workers access to apprenticeships

Working Partnerships USA (with Santa Clara and San Mateo Building Trades, Workforce Investment Boards, State Division of Apprentices, and others)


Self-Employment and the Road to Economic Security

Develop pipeline to entrepreneurship and self-employment.

Sonoma County Economic Development Board (with Sonoma County Human Services and Office of Education)


Formula Retail Sector Economic Opportunity Project

Explore the creation policies aimed at improving job quality for formula retail workers in San Francisco, include analysis of a living wage

San Francisco Bay Area Labor Foundation (Jobs with Justice, Young Workers United, Center for Labor Research, SF Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement, UFCW, SF Locally Owned Merchants Alliance)


Success Concord

Develop and implement an intensive and culturally competent case management model for low wage workers to overcome multiple barriers

Concord Community Development Organization, Michael Chavez Center (with Workforce Development of Contra Costa, Adult Education, Stride Center and others)




Total Funding


Over the next year, we will see these projects implemented and learn how successful they are in helping achieve the overall goals of greater economic opportunity. While the Bay Area still has a long way to go to fully realize a regional economy with broad-based prosperity and upward mobility, we are hopeful that many of these funded projects can demonstrate success for others to follow. No one project can reverse decades of an economy that produces too few jobs in the middle and provides too few opportunities for people to move up to better work. But if the funded pilots can succeed in one place, they can then be scaled up and implemented throughout the region and beyond. Stay tuned.

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