What is it going to take to get more big name companies downtown?

Artist rendering of the new Apple campus in Cupertino

Steve Jobs presented the new state-of-the-art Apple Inc campus in Cupertino yesterday. But it was what Jobs said at one point in the presentation about the campus and its Cupertino location, that should sound like nails to a chalkboard for the San Jose’s citizens and city counsel. He said that if Apple were to move, they would have to look to Mountain View. Add Apple to a list of countless other companies who have avoided downtown San Jose when thinking of building a corporate HQ.

Back in early 2000, Google Inc started in Mountain View and decided to move in the old Silicon Graphics HQ when they expanded and created the Googleplex. When HP moved from Cupertino last year, it went to Palo Alto. Yahoo Inc is in the process of building a new campus in Santa Clara. Facebook recently moved from Palo Alto to Menlo Park. And recently, Microsoft has been talking about moving to Moffet Field in Mountain View. Even within San Jose, most companies have avoided downtown. When Brocade moved from its Skyport location near SJC, it moved further away from downtown to North San Jose. Cisco Systems, Ebay/Paypal, and Tivo are all in North San Jose.

First, it must be noted that according to wikipedia.org Adobe Systems has about 2,000 employees in downtown, making it the biggest non-government employer in downtown. But it’s only 12th on the list of top employers in San Jose. San Jose State is 8th on the list and the highest employer downtown at 3,100. Apple’s new campus will hold 12,000 employees, imagine if a similar company like Cisco Systems which has over 11,000 employees decided to move into downtown and took a similar approach as Apple in planning. Meaning a campus that is both state-of-the-art and yet compliments the environment and has the added touches like the planned apricot orchard. It would be an amazing addition to downtown. If not Cisco, IBM has 7,500 employees in San Jose or Ebay which has 3,000.

So what is it about downtown San Jose that makes big companies avoid building corporate HQ’s? Are rents to high? Is about parking? Is there a solution? Leave your comments here.

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4 Responses to What is it going to take to get more big name companies downtown?

  1. Josh says:

    Silicon Valley companies seem to prefer spread out campuses as opposed to dense high-rises. I think part of it is a lower cost per square foot. For companies to be willing to pay a premium to be headquartered Downtown, the value proposition needs to be really high. That is why we really need to keep improving the vibrancy downtown.

  2. Art says:

    The City is sitting on lots of land downtown, land that’s either vacant or used as surface parking lots– land that’s bringing little to no revenue. I propose the city gives away the land to a company willing to relocate to Downtown San Jose.

  3. Victor says:

    The approach needs to be securing businesses first. Once the customers are there (the employees of these businesses) then you will see retail in the area flourish. When a large company is evaluating where to set up shop, they look at cost and commutability. That’s why you see these campuses set up outside of downtown areas. Downtown San Jose needs to pursue these companies with incentives just like SF did in waving Twitter’s payroll tax. You get a couple more of these large employers downtown and all of a sudden you will see full restaurants and high rises.

  4. christopher escher says:

    I’ve worked in Silicon Valley for over 20 years and the two main things that drive where companies set up their hq’s are: 1.) where the ceo lives and 2.) where the majority of the employees live. Because santa clara valley really is one b ig city and the affluent people are located on the western edge of the peninsula, there’s a draw for palo alto/menlo park/mtn view. Because employees come from all over–from sj to sf–midpeninsula also looks good. And as others has noted, campuses, etc. require more land. We should be focused on traditional downtown occupancies like professional services.