Amber: Hi I’m Amber Ambrose and this is BusinessMakers USA, brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance. Today we’re coming to you from San Jose, California and my guest is Bob Staedler of Silicon Valley Synergy. Welcome to the show.
Bob: Thank you for having me.
Amber: Yes. Hopefully I said Silicon right because earlier I was saying Silicone and that’s the Texas way.
Bob: Absolutely. Silicon Valley Synergy is about bringing two or three things together to make it stronger, so that’s kind of how I look at it as bringing different groups together.
Amber: I like that. So as a business what is it?
Bob: I’m basically a consulting firm where we help people go through the government process, whether it’s land use entitlement permits, government relations; basically it’s just being a problem solver to everyday business when they’re interacting with the government.
Amber: That makes sense. I would imagine there’s a lot of that going on and you’re the first to know about things that are going to happen in the city?
Bob: Yes, absolutely. So there’s a lot going on in Silicon Valley, the developments that are going on with the Googleville Transit Station, we have the Googleville bounce that’s happening here in Downtown as far as development opportunities. With the housing crisis there’s a lot of high-rise houses planned for the next 10 years.
Amber: Well tell me a little bit more about the Google campus.
Bob: Google is planning to move a campus here that’s 6 – 8 million square feet; we’re talking 30,000 employees coming to a transit-oriented development with Diridon Station going to be transformed with high speed rail, Caltrain and BART, coming in, single bore tunnel underneath, and it’s going to be the busiest train station west of the Mississippi. And it’s going to just change the way people interact with their downtown and there’s also rumors that Google is talking to the FAA about raising the height limit, so we’re talking about a whole new ballgame for Downtown.
Amber: When you get the FAA involved it’s next level.
Bob: Right and it’s how development needs to happen. We just need to look big picture of how people interact with their city; they walk to work, they bike to work, they take transit. It’s just really the 21st century we’ve all been told was going to happen.
Amber: Sure. Why did Google pick San Jose? Was it specifically because of that one transit center?
Bob: I think it’s because of that one transit center and San Jose had been a very business-friendly city for a long time and we are the capital of Silicon Valley. And people look at what’s next in San Francisco with the Salesforce Tower and everything is getting kind of overloaded there, so I think it’s the next logical step for people to look at Downtown San Jose with what we’ve done in the past with redevelopment and setting the stage to enter the world stage.
Amber: You gave us a brief overview of you help people navigate the governmental process of getting permitted and just getting things all legally done with the city, what does that entail on a day to day basis for you?
Bob: Basically when you’re meeting with a client and they kind of explain to you what they think their problem is and how they want to get something done and it’s basically kind of explaining to them in laymen speak of how do they get from A to Z? And explaining all the steps and all the consultants needed. And just kind of giving them expectations of what’s a reasonable expectation of time and getting approved – because a lot of it is discretionary approval where it can go either way. And just kind of putting them in the best light with the media, creating a positive environment for their community because every development happens in a neighborhood.
Bob: Whether it’s Downtown, and that’s the thing too, it’s about messaging as well; explaining to them what you’re going to do and what your intentions are.
Amber: Communication and education.
Bob: Communication, education and just being transparent; what your goals are. I mean if your goal is to make a 1,000 foot tower and make a gazillion dollars then just tell people.
Amber: Be transparent.
Bob: Be transparent; just explain it to people that this whole kind of false expectation of I’m trying to do something for the betterment and people can see through that and it’s kind of been seen for years. So if they just explain what they’re trying to do, why they’re doing it and how they’re going to do it and then keep on-message.
Amber: Yeah, authenticity.
Amber: Which is also a buzzword but it does mean something.
Bob: But it does mean something. So when people are saying I’m talking to my council member, my elected official and if I don’t have somebody how do I handle that you have to just tell them your story. Why do you want to do this? Every business development – new business or even a development started from somewhere like my family has always wanted to build on our land and why. And you create that connection to people to explain how it works because everyone’s kind of looking at your motives and if you just message and be authentic it always helps you. We’re no longer in the 80s greed is good Gordon Gecko time right? But if you just say hey I want to – even if you go to the unions, unions these days understand that businesses have to be profitable. They have to have their workers so we have to create this balance.
Amber: Maybe one would call it synergy?
Bob: Exactly. Synergy, absolutely. Bring everyone together and everyone does well because in this environment if you create a positive environment that everybody can be profitable I don’t look at it as winners and losers because if everyone’s a winner then the next time they come back everybody remembers that experience and it gets easier.
Amber: That makes sense and it makes your job easier as well.
Bob: Yes, absolutely.
Amber: How did you get into this?
Bob: I went to San Jose State University and I started off as an Aerospace Engineering major and realized that there were no mediocre Aerospace Engineering majors, they’re all laid off NASA employees so I switched my major to Business. My dad was in the insurance business and he was about solving problems and helping people get the right insurance. I kind of have that same mentality of kind of solving problems and went into project management. I worked at Stanford University under the Condoleezza Rice go-go days of development Science and Engineering quad.
Then I got recruited to the San Jose Redevelopment Agency and I worked my way up through real estate manager and just kind of understanding how to get projects through. I was the person who came into a project like Plaza de San Jose on the Eastside. The project was failing, came in and got it right. North San Pedro Housing bought all the land for the city for Google where we thought we were going to have an A’s stadium and working through the environmental CEQA issues there. And just kind of helping once you see how behind the curtain of Oz works in government; that government employees are really good people who just get overloaded, over worked and they get bad applications in. When you submit it correctly there’s a change of attitude and change the game of how do you do this.
Amber: How does the tech world here affect what you do?
Bob: Tech companies are booming. They’re leasing office space, they’re growing and their demand for housing is causing housing prices to go up. But also on the advocacy level they’re also going to the city saying we need to build more housing and so they’re real partners in business as far as getting more housing infrastructure, getting the roads repaired. So they’re taking a more kind of joint venture attitude; whereas before they just the castle on the hill that you had to have the badge to get into, now they’re reaching out to their communities.
Amber: And being civically active.
Bob: Being more civically active.
Amber: But everybody benefits.
Bob: Right, and that’s why I think they’re kind of understanding is that it’s better for them to be involved rather than just kind of disengaged and watching and being reactive.
Amber: A community partner.
Bob: Being a community partner indeed.
Amber: So is San Jose the next San Francisco?
Bob: No, I think San Jose wants to be the best San Jose it can be. San Francisco has a lot of tourism and homeless issues that we really don’t want. So a lot of cities have inferiority complexes – I want to be them and I want to be them – where really San Jose is a great multi-cultural city, we’re the capital of Silicon Valley, we’re very inclusive and open-minded, we just need to be the best city we can be and solve the problems in front of us.
Amber: You do you San Jose.
Bob: Absolutely, absolutely. And that’s what people need to understand; it’s not trying to be somebody else, it’s just like anything, like being a person, a business or a city, what’s your best benefits and use those.
Amber: Thank you for joining us Bob.
Bob: Thank you for having me.
Amber: Appreciate it. Once again you’re watching BusinessMakers USA from San Jose, California, thank you very much for joining us.
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