Business Development Division

The Business Development Division constantly works to retain and grow diverse businesses to San Francisco and to support the companies who have already chosen our City for their enterprises.

Innovation Capital of the World

San Francisco’s vibrant business environment supports more than 95,000 businesses and boasts a population that is one of the most intelligent, innovative and ethnically diverse in the world—factors which continue to contribute to a highly motivated, productive workforce. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) understands that a robust business community enriches the community as a whole. That’s why OEWD is dedicated to helping to ensure the ongoing success of local businesses.

OEWD actively supports existing businesses who have started in our city. The Business Development Division supports businesses by providing specialized assistance for a number of key industries and developing programs that help businesses thrive.

Doing business in San Francisco:

Businesses Assisted in FY 2015-2016
Nonprofit Organizations Supported
Manufacturers Supported
People Employed in Nightlife Sector
Life Sciences Companies
International Businesses Attracted to SF

Industrial Businesses

With the support and commitment of Mayor Lee and his Five-Point PDR Plan, manufacturing and industrial businesses are a strong and growing industry in San Francisco. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) is committed to supporting local businesses and makers, as they create new industrial jobs for workers of every skill level and revive pride in high quality, locally manufactured goods and products.

In fiscal year 2015-2016, the manufacturing and industrial sector continued to grow in San Francisco. Manufacturing jobs have seen growth for the fifth year in a row. OEWD has provided direct services to over 85 businesses and has provided more than 230 businesses with organizational, real estate, and workforce development services through grants to community based organizations.


Helping a Business Recover After Disaster

Rolling Stock first opened for automotive repairs, tire sales, and wheel sales in 1988.  In November of 2015, a 3-alarm fire destroyed their building.

Recovery from a disaster like that can be difficult. OEWD went on-site to meet the business owners, to get an assessment of the damage and to make sure that the business owners knew that the City would be there to assist them.

OEWD’s Workforce Rapid Response team held a benefits workshop for affected employees. This was an opportunity for employees to get information on unemployment benefits, career services, and other city services.

OEWD’s Industrial Sector Manager assisted the business owners by connecting them to available properties for possible relocation, Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for Small Business Assistance (SBA) loan information, and by answering all other City related questions.

After months of searching, Rolling Stock was able to secure a new location and acquire an existing business. They were able to keep some of the existing employees of the purchased business and rehire some of their original employees. Rolling Stock is now back in business, with bigger goals and expanded services.


The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) partners with the Center for Economic Development (SFCED) to oversee the City’s three international programs: ChinaSF, LatinSF and SFAsia. Through these programs, San Francisco has pursued initiatives to increase the visibility of San Francisco globally in order to attract businesses, spur investment and create jobs within the community.

OEWD continues to support international efforts to attract foreign businesses and investments to San Francisco by adding vibrancy and diversity to City’s economy. Simultaneously, OEWD helps San Francisco companies that produce locally made goods and services to expand their market overseas. In addition, OEWD supports local San Francisco companies by engage regional, state and federal partners in foreign trade.

In Fiscal Year 2015-16, ChinaSF, LatinSF and SFAsia together attracted more than 55 companies, creating 227 jobs. These companies represent various sectors including technology, publishing, retail, hospitality and entertainment.


Through the SFAsia Initiative, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) has continued to build partnerships and engage in discussions related to doing business in San Francisco. Among the seven events hosted or co-hosted, SFAsia partnered with the US-ASEAN Business Council to host a one-day conference with 400 attendees representing government, businesses and academia to promote bilateral trade and business opportunities with the ASEAN Economic Community. During the conference, Mayor Lee welcomed the attendees and promoted San Francisco’s commitment to supporting increased business exchange between San Francisco and Asia. OEWD also hosted SFAsia’s Advisory Council meeting to hear from its members about the opportunities San Francisco should pursue in Asia. The Advisory Council, which recently grew from 10 members to 17 members, has helped OEWD’s SFAsia program by directing leads to the program and fostering connections to SFAsia and San Francisco. The Advisory Council directed SFAsia to keep pushing its concierge approach to assist businesses looking to enter the San Francisco market and to focus on matured companies.

In its two years, SFAsia has helped 24 companies land in San Francisco, leading to 162 direct jobs. SFAsia is looking to increase this number in Fiscal Year 2016-17 by continuing to do outreach in ASEAN countries and increase fundraising in order to expand the services offered.


Established in 2008, ChinaSF’s mission is job creation in San Francisco, accomplished through the recruitment and retention of inbound investment and companies to San Francisco. OEWD’s ChinaSF program, the oldest of the three international programs, expanded its operations with the opening of a third office in Shenzhen, China. This office covers Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. ChinaSF also successfully co-hosted the 1st Annual ContinuumSF Innovation and Credit Conference in January 2016, which brought companies such as Indiegogo, Lyft and LinkedIn to speak to over 500 business executives and government officials from the United States and China to discuss ways to increase collaboration between the two countries.

ChinaSF launched several initiatives and partnerships in 2016 to attract target sectors in China and assist Chinese companies looking to enter the United States understand the marketplace. One initiative, ChinaSF Builds provides a platform for Chinese and U.S. companies to work together on new development projects in San Francisco, including new housing, offices, factories, and infrastructure. ChinaSF Builds has worked over the past year to recruit not just companies to San Francisco, but also dollars to invest in the economy. In Fiscal Year 2015-16, ChinaSF recruited investments of more than $225 million. Through this program, investments have been directed towards a range of development projects such as Oceanwide Center at 50 First Street and residential projects that have helped to create 200 below market units. Another initiative is Tech Sandbox in Beijing, which provides tech companies that are looking to establish a presence in San Francisco with business support and relocation services. Through this initiative, ChinaSF has strengthened its partnership with Greenpark, a tech association in Beijing.


San Francisco has Sister City relationships with 18 partner cities around the world. Sister City relationships in the United States began under President Eisenhower as a means to foster peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the globe. These relationships bring people of different cultures together to celebrate and appreciate their differences and create cultural, educational, and informational and trade exchanges.

As part of this initiative, OEWD joined Mayor Lee on a visit to Israel through the San Francisco-Haifa Sister City Committee. During this friendship mission, Mayor Lee met innovative startup entrepreneurs, government and cultural leaders. As a result of the trip, both cities agreed to institute a public art exchange that will appear at each local port in the near future. In addition to visiting Haifa, Mayor Lee visited Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah, where he met with the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, former President Shimon Peres and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro. The delegation also visited Rambam Hospital to see new innovations in life-saving practices and Yemin Orde Youth Village, which provides for hundreds of at-risk and immigrant youth from around the world.


Latin America

Understanding the importance of Latin America, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development in partnership with the San Francisco Center for Economic Development coordinated Mayor Lee’s 2016 economic development mission to Panama and Brazil. The goal of the mission was to build partnerships with government leaders, strengthen relationships with the Latin American business community and encourage investments in San Francisco. As part of this trip, Mayor Lee visited Panama City in Panama and São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and met with more than 18 businesses in various industries and trade groups to foster and build the case for why businesses in this region should explore U.S. expansion in San Francisco. Mayor Lee also spoke at the Relate Live conference hosted by Zendesk in São Paolo, toured the Olympic Village in Rio de Janeiro, visited the Panama Canal Expansion project in Panama City, and met with business representatives in finance, technology, hospitality, consumer products and emergency management. The trade mission highlights the importance of Brazil as potential trading partner, along with Mexico and Argentina.  The trade mission has generated interest among Brazil’s business community in San Francisco. Many businesses and groups that the delegation met on the trip have visited San Francisco or have signaled an intent to visit in the near future.

Life Sciences & Health Care

San Francisco is known as home to one of the most significant life sciences clusters in the world. The life sciences hub includes over 230 companies that range from venture capital, patient advocacy, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, digital health, consulting services, diagnostics, health services, research and development, research tools and therapeutics.

The University of California, San Francisco, one of the pillars of San Francisco’s Mission Bay life sciences community boasts 5 Nobel Laureates: Shinya Yamanaka 2012, Elizabeth Blackburn 2009, Stanley Prusiner 1997, and J. Michael Bishop & Harold E. Varmus 1989. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) continues to work closely with UCSF supporting their growth in San Francisco and working with initiatives such as QB3 to ensure that the City is responsive to the needs and challenges of the industry, providing tools toward simplifying business registration through the Business Portal, the designation of a liaison for government relations in the Business Development Division and a focus on a strong relationship with the surrounding community through events like the Annual STEM Career Day.

OEWD remains committed to supporting local startup, headquartered and regional life sciences companies as they pursue tools to diagnose, treat and cure disease as well as improve the quality of human life.


San Francisco Plays Host City for BIO International Convention

BIO International Convention, the global event for biotechnology, returned to San Francisco in June 2016, the first time since 2004. The convention attracted 15,900 attendees from 5,000+ companies including biotech, pharma, Contract Research Organizations and Contract Management Organizations, academic institutions, government agencies, as well as leading consultants and service companies. Hosting the convention was an opportunity for San Francisco to display the dramatic growth of the local sector from just 1 biotech company 12 years ago when the convention was last here to the more than 230 companies we have today.

In addition to various presentations and company tours offered by local companies, OEWD participated a variety of ways during the week-long conference to highlight San Francisco’s life sciences community. OEWD staffed a Host City booth welcoming attendees to San Francisco; the SF Center for Economic Development in conjunction with OEWD hosted a booth at the entrance to the California Pavilion in the exhibit hall; OEWD participated in panels- “The Bay Area Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Panel: A Microcosm of California Success” and SelectUSA’s “Creative Partnerships Leveraging Economic Development Organization Support in the Life Sciences Sector.” Mayor Ed Lee gave the Welcome for the week’s first Keynote discussion with Dr. Omalu and Actor, Will Smith. Finally, OEWD also worked together with BIO to provide a half day program and lunch specifically designed for high school students interested in biosciences, which 15 local high school students attended.

Nightlife and Entertainment

San Francisco’s nightlife and entertainment sector – which includes over 3,500 restaurants, bars, nightclubs, live music venues, and other performance spaces– is an integral part of the city’s fabric. Nightlife and entertainment businesses attract residents and visitors to our diverse neighborhoods and provide social spaces that are critical to the development of our unique and vibrant culture.

Nightlife is not just a cultural benefit; it is also a major economic driver within the city. In 2015, the sector added over 2,000 jobs, rising to over 60,000 employees citywide. OEWD supports this vibrant industry through our nightlife sector initiative. In fiscal year 2015-2016, this work included providing technical assistance to nightlife business owners and entrepreneurs, implementing a number of strategies to improve late-night and early-morning transportation for local workers and residents, and working to facilitate compatibility between entertainment venues and new residential developments.

The entertainment and nightlife industry continues to shape San Francisco’s economy:

  • Employment Growth Outpaced City Average: Nightlife industry employment increased to a total of 60,000 jobs in 2015. The increase of 12,000 jobs since 2010 constitutes 25% growth, outpacing overall job growth across the City during that same period, which was 23%.
  • Growth in Nightlife Establishments: The number of nightlife establishments increased by 13% from 2010 to 2015, to a total of over 3,500 establishments. The growth was concentrated in restaurants and bars.
  • Nightlife Revenue Grew 43%: Overall nightlife industry revenues in 2015 were $6 billion, which was an increase of $1.8 billion from 2010, when revenues were $4.2 billion.
  • Tax Contributions Increased 45%: In 2015, nightlife businesses contributed approximately $80 million in tax contributions to the General Fund, up from $55 million in 2010. Roughly 75% of the $80 million comes from sales tax, with the remaining 25% coming from payroll expense and gross receipts taxes.


Marketing Outreach Campaign for Regional Late-Night and Early Morning Bus Network

San Francisco’s nighttime economy includes diverse industries such as nightlife, hotels, hospitals, manufacturing and distribution, and many others. A significant number of workers in these sectors are low-to-moderate income individuals who rely on public transportation to get to and from their jobs. On an average weeknight, an estimated 250,000 late-night and early-morning trips are made to, from, and within San Francisco.

In order to address low public awareness of existing all-night bus service, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and Supervisor Scott Wiener along with regional transportation agencies launched a new regional multilingual marketing outreach campaign for the AllNighter, the late-night and early-morning bus network that serves San Francisco, the East Bay, and Peninsula. The system, which is operated by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), AC Transit, SamTrans, and Golden Gate Transit, runs from midnight to 5AM and consists of over 20 bus routes, with stops at most BART and Caltrain stations.

The first phase of the multilingual AllNighter outreach campaign features cable television, social media, bus, BART and Muni station advertisements. Partnerships with community organizations will also be used to broaden the outreach effort. The project will run through the summer of 2017.

OEWD led the implementation of this project, working closely with SFMTA, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), AC Transit, Samtrans, and Golden Gate Transit and other members of the San Francisco Late Night Transportation Working Group to develop the campaign. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) also supported the initiative by granting $200,000, which will be used to sustain the campaign.


In fiscal year 2015-2016, OEWD launched the Nonprofit Sector Initiative, providing a single point of contact for the City’s nonprofits and coordinating the City’s investments to strengthen and stabilize organizations that provide essential safety net and quality of life services, as well as arts and culture, which enrich the community. More than 100 organizations have received business development assistance, pro bono referrals, and information about city grant programs, including the Nonprofit Displacement Mitigation Fund, which has supported 74 organizations with grants and/or technical assistance totaling $2.25 million. OEWD supported Northern California Grantmakers’ regional survey of nonprofit space and facilities and launched a request for proposals that will result in a community benefit organization occupying new, affordable program space at 167 Jessie Street in SoMa.

Beginning fiscal year 2016-2017, Mayor Lee has doubled down on this work with a new $6 million investment to support nonprofits through the Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative. Over the next two years, nonprofits will receive support to purchase permanent affordable space, activate underutilized space, and mitigate costs related to displacement and relocation.

Investments from the Mayor’s administration have helped dozens of nonprofits secure space over the last two years. Through the Nonprofit Displacement Mitigation Program, 40 organizations have been awarded $2.25 million in financial assistance, and secured leases of three years or more that in total occupy over 250,000 square feet of space. Securing long-term homes for San Francisco’s nonprofits has also resulted in preserving 500 full-time and 249 part-time jobs citywide. The Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative is a collaboration between the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development, the Arts Commission, and other key partners.


A Big Move Forward

At The Crossroads (ATC) is a nonprofit organization that reaches out to homeless youth and young adults at their point of need, and works with them to build healthy and fulfilling lives. The nonprofit removes common barriers to service by bringing its counselors onto the streets, and shaping its support services around the needs of each individual client.

In July 2015, At the Crossroads was contacted by OEWD’s Nonprofit Business Development Manager, a newly-created position established to support the nonprofit sector. ATC was contacted proactively because another tenant in its building was displaced due to planned renovations. The Nonprofit Business Development Manager consulted ATC’s executive director Rob Gitin about their space needs and provided technical assistance resources including a referral to the Nonprofit Displacement Mitigation Program. With assistance, ATC began the process of evaluating its needs and resources and preparing to move.

Later in the year when OEWD issued a RFP for 4,124 sq ft of sub-leased space for $1 a year, At the Crossroads was well-prepared to apply for the opportunity. Using the services of Northern California Community Loan Fund and Asian Neighborhood Design, they applied and were recommended as the preferred tenant of 167 Jessie Street. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a five-year sub-lease on July 26, 2016 and ATC will break ground on renovations later this year.

Business Tax Change

In November of 2012, San Francisco voters approved Proposition E, a Gross Receipts Tax and Business Registration Fee Ordinance. Passing with 70% of the vote in a high voter turnout election, Proposition E was widely supported by a broad base of local businesses.

Despite the high support for the measure from the business community, the City’s past experience with tax compliance indicated that many business owners are often unaware or unclear of how legislative changes will impact their businesses. When it comes to tax compliance, most businesses in San Francisco do not have support and staff assigned to monitor newly enacted tax law changes. Small businesses typically do not engage a tax professional to assist them with their tax preparation. In many cases, an owner, office manager, or a family member will prepare and file taxes for the business—not an accountant, Certified Public Accountant, or other tax professional.

It was necessary to launch an awareness campaign to inform business owners about the changes to the City’s business tax structure. Under the direction of the Mayor’s Office, the process to begin developing a communications strategy was implemented by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), the Office of Small Business (OSB), and the Treasurer and Tax Collector.

Our message was simple, “Your Business Tax is Changing.” The outreach plan was heavily frontloaded in order to prepare businesses for the increase in their Business Registration Renewal.

For Fiscal Year 2015/2016 the outreach team shifted the message to. “Your Business Taxes are Changing, Get Educated.” The outreach focused on educating business about the online form, and providing good customer service.

To that end the following events occurred:

  • The outreach team met with ten of the eleven members of the Board of Supervisors, and provided staff with monthly updates and collateral material for their newsletters
  • OEWD Staff worked in the Tax Payer Assistance Office to create stronger customer service systems and strategies
  • Created a stronger and more robust Knowledge Base for 311, which led to a reduction in Service Requests to the Treasurer and Tax Collector
  • Partnered with the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs, and had community ambassadors perform outreach in their respective merchant corridors, most notably the corridors the ambassadors reached were south of market
  • Presented to eight merchant groups/associations
  • Hosted 10 Gross Receipts Tax Seminars at the Main Library
  • The seminars were very different – one was with a power point and an overview of the ordinance, the others were using the app live with real life businesses
  • Granicus is a type of video that allows you to open up link with in the video, so if you are talking about your NAICS code, you can click on the link and look-up you link, and since all video’s are on line, Granicus calls out a level of interaction.
  • There was an initial presentation in 2014/2015 fiscal year and then what was presented at the 2015/2016 year were updates.
  • Presented at the Central Market Payroll Expo
  • Presented at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Council
  • Presented at the State Board of Equalizations Small Business Seminar
  • Partnered with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce for a District Eight and District Three Small Business seminar
  • Hosted three updates to the Business Tax Advisory group
  • Designed a multi-lingual letter which was mailed to all 95,000 registered businesses, preparing for the Gross Receipts filing and the use of a new PIN
  • Designed a magnet with all of the important business tax dates
  • Designed a multi-lingual “trading card” which directed businesses to our website
  • Marched in the San Francisco Pride Parade
  • Partnered with two City Hall Interns to create and implement a stronger outreach strategy for the Chinese American community and the Pilipino American community
  • Executed a multi-lingual outreach campaign in partnership with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in which we had 45 signs on the exterior of busses and 500 internal signs
  • Continued to update and add content to the website, which led to 16,500 visitors, with the peak during February
  • Posted weekly on Townsqured, a social media platform for businesses only, reaching over 30,000 businesses
  • Increased the use of social media on both Twitter and Facebook
  • Purchased a multi-lingual, multi-level targeted media campaign for both online and traditional print
  • Facilitated four focus groups to solicit feedback on the Gross Receipts on-line form

At the conclusion of the February Gross receipts Deadline:

  • 16,782 Businesses had filed
  • 3,239 were Lesser of Residential Real Estate
  • 76 were combined groups (large corporations)
  • 438 requested an extension
  • 733 filed post the march 2 deadline

On May 26, 27, and 31, 2016, we hosted smaller versions of the Business Registration Renewal Day, and in total for the four days we served 1,100 businesses.

Opening, expanding or relocating a business in a world-class destination is an exciting, but complex undertaking. The Business Development Division helps businesses navigate through this process, and offers several resources to assist your business in finding a location that is right for you.

Visit Business Development Website