Elected as the youngest council member in the history of his city, much of Mark Addiego's career in its early days was connected to events that had little to do with Mr Addiego himself. “I got elected to the city council back in 1980 when I was only 25. That is very unusal and I like to think that it was thanks to my personality, but in reality, as it was still fresh after the Watergate scandal, there was the trend to throw incumbents out of offices and look for newcomers,” he says.
In the same fashion, a lot of economic trends in the history of South San Francisco, Mr Addiego's hometown and the city of just 64,000 people, have had little to do with the city itself. “Because of our close proximity to San Francisco, industries that would get pushed out from there, such as the meat industry or food processing, would end up in our backyard,” says Mr Addiego. “The economy of San Francisco definitely affects us in a big way.”
But despite the location and a similar name, according to Mr Addiego, it would be unfair to see South San Francisco simply as an extension of its much larger and more famous neighbour. This is especially true when it comes to biotech, an industry that has been growing in the city since mid-1970s. Here, despite his amicable nature, Mr Addiego is quick to point out to San Francisco's shortcomings and ways in which his city is a better fit for biotech investors. “South Francisco had their biotech district, but they quickly allowed tech companies not related to the sector to take up millions of square feet of space there. We are more focused on that one particular industry,” he says. “We see it as a real powerhouse for a small community like ours.” he adds. Genentech, the first biotech company that moved to the city, has grown to be the city's biggest employer with a headcount of more than 7,000.
Small city advantages
The focus on biotech and more manageable size of the city also means that investors find working with city authorities easier than in the case of San Francisco. “Our council is much smaller and easier to navigate and, I think, when it comes to local politics, we are more direct and throw fewer curveballs [than San Francisco],” says Mr Addiego.
He adds that with other industries the cities complement each other. “Apart from biotech, one of our main industries is warehousing and logistics. And as it happens we have large distribution centres of Budweiser beer and Hello Kitty products,” he says. “Come to think of it, things that keep San Franciscans happy come from South San Franciso.”