1972 – Hewlett Speeches

Box 3, Folder 10, – General Speeches


November 30, 1972 – “Environmental and Social Forces Affecting Business in the Bay Area,” Bay area Outlook Conference, San Francisco, CA


11/30/72, Typed text of Hewlett’s speech


Hewlett starts with a discussion of the general characteristics of the Bay Region and their impact on the business climate.


He feels the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the outstandingly attractive regions in the U.S., and that it is this very characteristic that is most threatened by uncontrolled growth and destruction of the environment.


He points to the region as a center of culture and learning – museums and art galleries, symphonies and operas known throughout the world. Two great universities have had a “profound influence on the region’s development.”


He describes the area as having “some of the nation’s largest and most important companies,” – but highly organized by unions, and thus “one of the most expensive regions of the country in which to do business.”


He says it is of no coincidence that “out of the liberal thinking of the region the ‘Free speech’ movement at U.C. originated and soon spread to the rest of the country,” as shown by the student unrest of the past few years.


From the “poverty pockets of the East Bay came the Black Panthers, and I am sorry to say, also the Hell’s Angels.”


And he mentions that “The region was one of the first to rise up in its wrath and say ‘no more’ to the State Division of Highways as it attempted to fill some of the choice sections of the region with snaking strips of concrete.


“No,” he says, “I would not say that the Bay Area is a region without spirit or imagination.”


In the environmental area, Hewlett sees latent, if not current, problems. “The fact that there are already six regional organizations now operating speaks to this point.”


He names some of the specific problems areas: urban sprawl, traffic and transportation, waste disposal, quality of water and air…. ”What makes these problems particularly pressing here,” he says, “is the geographical nature of the area with its narrow strips of land, with its proximity to many waters, and a natural formation that can and does easily trap smog.” But he cannot say that these environmental problems have “at the present time, an unusually adverse effect on business in the area.”


My concern,” he says, “rests with the social forces that I see acting in the area.”


And he cites the city of Berkeley as an “archetype” of the social problem he has in mind. “Berkeley now has a near majority of radical council members. Many of their recent actions might be defined as a sharp departure for normal city administration.” And he points to rent control as an example. He quotes the Chronicle newspaper as saying that ‘In much of the business community, the radical presence at City Hall has been viewed as somewhat akin to the Visigoths sacking Rome.’


Looking at his home town of Palo Alto, Hewlett says that “any suggestion of expansion in the industrial area is met with substantial resistance. At the instigation of the radical organization, Venceremos, the City council asked the city Attorney whether it could legislate that no defense work could be carried on within the city limits.


“It is very difficult to plan a business program in such an environment,” Hewlett says. “Unless and until I feel that there is a more friendly climate toward business in the community, I am unwilling to allow any more expansion in Palo alto than is absolutely necessary.”


In addition, Hewlett points to a recent survey among business executives where “…43% responded that the major disadvantage of doing business in the Bay Area had to do with the high cost of labor and of land, 32% cited high taxes and cost of government, and 27% unions and union dominance.”


Hewlett feels these factors, coupled with a rather negative attitude toward business, has had an very adverse effect on the local business attitude. He says many businesses have moved out of the area or are thinking of doing so.


Having pointed out some reasons why he is concerned about the climate for business in the Bay Area, Hewlett turns to some methods that, he feels, might possibly reverse some of the trends.


“First,” he says, “I believe that we need more effective and realistic planning – planning that can stand the test of time and provide stability to the region.”


Regional planning can allow “business and industry to make long range plans without the prospect that tomorrow, through some capricious whim of a single community, your plans, and indeed the returns from your investments can be negated.”


Hewlett feels business “should bend more than it has been willing to do in the past toward recognizing the wishes of the community. It needs to understand the community’s character, its aspirations, its needs and its goals. This is not an easy job as there are many diverse pressures in a community that are not always pointed in the same direction.”


Corporations should “encourage employees, regardless of position in the company or party affiliation, to take an active interest in the community and its political processes. The best antidote for radical thinking is reality. Anyone who makes his living in business – from the janitor to the president – is going to be better qualified to separate fact from fancy than someone who has only a theoretical base of this position.”


On the other hand, Hewlett says “…environmentalists must be willing to make some compromises. A ‘stop the world, I want to get off’ attitude is going to be self-defeating. The environmentalists will, in the long run, lose more than they can ever gain by such an approach, for society will simply brush them by as unrealistic dreamers.”


He gives an example of unrealistic thinking by some environmentalists, in this case from the Sierra Club. “…a recent Sierra Club report, addressing itself to the question of new power plants in California, stated that these plants ‘take up an inordinate amount of valuable open space.’ It went on to state that ‘should utility projections materialize, gigantic atomic generating pants would line the coast at five mile intervals by shortly after the year 2000.’


“Such statements are simply untrue. Moreover, they are particularly damaging in that they only contribute to the growing power shortage in our state.”


Hewlett gives another example, which involves HP’s planned facility in Santa Rosa. “This is a plant,” he says, “for which very careful planning has been devoted to have it complement the natural attractiveness of the region. Yet some conservationists have opposed any such development even though the unemployment rate in Santa Rosa is more than  9%, and many of its young people must go elsewhere if they are to find a meaningful job commensurate with their education.


“So the community, too, must be willing to change its attitude toward business.”


“An industrial plant is a living thing populated by human beings – it should not be relegated to the wastelands – to the most unattractive areas. Its employees spend one-third of their waking hours there, and they are entitled to pleasant and attractive surroundings. Too often industry is simply looked upon as an alternate source of revenue and no more – something for which the community has no real responsibility.”


Hewlett says a former City Manager in Palo Alto commented to him once that he could run the city without any property tax at all because the city got so much money form business and industry. “Yet,” Hewlett says, “industry in Palo Alto is made to feel like a second-class citizen.


“But when all is said and done, the ball is on the business side of the court. If there is to be meaningful regional planning, business must get behind it and push. Business must supply the jobs for our unemployed and underprivileged citizens. Business must be willing to try and ‘sell itself’ to the community and become an exemplary corporate citizen., and business, by its actions, must convince the public that the free enterprise system is able to adapt to changing times, and that it is a fundamentally better approach than that provided by socialism.”