Op-Ed: Manufacturing Will Help San Jose Restore Middle Class

As the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose is at the heart of the innovation economy. But we face a pressing question: Are we creating enough opportunities for every resident to have their chance of securing a spot in the middle class?

In recent decades, conventional wisdom has told us the high-wage manufacturing jobs of yesterday have gone overseas for good. But that’s not necessarily true.

Just look at the “help wanted” signs up the street at Tesla, where millions of cars will be manufactured right here in California. Just in Assembly District 27 (covering about half of San Jose), there were 11,274 manufacturing jobs in 2014, up from 7,948 manufacturing jobs in 2012; and the average salary for these manufacturing jobs was $106,080 in 2014, up from an average of $86,996 in 2012.

Given these numbers, it is critical that we not only foster the creation of more well-paying manufacturing jobs, but also make sure San Jose workers are in the position to fill the openings.

My plan starts with education. Before we manufacture innovative products, we need to design them. I’ve proposed that the next University of California campus be located in San Jose (UC San Jose) so we can teach the innovators of tomorrow right here in our community.

Employers are drawn to where they can meet their demand for high-skilled workers. We need to become the national center for skilled manufacturing workers, and remain the global leader in skilled engineers. That requires investments in education—high schools, community colleges and a new UC—and a commitment to life-long learning through ongoing job training for local workers.

We can also get back to the days when products labeled “Made in America” are commonplace around the world by continuing to support and grow San Jose’s export industry. A revenue-generating export accelerator would help reduce the significant challenges small businesses face when attempting to scale-up distribution and sell their products in international markets, while a public-private partnership could exploit the expertise that already exists within our community.

Additionally, municipalities could waive the locally-imposed share not included in the state-level Sales and Use Tax Exemption (STE) for local companies, unlocking the incentive for investment created by California’s partial STE for the purchase of manufacturing and R&D equipment.

Since taking office, Mayor Sam Liccardo has taken a collaborative approach to strengthening manufacturing activity in San Jose. And leaders throughout the community have recognized that rebuilding manufacturing is the path to rebuilding the middle class.

It’s a commonsense approach that’s making progress here in San Jose, and I’m eager to bring that experience to Sacramento. Together, we can create good, middle class jobs and expand opportunity for every member of our community.

California has long promised opportunity for those willing to work hard and study hard. So it was for my family, who escaped from Vietnam on a fishing boat when I was four years old. My siblings and I worked alongside our parents in the fields of the Central Valley, yet my folks always believed that their children would someday go to college. It was their example that led me to UC Santa Cruz and the University of Chicago, and to the San Jose City Council.

But today, I see that promise of opportunity slipping away from too many Californians.

For San Jose to thrive, as a strong and safe city, that promise must be protected and expanded. Ensuring that high-wage and high-skilled workers have an opportunity to make things here is how we make that promise a reality for more families.

Madison Nguyen is a former San Jose vice mayor and candidate for the State Assembly’s District 27. She wrote this for San Jose Inside, which will publish op-eds from local candidates between now and the November election.


  1. Dear Madison,
    Nice view of the future but you need to put on some reality glasses. Tesla replaced NUMMI that had far more high paying jobs and produced more cars in a year than Tesla will likely ever produced. Those cars were produced for the middle class and entry level buyer. Tesla’s are for millionaires.
    The cost of labor here is not $100000+ a year, if it was it would be sent packing to less costly US locations or overseas. At best at those prices you would be replaced by some H1B or a robot.
    Even higher paying maintenance worker are being replace with foreign help at much lower cost.

    Your Idea of a UC college here is going to be way over budget. Besides American kids want to be in a cheap party town not the most expensive place in the US. That’s what Stanford is for.
    Not enough room for S.J. State students as is. Beside who in the middle class can afford the student loan for a deg in sorry we only pay $20 an hour job.

    The dirty little secret to creating Jobs right here is cutting the cost of doing business here. Start with cutting taxes,
    cutting startup and and permits cost. Most of all utility cost do to too many government regulations.
    I you can save 75% of utility cost by moving your plant to Texas or Mississippi , Bubba’s got your job!
    Solar and wind power is way to expensive to keep even a low level manufacturing facility in the black.

    You can even buy a politician for much less over there!

    • None of the Vietnamese Americans who helped electing Madison in District 7 are recently on board with Madison’s campaign this time. Because they know well that this lady is a big cheater. She promised, promised and later turned around and said she can not do it . She is very good in approaching people who has never worked with her before and get them to help her get elected . I understand this time she is relying more White and Hispanic people to vote for her . Don’t ! because Madison won’t do any things she has promised .

      • But that’s what politicians do around here, lie so they can get reelected.
        Bet she doesn’t have a foundation yet!

  2. The city in which this uninspiring opportunist just termed out as a council member is in shambles, thanks in large part to her innate incompetence, so I guess it makes political sense that she would now seek a larger target for destruction. Her campaign poster should depict her as a cruise missile honing in on the State Capitol.

  3. “I’ve proposed (when, and to whom?) that the next University of California campus be located in San Jose (UC San Jose) so we can teach the innovators of tomorrow right here in our community.”
    What a huge slap, no a punch, in the face of SJSU, and in particular it’s Engineering School.

    • Nguyen needs to address the real needs of local higher education. San Jose State does a great job in the area of technology. Look at how good its School of Engineering is. Nguyen would be more effective if she focused on modifying the 60 year old albatross called the “California Master Plan for Education” (developed in 1960) and let SJSU become a full research institution. However, that might not appeal to her elitist instincts.

    • San Jose State does not have room for all of the students who want to major in computer science/computer engineering. SJSU does not have room for all of the transfer students who finish degrees at community colleges and then want to transfer in to SJSU as juniors in computer science/computer engineering. Rather that look to bring a new UC to this area, lobby for adequate funding for San Jose State so that it can accommodate all of the students who want to attend.

  4. First, UC Merced needs to fill up to capacity. After that, the next UC should probably be located in Redding. There is currently not one UC campus between UC Davis and the northern California border (roughly a 270 mile drive on Interstate 5), while UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, and UC San Francisco are all pretty close to San Jose. I think Redding and the surrounding area could better use the economic stimulus of a UC campus, and students, faculty, and administration would find Redding a lot more affordable than San Jose.

    • I agree, San Jose doesn’t have enough land and is too expensive for a UC Campus. It’s just another empty campaign promise that will be forgotten if she is elected.

  5. Let’s bring manufacturing to San Jose with job training (including a new UC), tax incentives, and a export generating manufacturing accelerator that’s a public private partnership. Sigh…these are the same old solutions we hear everytime.

    We already have the manufacturing that makes sense in San Jose given what it is “…some might think Facebook and Twitter dominate the Valley, manufacturing actually employs nearly half (46.1%) of workers. These 134,000 workers produce everything from semiconductors to computer equipment to aerospace parts and pharmaceuticals.”

  6. Last i heard, UC has serious budget problems and can’t even maintain its current staff.

    Please don’t vote for this person.

  7. The quality of life in our neighborhoods is as important as good jobs. In Nguyen’s council district, people living along Rinehart have been crying for help. Their children have to walk through most unsavory elements, and homeless people eke out a living on both sides of the freeway wall on the west side of 680 at McKee. She has been asked to help which would amount to Code Enforcement and the SJPD setting up better ways of guarding children, along with parking permits and frequent visits by police.

    When I visited the neighborhood, I saw a woman putting lotion on her breasts and a drug dealer big black car pull up to service the unhoused neighbors. The street runs behind the erstwhile Kohl’s and appears to receive no attention at all from street cleaners.

    From what I could tell, based on my own observations and information from the neighbors, Nguyen was asked to help which would have been as simple of picking up the phone and helping with parking permits to keep ladies from parking along the street along with drug dealers, and getting Code Enforcement and the SJPD to have regular patrols by those little cars that delight in giving tickets in other neighborhoods for parking 5-10 inches over the edge of the sidewalk.

    Shame on Nguyen for allowing this rough spot in her district to proliferate making residents live in fear.

  8. Maddie was too busy leading the anti police campaign in San Jose. She was a huge Measure B backer which has cost the citizens dearly in a rise in violent crimes ie robbery, gang assault, prostitution and auto theft. This woman is a very unsavory character for sure. BTW nice photoshop on the face pic it really did help. As Ive met you in person at the nearby banquet restaurant adjacent to Grand Century Mall. The south vietnamese military vets were calling you a communist sympathizer. You were very rude and condescending to the security that walked you to and from your car. But as Ive heard from others this is how you roll. A liar and better than everyone else.

  9. Hey, she’s hot! I’ll vote for her…





    I don’t vote for economic illiterates.

    Manufacturing is dead and gone from this valley, replaced by something that creates a lot more wealth. Too bad she doesn’t have a clue. Or maybe she’s got the politician’s disease: Say Anything.

    Requires no thinking…

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