San Mateo community leaders ask high-tech firms to reach out to minority students

SAN MATEO (KTVU) - Like much of Silicon Valley, San Mateo County is seeing explosive growth with more jobs, more tech, and more money.

But not everyone is sharing the bounty and some in the black community are speaking out.

"They're building these huge apartments and businesses and we don't feel that we're a part of it and so we feel left out for the moment," Marie Davis told KTVU. She's a past president of the San Mateo chapter of the NAACP.

She says the growth is pushing out those who can't afford spiraling rents and mortgages.

 "I hate to see people forced out. I hate to see whatever color. I think it's like saying that you don't count."

Some black leaders say there's reason for optimism.

"I have a lot of faith in this whole area because it's a can-do type of area. It's an innovative area," said Bill Stewart.

He's worked in tech fore more than 20 years... with IBM and NASA's space program.

 "Silicon Valley has an opportunity to become a leader and an enlightenment for doing some things that the other part of the country is not used to doing," he told KTVU.

760,000 people live in San Mateo County. U.S. Census figures show just three percent of them are black... a number that's dwindling.

Stewart says tech companies can do more to get blacks and other minorities into the jop ranks instead of relying on immigrant workers.

 "I don't see this hoard of people from the United States wanting to go to India to graduate school," he says.

"They want to come here. Why? Because we have the schools. We have the technology and all we have to do is offer it."

Offer it to blacks and other minorities right in those companies' own backyard, he says.

Stewart helped start the Saint James Community Foundation to get minority students better at math and other skills that can lead to high-tech jobs.

"They already got the innovative background, they just need to understand the technical ramifications. They know how to use the apps. They need to learn how to write the apps," he says.

Jesse Jackson recently came to Silicon Valley to push for more minority training and hiring.

Stewart fears Silicon Valley could turn into an American South Africa... with blacks and other disadvantaged workers only going to San Mateo County for service jobs... and making a long commute home to places farther and farther away.

"That would be a tragedy I think for the management of the companies in Silicon Valley to let that happen. It would be a shame. It would be a total embarrassment," he says.

Both Stewart and Davis say they've been talking to tech companies and hope to see more outreach to minority students.

 They say it's not that those students don't have the talent... they just haven't had the opportunity to learn the skills.