Salesforce Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff at Salesforce Tower's Grand Opening event.

 

At the grand opening of Salesforce’s new San Francisco’s headquarters, Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff said the 1,070-foot Salesforce Tower will serve as a symbol of hope and inspiration for the local community, but chronic civic problems including inequality, homelessness and unsanitary conditions must be addressed.

“We see a city undergoing great change, but also facing urgent challenges. Great progress—neighborhoods and businesses that are booming—but also communities and people that feel forgotten. We see extraordinary wealth, a community with over 70 billionaires, but also grinding poverty in the shadow of this building,” Benioff told the crowd of several hundred politicians and business and religious leaders at the base of the glass and steel tower on a chilly, misty morning.

“We see companies unleashing incredible innovations, but also families in deep distress, struggling to survive another day. The experience of cities in other parts of the country teaches us that successful cities and successful businesses go hand in hand. If a city fails to invest in its people–their education, their well-being, their safety–over time, businesses flee. And the opposite is also true, if businesses fail to recognize their obligations to their community, if they are disconnected and fail to give back over time, cities suffer and decline.”

 

Faith leaders, employees and building project managers were among the attendees at the Grand Opening.

Salesforce.org, the philanthropic arm of Salesforce, announced at Tuesday’s event that it will donate $1.5 million to Hamilton Families’ Heading Home Initiative to end long-term family homelessness in San Francisco. The gift will be matched by Benioff and his wife, Lynne, who will give $1.5 million to the initiative. Since 2016, Salesforce.org has given $3.5 million toward Hamilton Families’ Heading Home Initiative, and the Benioffs have given $11.5 million. Heading Home, which has now surpassed $30 million in funding, aims to address family homelessness in San Francisco by providing housing for 800 families by 2020. Benioff told the crowd that is not enough.

“We need to reach our next goal, raising the $200 million we need to get every homeless individual off the streets,” Benioff said. “And it’s why I’m calling on every part of our community—government, residents, companies, especially tech companies—to step up and help end homelessness in our city. This is a solvable problem.”

 

San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell, seen here with Marc Benioff, praised Salesforce Tower as a symbol of prosperity.

Politicians and those who worked on the building’s construction told the crowd that Salesforce Tower and the adjoining Transbay Transit Center represents a 40-year odyssey, including a 12-year design and construction labor of love, and a beacon of hope for the future. The transit center and surrounding park are scheduled to be completed in August.

Former San Francisco mayor and speaker of the California State Assembly Willie Brown thanked Salesforce and the builders on behalf of San Francisco mayors going back decades, whom he said all contributed toward the 61-story glass and steel skyscraper. “When the ribbon is cut for the Salesforce Tower, it will literally be the completion of a 40-year odyssey,” said Brown, who acted as master of ceremonies in his trademark fedora hat and a bright yellow coat.

Builders discussed with pride the 12-year project of constructing the cylindrical skyscraper, the tallest U.S. office building west of Chicago. Despite long days and a complicated urban site hemmed in by traffic, no workers sustained serious injuries, they said. Working on the Tower brought “a great sense of pride for me,” said Vincent Molina, a construction superintendent for builder Hathaway Dinwiddie. “It’s even more special to me because I’m born and raised in the city of San Francisco, and I’m still a current resident.” His work on the building is, “The story I can share and tell everyone for the rest of my life.”

Mayor Mark Farrell praised the project as a symbol of prosperity, noting the city’s unemployment rate was close to 10 percent when the city approved the project during the recession, but is now at a record low 2.1 percent. He praised Salesforce and the Benioffs for “not shying away from our city’s most challenging issues.”

 

Many of San Francisco's faith leaders spoke at the Grand Opening event.

Benioff challenged tech companies to step up to address the chronic issues facing the community and for others not to scapegoat the tech industry.  

“The truth is, many of them are chronic issues that have not been addressed enough for many, many years. So just as I’m challenging tech companies to step up, I’m challenging others to not scapegoat the tech community,” he said. “Throughout our history, industry leaders like Levi Strauss, Isaias Hellman and Don and Doris Fischer and their companies helped to build up this city into a global symbol of diversity, equality and opportunity. Instead of seeing us as part of the problem, know that tech wants to be part of the solution. This is the model for tackling so many of our most urgent challenges—all of us working together.”  

Benioff hopes that people looking up at the iconic building from the ground will see it as a symbol of hope. “Kids in schools across the Bay Area, families walking down the sidewalk, families and children in a shelters or sleeping in cars. They’re all looking up at this Tower. I want you to know you are not alone—we are thinking of you. I hope you see this tower as a beacon, a symbol of hope, and know that there is a company and a city, a group of people, and organizations all together as one San Francisco that leads with our core values.”