Tourism is the economic mainstay, with service industries supporting the large number of annual visitors. For most of its history, San Francisco was the financial center of the West Coast, but in the late 20th cent. the city began to compete with Los Angeles for this distinction. Finance remains one of the most important activities; the city is still headquarters to two of the country's largest commercial banks as well as a Federal Reserve bank and the Pacific Stock Exchange. Many insurance companies are based there. Printing and publishing, food processing, and oil refining are important, and the city's manufactures include textiles and apparel, computers, chemicals, communications equipment, and machinery.
San Francisco is also the marketplace for a large agricultural and mining region and the focus of many transportation routes. Along with the busy port of Richmond across the bay, San Francisco and the Bay Area form one of the largest ports on the West Coast and are a major center of trade with East Asia, Hawaii, and Alaska. The area's transportation needs are served by an extensive highway and rail network and the interurban Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.