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The Big Picture San Diego Blog

March 2018

March 16, 2018

The Duane Roth Renaissance Award is named in memory of a beloved community leader who tirelessly championed San Diego's innovation ecosystem and reframed how we view our economic diversity. This award recognizes an organization whose work is creating outstanding inventions, innovations or breakthroughs that have changed and improved the world around us. 

We are deeply honored to announce Sempra Energy as the 2018 Honoree of the Duane Roth Renaissance Award, presented by:

Sempra Energy is a San Diego-based Fortune 500 energy services holding company with an enviable track record of growth over its 20-year history. Sempra Energy provides safe, reliable energy through its regulated utilities and energy infrastructure businesses to approximately 43 million consumers worldwide with 20,000 employees, including the company’s most recent acquisition of a majority stake in Oncor, the largest utility in Texas. Major initiatives include system modernization, decarbonization and electrification, as well as innovative strategies to minimize impacts on the environment and maximize the deployment of cleaner energy sources.

Please join us at SeaWorld on May 31 to celebrate Sempra and more. Register here.

March 13, 2018

On Monday, local leaders converged to celebrate a true San Diego success story: Forge Therapeutics. The biotech startup is doubling its local footprint and just became the newest tenant at Alexandria Real Estate’s Torrey Ridge Science Center.

World Trade Center San Diego and EDC first learned of Forge during its trade mission to the U.K. in October 2017. In London, CEO Zak Zimmerman announced a partnership with the U.K. team at Evotec, dubbed the BLACKSMITH platform. The international partnership allows Forge to work around the clock to brings its life-saving science to market.

In the U.S. alone, more than 23,000 die annually due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or ‘superbugs.’ Forge Therapeutics is changing that through the creation of a novel class of antibiotics that are targeting gram-negative bacteria, a class of bacteria with ‘bulletproof’ membranes that are resistant to traditional antibacterial interventions. The secret behind the life-saving science lies in metal-dependent enzymes or metalloenzymes. Zimmerman’s team has assumed the role of the blacksmiths of modern medicine; they are using chemistry to target these naturally occurring metals that help combat antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Forge’s expansion comes at a time when telling the story of innovative, expanding companies is more important than ever.

"The national rhetoric around trade has not made it easy for businesses to create international partnerships, but supporting local companies as they expand overseas leads to economic growth and creates jobs here in San Diego. I hope that success stories, like Forge's and other groundbreaking companies in San Diego, can help change that," added Rep. Scott Peters, who was on site to provide remarks during the ribbon cutting.

San Diego already holds a reputation as a biotech powerhouse, but it’s true competitive edge lies in its ability to engineer and take life-saving treatments to market. San Diego civic leaders remained committed to fostering an environment where companies can continue to succeed.

By expanding its footprint and doubling its workforce, Forge is strengthening our city's reputation as a leader in medical research and innovation. Success stories like this demonstrate how important it is that we are creating the kind of environment where companies like this can grow and thrive," said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

(Left photo: Mayor Faulconer receiving Forge-branded pitch fork from CEO Zak Zimmerman.)

But for Zimmerman and Forge, San Diego has been part of its DNA. Nearly three years ago, Zimmerman met UC San Diego professor Seth Cohen with a chance meeting on a soccer field. The initial technology for Forge was based on more than 15 years of leading research Cohen, spearheaded at UC San Diego. Much of the company’s funding and scientific board also has San Diego roots.

"We are extremely proud to be growing our footprint in San Diego. This biotechnology ecosystem consisting of groundbreaking science, educated investors, strategic advisors and local supporters has allowed us to thrive and expand in ways that we couldn't have imagined," Zimmerman said.

During a Fireside chat with San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Bradley Fikes, Zimmerman spoke a bit more about his decision to grow in San Diego. “Yeah, Boston and San Francisco are known for science, but we wanted to be in a place where people wanted to live and we can attract scientists with 10-20 years experience,” said Zimmerman.

Part of Forge’s growth is due to Alexandria Real Estate. Alexandria Investment Partners, the real estate company’s venture arm, backed Forge’s Series A. Now, they are providing Forge with more than 7,000 sq ft of office and lab space. But to Alexandria, it’s about creating an experience that helps companies foster life-saving innovation. “When you have a good feeling about your physical space, it makes you want to work hard,” said Zimmerman, of his new ARE office space.

March 5, 2018

This op-ed was first published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, authored by EDC's Mark Cafferty and Biocom's Joe Panetta.

Largely due to its recent marketing campaign, Qualcomm is recognized by San Diegans as the company that puts the “smart” in our smartphones. But behind the billboards, there is a deeper story about how this homegrown San Diego company became the world’s largest smartphone chipmaker while redefining corporate citizenship and putting our region on the map as a tech and life sciences powerhouse.

Qualcomm is the quintessential San Diego story, but to understand its true impact you need to understand its origin: In 1966, Irwin Jacobs came to San Diego to take a job at UC San Diego. Two years later, he founded Linkabit — a telecom company specializing in government contracts — that served as a precursor to Qualcomm. In 1985, Qualcomm was officially founded by five individuals in Jacobs’ La Jolla home.
Fast forward more than 32 years, and Qualcomm is San Diego’s largest publicly traded company, employing nearly 13,000 locally. As a global company, it has offices on nearly every continent, yet its headquarters has remained in San Diego.
A recent economic impact analysis conducted by San Diego Regional EDC found that Qualcomm added $4.9 billion in economic activity to the San Diego region in 2017 alone — the equivalent of hosting 35 San Diego Comic-Cons. Additionally, every job at Qualcomm supports an additional 1.8 jobs in the San Diego region.
Qualcomm has led by example, with its founder, leaders, employees and alumni creating new companies, teaching at our schools, hiring our local population, advocating for positive public policy steps, and accelerating the growth of San Diego’s innovation economy.
While Qualcomm is a wireless company, its focus on connected devices and the internet of things has impacted nearly every high tech industry, from healthcare to smart cities. Qualcomm/Linkabit alumni have gone on to start or sell their inventions to major companies including Viasat, Leap Wireless, Kyocera, Motorola, Ericsson and more. Qualcomm Ventures has proved a vital backer of San Diego startups including Edico Genome and Brain Corp., and is a key player in the rise of telemedicine. Today, San Diego stands as the third most patent-intense region in the U.S., not only due to the intellectual property the chipmaker has developed and the innovation it has catalyzed throughout the region but also due to its relentless advocacy for intellectual property rights for all industries.
Its work in the San Diego community starts long before one steps foot on Qualcomm’s campus. Spend one day at its Thinkabit Lab™ — a part art studio, part engineering lab that is introducing middle school students to careers in technology — and learn how it has transformed the way students from all backgrounds think about the world of work. The successful program has been expanded to schools in Chula Vista, San Diego and Vista.
Everyone has a story about how Qualcomm has affected our community. In fact, we kicked off the #QualCOMMUNITY campaign with the support of Mayor Kevin Faulconer, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders so San Diegans can share their story about the company’s impact. From the Old Globe to the San Diego Symphony to the new Central Library to our world-class universities, Qualcomm’s impact can be seen and felt across our region.
Qualcomm has given San Diego an opportunity to reinvent itself. It has been an anchor as we have transformed from a military town to an innovation hub and one of the top biotech clusters in the world. Qualcommers go to bat for San Diego. As employees, they define the next frontier of invention. As residents, they spend money at our businesses and enliven our neighborhoods; and as philanthropists, they donate millions to our universities and causes.
While the specifics around the deal are in flux, most everyone is aware that the homegrown wireless giant has been in conversations with Broadcom, a competing telecommunications company, about a potential merger.
Shareholders and regulators will decide what happens next, but outside the boardroom, this culture of innovation, collaboration, and community will always remain core to the San Diego story.
It’s a story that many companies and people, in San Diego and beyond, can learn a lot from.
Cafferty is president & CEO of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. Panetta is president & CEO of Biocom.
March 2, 2018

The impact of Qualcomm's philanthropy and technology has been widespread and has created a global benchmark for how companies innovate, operate, and engage with their community. 

You don’t have to look far to find someone that works for Qualcomm. They are our friends, family, mentors, and neighbors. And they provide a tremendous boost to our regional economy. 

What happens next is in the hands of shareholders, but ahead of the vote, many San Diegans are sharing how the company has impacted our region, our companies, and our economy.

Check them out below.

Mark Cafferty, president & CEO, San Diego Regional EDC

Peter Callstrom, president & CEO, San Diego Workforce Partnership 

Mary Walshok, Associate Vice Chancellor, UC San Diego Extension 

Dennis Arriola, EVP, Corporate Strategy and External Affairs, Sempra Energy 

Ken Davenport, president & CEO, Mission Edge

Nancy Jamison, president & CEO, San Diego Grantmakers


Jim Zortman, EDC board chair | vice admiral (ret.), US Navy
Jerry Sanders, president & CEO, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce

Rory Moore, CEO & CO-founder, EvoNexus
Julie Meier Wright, retired president & CEO, San Diego Regional EDC
Linden Blue, co-owner & vice-chair, General Atomics
John Valencia, president & CEO, Voices for Children
Blair Salder, former president, Rady Children's Hospital, and chair, Access Youth Academy
Jay Hill, CEO, San Diego Public Library Foundation

Do you have a #QualCOMMUNITY story? Tweet us at @SdregionalEDC and we might share it. We'll be adding to this post.