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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


'World's Smartest Company' announces San Diego expansion plans

July 15, 2014


The ‘World’s Smartest Company’ just made one of the world’s smartest decisions. Today, genomics pioneer Illumina announced its plans to expand in San Diego.  With the help of EDC, the City of San Diego has announced an agreement that will help keep the biotech company and hundreds of high-paying jobs in San Diego. The City will provide a tax rebate in exchange for the retention and creation of 300 well-paying jobs.

This is a perfect example of how San Diego can support middle class jobs while also encouraging economic growth,” said Mayor Faulconer. “This agreement keeps hundreds of high wage jobs in San Diego, ensures city residents benefit from over a million dollars in annual sales tax revenue, and strengthens our region’s leadership in biotechnology.”

The announcement was made today at press conference at Illumina’s headquarters with CEO Jay Flatley, City of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer,  Council President Pro Tem Sherri Lightner and EDC President and CEO Mark Cafferty. The City Council will now vote to ratify the agreement during the week of July 21.

Founded in 1998 with 15 employees, Illumina now has 3,000  employees – 1,500 which are in San Diego –   with offices in virtually every continent. The innovator has also emerged as one of the most important companies in the global biotech field. Earlier this year, they became the first company to sequence the human genome for under $1,000 a person, making one of the most significant strides in personalized medicine in the past decade. That’s one of the reasons Illumina was recently named “World’s Smartest Company” by MIT Technology Review, ahead of Tesla Motors, Google and Samsung.

“We’re excited to continue to grow a state-of-the-art campus that will not only contribute to Illumina’s success, but also contribute to the growth of San Diego’s life sciences community, to the advancement of genetic research, and ultimately to help people around the globe realize the benefits of personalized medicine,” said Jay Flatley, Illumina’s CEO.

“The fact that the ‘World’s Smartest Company’ has decided to expand its footprint in San Diego speaks volumes to the quality of our biotech industry and innovation economy,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of EDC. “Not only do we have a Mayor that values economic development and job creation, but we also have a cutting-edge company showing how much they value San Diego’s dynamic workforce, manufacturing expertise and research capabilities.”

After an initial meeting with Illumina,  Mark Cafferty called Mayor Faulconer to express his concerns about Illumina expanding outside the region. Within 24 hours, Mayor Faulconer had cleared his schedule to sit down with key Illumina stakeholders to discuss the innovator’s growth plans. 

Like most of San Diego’s successes, collaboration helped us get to this point. Cushman & Wakefield’s Steve Rosetta and Former EDC Board Chair Stath Karras were able to spot a need to engage with Illumina early on in this process.  BIOCOM, Go-BIZ and partners at the State of California were also involved in guiding Illumina’s decision. Another EDC Board Member David Hale, considered one of the godfathers of biotech in San Diego, had flagged Illumina as the “next big thing.” All bets are, David is right.

As San Diego works to tell its innovation story to the rest of the world, we can look to Illumina as a strong global company. They have chosen to stay in San Diego because of the collaboration between the City and other partners as well as the strong talent pool that exists here. They are in England. They are in Brazil. They are in the UK. They are in Japan. But at the end of the day, they are headquartered in San Diego. And that’s the story we need to continue to tell.

U-T has more.