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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


inclusive economic development

September 29, 2017

Last week, members of the EDC team joined 20 board members, investors and partners on a trip to Louisville, Kentucky. The purpose was to learn about that city’s emphasis on inclusion and compassion as focal points for their branding and economic development efforts. We met passionate people—both in the private and public sectors—who are working hard to create a community that is uniquely Louisville.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer set the tone when he welcomed our group Wednesday evening and stayed to talk with us about Louisville’s past, its present challenges and the city’s goals around lifelong learning, health and compassion. Louisville’s challenges are significant, but they do not shy away from talking about them openly. And there is a genuine continuity to how people raise, speak about and confront these issues.

Research and workforce representatives presented hard-hitting data on the region’s existing economic disparities, as well as ambitions to add 55,000 degrees over a ten year span. The city’s economic development team and business leaders explained how the region has to work harder than most to attract and retain talent, and showcase their region as a place that is ripe for investment and growth—despite having 30,000 current job openings and being among the most affordable of large metros.

Many of the challenges that they face today stem from events that happened generations ago. But they embrace their past with the belief that they can’t chart where they are going if they ignore where they have been. Addressing a history of racial segregation, poverty and stagnant population growth are as much a part of their economic development discussion and focus as attraction, retention and expansion. The authenticity that was threaded throughout our visit culminated in an honest dialogue among our delegation.

San Diego’s Story

Back home, San Diego has experienced solid economic growth, led by its innovation industries, which have added jobs three times faster the overall economy1. However, this prosperity has not been shared by all San Diegans. A recent study found that there are more than one million people in our region with incomes too low to afford basic costs of living—the numbers are even more appalling for our black and Latino populations.

In San Diego Latinos represent one-third of the population, and are projected to be the majority by 20302. Yet only 17 percent have completed a bachelor’s degree program or higher3. Meanwhile our region has a deficit of 4,500 STEM graduates4. But talent shortages exist in every metro area—our population is our talent pool.

And while we have large employers in our region that are the vanguard of innovation, 59 percent of our workforce is employed by smaller firms that often pay below average wages5. Layer on the fact that San Diego has the second highest median home price and is the fourth most expensive metro to live in6, and you quickly see the risks to our competitiveness as a region.

We spent the past six months working with key partners to develop our story and better understand our own regional challenges. And in the coming weeks we will reassemble our delegation, as well as business and community leaders, to build an economic development agenda that benefits more people, companies and communities: an agenda that grows our own talent, bolsters small- and medium-sized firm growth, and addresses the cost of living pressures on talent attraction and retention.

There is a lot of work to be done, and it will require great collaboration and coordination. Our mission at EDC is to maximize the region’s economic prosperity and global competitiveness. To live up to that mission our economic development strategies must promote and account for growth and inclusion.

Click here for an EDC-produced research profile on the Louisville and San Diego economies.

Footnotes

1.      U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006-2015.

2.      American Community Survey, 2016; SANDAG population projections.

3.      American Community Survey, 2016.

4.      EMSI, 2017.2.

5.      Firms with fewer than 100 people; CA EDD Business Statistics, 2015.

6.      Among 50 most populous metros; National Association of Realtors, 2017; C2ER, 2017; EMSI, 2017.3.

July 14, 2017

In early 2017, the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program selected San Diego, along with Indianapolis and Nashville, to participate in a six-month intensive learning lab focused on inclusive economic development. During the lab, EDC worked alongside the City of San Diego, the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, and UC San Diego extension, to develop a deeper understanding of specific barriers to economic inclusion impacting a variety of populations across the region. The outcome of the learning lab is a data-driven narrative that will inform EDC’s strategy as we work towards an economic development agenda that benefits more people, companies and communities.

San Diego is flourishing economically, with an innovation economy and a culture of collaboration that is driving growth and transformation. According to a Brookings analysis of 50 US metros, San Diego ranks 6th in upward mobility, meaning there is a greater likelihood that an individual born into San Diego’s lowest income quartile will end up in the highest income quartile. This fact, backed by the accomplishments of a range of programmatic models and initiatives by partner organizations – Accion, Connect, CDC, Junior Achievement, to name only a few – proves the success this region has demonstrated in terms of connecting communities to the drivers of our economy.

With an unemployment rate of 3.9 percent, the region is approaching full employment, meaning companies have incentives to offer pay raises and compete for talent. However, a 2016 study by San Diego-based Center for Policy Initiatives found there are one million individuals in San Diego that are living below self-sufficiency standards. This means that one third of our population cannot afford a no-frills cost of living without public or private assistance.

A nationwide battle for talent, a soaring cost of living at home, and a growing number of San Diegans unable to make ends meet are combining to form an unequivocal threat to our regional competitiveness. We cannot afford to ignore the large parts of our region that are disconnected from the engine of growth.

EDC, with a mandate to mobilize the business community around a broad economic development strategy, has committed to mainstreaming access and opportunity for all San Diegans into that overarching strategy. Over the duration of the 6 month learning lab, EDC interviewed over 25 companies, agencies, and organizations who are engaged in innovative and impactful best practices that guide families, individuals and companies on a path towards greater economic prosperity. We hosted Brookings research teams, and worked with public, private and nonprofit partners to convene dozens of roundtables and tours across the region. And we built a data-driven narrative that outlines the costs to our competitiveness of the growing number of San Diegans without access to opportunity, networks, and skills. .

For us the work is just beginning. As the learning lab comes to a close, we begin to look at the next phase: strategy. We will continue to lean on our growing network of partners and stakeholders over the coming months as we work with and through them to craft a plan that works to make our economy more inclusive, more competitive, and more resilient. Stay tuned.