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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


inclusive economic development

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.