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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


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. 



February 23, 2018

A world leader in 3G, 4G and 5G wireless technologies, Qualcomm is San Diego County’s largest publicly traded company. The locally-grown company has, quite literally, put the smart in our smart phones.

More than that though, Qualcomm has poured into the San Diego community. Its innovation and investment in this region has catalyzed life-changing developments in robotics, unmanned systems and mobile health, as well as inspired more than 3,300 students to pursue careers in STEM through its Thinkabit Lab.

And as Qualcomm juggles an unsolicited offer from Broadcom and a record-breaking acquisition of NXP Semiconductors, there is no denying that this San Diego tech innovator has shaped the region's economy and connected millions across the globe.

EDC recently produced an economic impact assessment of Qualcomm, based on 2017 data. The numbers:

  • In 2017, the total economic impact of Qualcomm on the San Diego region’s economy was an estimated $4.9 billion. This is equivalent to 35 Comic-Cons.
  • While Qualcomm directly employs 13,000 people locally, Qualcomm’s presence in the region impacts an estimated 36,050 jobs when considering direct, indirect and induced effects (expenditures of production, B2B spending and local spending of wages by employees and other businesses).
  • Every dollar generated directly by Qualcomm results in an increase of almost $2 in the San Diego region’s GDP.
  • In 2017, Qualcomm impacted approximately $3.4 billion in wages in the regional economy.
  • In 2017, Qualcomm impacted an estimated $7.9 billion in economic activity (output).

EDC will release the full economic impact assessment on Qualcomm in April. Stay tuned.

Follow along and share your support with #QualCOMMUNITY.