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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


Regional Support Q3 2018

October 5, 2018

Each year, EDC carefully selects a peer metro for our annual Best Practices Leadership Trip – a chance for EDC and a group of key partners and stakeholders to learn from another region facing challenges similar to our own. The decision to go to Indianapolis this year was not a hard one. We were drawn to Indy not just as a fellow participant in the Brookings Inclusive Economic Development Learning Lab last year, but because of its regional approach to inclusive growth that has catalyzed since. We were further intrigued by Indy’s unique talent attraction and retention programs and its many collaborative efforts across government, business, and philanthropy. Over three days, our group of nearly 30 San Diegans was welcomed by Indy’s civic leaders who highlighted local programs, projects, and initiatives. Ultimately, our goal of the Leadership Trip is to inspire fresh approaches to our own challenges and opportunities at home.

A two-sided economy: The Indy Chamber kicked-off our visit with an overview of the economic disparities facing Indianapolis. Similar to EDC, the Indy Chamber led its region through the Brookings Institution Inclusive Growth Learning Lab designed to help economic development organizations (EDOs) build a data-driven platform that articulates the economic case (and imperative) for inclusion. Since the lab, the Indy Chamber has disseminated the Indy narrative throughout town, with many civic leaders referencing its findings throughout our visit. While Indianapolis bodes well on measures affordability, job growth, and entrepreneurship, it is also the 6th most economically segregated region in the U.S., with limited opportunities for upward mobility for individuals born into poverty. The impacts of automation exacerbate economic segregation and poverty in Indianapolis, which lost more than 20 percent of its manufacturing workforce over the last decade. In facing these realities, civic leaders have enacted new measures to increase job preparedness, homeownership, and overall economic security for Indianapolis residents.

The Cook Medical “unicorn”: In a particularly moving presentation, Pete Yonkman, president of Cook Medical, shared an incredible benefit that his company offers employees who wish to advance their educational goals. With more than 12,000 employees worldwide, Cook is a privately-held medical device manufacturer headquartered in Indiana with facilities in six countries, including K-Tube Technologies in Poway. Through a program called “My Cook Pathway,” Cook eliminated its high school diploma requirement for entry-level manufacturing positions in 2017. High-potential individuals without a high school degree are hired to work at Cook in the mornings before spending the afternoon studying for their GED. During the seven weeks it takes to earn their high school equivalency (HSE), Cook pays employees full-time wages and associated fees. Furthermore, Cook has partnered with the local Ivy Tech Community College to expand the program for employees interested in AA degrees or certificate programs, fronting registration fees and associated expenses and providing guidance on the financial aid process. After overwhelming response from its employees, Cook has since expanded the program even further. Now, Cook employees can get an HSE through a Master’s degree leveraging the My Cook Pathway program. Before introducing this program, fewer than 65 employees took advantage of education reimbursement. Two years later, more than 1,000 employees are enrolled. By leveraging various state and federal funding streams that support employee education, Cook offers this benefit to its employees for less than $2,000 per employee. When Cook leadership eliminated its high school diploma requirement, they decided they wouldn’t sit back and wait for highly educated employees to show up at their door. Now, they are active participants in preparing Indiana’s future workforce, with resumes flooding their doors and employee retention rates on the rise.

Connecting Talent: Through its lauded statewide community college system and multiple universities, Indianapolis is well positioned to produce the workforce its economy needs, but the Midwestern city risks losing talent to the “lure of the coasts.” Jason Kloth, CEO of Ascend Indiana, is front and center on a statewide effort to retain talent by increasing employer access to qualified workers while supporting the residents of Indiana in their pursuit of a meaningful career. After serving in many leadership positions for Teach for America, Kloth led the City of Indianapolis Office of Education Innovation (OEI) as the deputy mayor of education under Mayor Greg Ballard. Kloth is the mastermind behind Ascend, a nonprofit focused on creating a stronger alignment between the supply of skilled talent and demand from employers in Central Indiana. Ascend has raised more than $10 million to support its work. The organization provides strategic consulting services to help high-growth companies identify, evaluate, and secure education partners to deliver a custom talent pipeline, usually in less than a year. In a recent project with medical device giant Roche, Ascend partnered with the University of Indianapolis to address the company’s shortage of technicians fueled by increased retirement turnover. The result was a work-ready pipeline of 25 skilled, entry-level professionals in less than 12 months. Ascend has also created a next-level, cloud-based platform called “the Ascend Network” that matches qualified talent from 14 higher education institutions to positions at more than 70 large companies. The platform has helped place more than 400 individuals in Indiana. Through its experienced team of recruiters and matching algorithms, Ascend ensures high quality candidates and speeds up the hiring process for both individuals and companies. Needless to say, our group was astonished.

Before returning home, many members of our San Diego group continued onto Washington D.C. for a day at the Brookings Institution. The group was welcomed by Amy Liu, vice president and director of the Brookings Metropolitan Program, before Brookings fellows facilitated a series of discussions on how and why other metros are approaching inclusive growth to help us think more broadly about strategies for succeeding in a rapidly-changing economy.

 San Diego’s Progress

After spending much of 2017 deepening our understanding of regional challenges facing San Diego, EDC has spent 2018 assembling an employer-led steering committee to build an inclusive growth agenda that benefits more people, companies and communities. Guided by the findings of a recent EDC study, EDC’s Inclusive Growth Steering Committee recently endorsed a regional goal to double the number of skilled workers produced in San Diego County to 20,000 per year by 2030. To support this goal, the committee developed recommendations around transparency, engagement, and investment for employers to adopt and implement within their own organizations. EDC continues to work with the steering committee to set goals and recommendations for employer engagement around our other two pillars of inclusive growth; small business competitiveness and addressing affordability.

Before Indy, we traveled to Nashville and Louisville, smaller regions confronting deeply entrenched histories of racial segregation and poverty. Indianapolis is home to one of the largest endowments in the country and would not be where it is today without the investment of the Lilly family. Each metro is unique in its history, resources, and politics, and will inevitably need to craft an inclusive economic development strategy that works for their community based on their particular circumstance. However, inclusive growth as both an economic and moral imperative is a sentiment that permeates among more and more leaders nationwide.

Regardless of how different our circumstance may be from Nashville, Louisville, or Indianapolis, the authenticity that is threaded throughout our visits each year encourages an honest dialogue among our San Diego delegation, leading to a heightened sense of unity in purpose and mission amongst our investors and newer partners. There is much to be done, but EDC and our stakeholders are committed to this work. It will remain driven by collaboration, coordination, and honesty. EDC’s mission is to maximize the region’s economic prosperity and global competitiveness. To live up to that mission, our economic development strategies must promote growth through inclusion.

Learn more at inclusiveSD.org.

October 3, 2018

San Diego Aira is changing how people see the world, literally. The EvoNexus graduate was formed by several Rady School of Management alumni that had a vision to help blind and visually impaired individuals have a higher quality of life. The company has created a wearable technology that a blind or vision impaired (BVI) person can wear, which better connects them to their surroundings via a live individual who sees exactly what they would. These navigators transcribe the visual world into an auditory one. From shopping, to reading ingredients and instructions, picking out an outfit to traveling or calling an uber, Aira helps BVI individuals live a more independent lives. Based in San Diego, the company now employs 50 people, developers and navigators, that help clients across the country. And Aira is just getting started. Partnering with institutions like UC San Diego and San Diego International Airport, Aira Enabled Zones are being stood up to ensure BVI individuals are able to access this assistance for free while at school, on travel, etc.

San Diego Regional EDC has been proud to support Aira in creating strategic partnerships via introductions to San Diego institutions and regional partners. EDC was able to leverage its existing network to open new doors for Aira at key San Diego business and organizations including the San Diego Convention Center, San Diego Tourism Authority, Petco, Viasat, BD, Cubic, Canadian Department of Commerce, Zero8Hundred, Seaworld, Tijuana EDC, and more.

The company was also recently named to WTC San Diego's export accelerator program, MetroConnect.

Aira truly is another example of a truly #SDlifechanging company in San Diego.

 

September 26, 2018

 If you had arrived at Plantible Foods in San Marcos before August 22, it would have looked much like a typical farm; greenhouses and an abundance of open space.

But a few days later the space was completely transformed for the quarterly Startup78 meetup. On August 22, more than 200 individuals gathered to learn more about the food innovation scene in San Diego's North County. From a company that turns bread scraps into vodka to two sisters on a quest to start the first museum dedicated to the avocado, North County is full of companies on the forefront of food innovation entrepreneurs. 

Every food entrepreneurs experience is different. The crowd heard from Maurtis van de Ven (Plantible Foods), Ann Buehner and Mary Carr (The Cado), Sam Chereskin (Misadventure & Company), Chuck Samuelson (Kitchens for Good), as well as representatives from Suja and Stone.

But food entrepreneurship isn't just about cashing in. Many of these founders are looking to solve some of the world's biggest problems, like hunger, health living, and food waste. Kitchens for Good is a social enterprise that seeks to minimize food waste, increase sustainability and provide culinary training for populations that are experiences high unemployment rates.

“Five-and-a-half years ago I had a very nice job with a local company, Stone Brewing, having tons of fun” said Chuck Samuelson, founder and board member of Kitchens for Good, in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Nonetheless, he said  “I kept waking up thinking I’ve got to do more.”

Guests were also treated to a beer garden, full of some North County's most prominent breweries and distilleries, as well as the opportunity to sample some of North County’s tastiest food innovations.   

Startup78 is an initiative of Innovate78 and San Diego Regional EDC to unite and amplify the resources available to entrepreneurs along the 78 Corridor with the goal of helping startups scale to become long-term, viable businesses that support San Diego's economy.

Join Innovate78 for the next Startup78 event, focused on life changing science, on October 17 at the Oceanside Museum of Art. Register here.

 

 

September 12, 2018

Today, Propel San Diego partners – San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC) and San Diego Regional EDC – unveiled 15 companies selected to participate in the Defense Innovation Voucher program (DIVx). DIVx is a comprehensive business initiative designed to build resiliency in small, local defense companies and help them find pathways to diversify their revenue. 

San Diego is home to the largest concentration of military assets in the world and the largest federal military workforce in the country. When considering the overall ripple effects of the defense cluster in San Diego, about 22 percent of San Diego’s gross regional product (GRP) is the result of defense-related spending. But the breadth and depth of defense activity stretches far beyond military bases and naval ships; from telecomm to robotics, aerospace to cybersecurity, San Diego’s defense cluster is the driving force behind the region’s innovation economy.

According to EDC’s recently released report, Mapping San Diego’s Defense Ecosystem, 40 percent of the companies registered in San Diego County as defense contractors employ five people or less. Propel San Diego’s DIVx program serves to help those small defense companies build resiliency and sustainability through times of fluctuation in defense spending.

“Like many local industries, San Diego’s defense supply chain is mostly made up of small businesses, with 89 percent of firms employing less than 50 people. As federal funds continue to fluctuate in defense spending, small business that often rely on one to two large contracts, are at risk,” said Nikia Clarke, VP of economic development, San Diego Regional EDC. “The newly launched DIVx program is designed to help these companies diversify their revenue and become more resilient, thus increasing their ability to withstand fluctuations in DoD spending and downturns in our economy.”

This pilot program will offer complimentary consulting services and curriculum to improve the competitiveness of small defense companies, selected through a competitive needs-based selection process. The program will help companies compete for government or defense contracts and/or explore pivoting products and services to commercial markets.

The DIVx program will provide services in these three specific areas:

1. Direct Assistance: EDC has identified qualified consultants who will provide $15,000 in complimentary consulting services in one of the following categories: marketing, accounting compliance, certifications (SDVOSB, AS9100, AS5553, ISO 9001, etc.), lean supply chain and additive manufacturing tools, and strategic planning.

2. Boot Camp: Enrollment in a six-month long course designed to provide best practices to company leadership on strategies to improve company competitiveness.

3. DIVx Grand Prize Competition: This competition will award a company based off their level of engagement in these activities and progress towards their goals with an additional $25,000 to work with one of the pre-approved contractors to perform new work with the company.

Partnering in the DIVx program as the key underwriter is Booz Allen Hamilton, a leader in the defense consulting industry.

Propel San Diego is a partnership of six key organizations: East County Economic Development Council, South County Economic Development Council, San Diego Workforce Partnership, San Diego Military Advisory Council, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, and the City of San Diego. Each of these organizations are also working on specific business support programs to create a more robust defense ecosystem here in San Diego.

For more information about the DIVx program please visit SDMAC.org/propelsandiego.

The 2018 DIVx companies are as follows:

  1. Accel-RF Instruments Corporation
  2. Amaratek
  3. American Lithium Energy Corporation
  4. Coast Precision Enterprises, Inc.
  5. EpiSys Science, Inc.
  6. Fuse Integration, Inc.
  7. GET Engineering Corporation
  8. intelliSolutions, inc.
  9. Marine Group Boat Works, LLC
  10. Ocean Aero
  11. Planck Aerosystems
  12. Sidus Solutions
  13. Trabus Technologies
  14. VetPowered, LLC
  15. Vortex Engineering

This project is funded in whole or in part with Community Economic Adjustment Assistance for Reductions in Defense Industry Employment funds provided by the U.S. Department of Defense - Office of Economic Adjustment to the City of San Diego.

 

August 27, 2018

Have you ever driven down the I-5 South near downtown and noticed the three large industrial buildings to your right? Do you know what happens there? That’s the U.S. Navy’s Space & Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR).

Last week, a small group of EDC board members got a behind-the-scenes tour of SPAWAR and its research lab in Point Loma SSC-Pac to answer that very question. On the tour, attendees saw firsthand some of the technology being developed and acquired by SPAWAR – technology that ranges from AI-guided cyber tools, nanosatellites, cryogenic communications, AR and VR technologies for sailors, and autonomous air, land, and water vehicles. SPAWAR directly employs nearly half of all the cybersecurity jobs (3,400) in San Diego, and its presence in San Diego is a huge contributing factor for many cyber companies to remain located in the region. It is daily responsible for the creation of advanced technologies for our country.

Additionally, attendees were provided an opportunity to learn about the U.S. Navy’s plans to explore a massive redevelopment of the SPAWAR facility that could provide the command with modern infrastructure, while acting as a catalyst for broader redevelopment in the midway area. It is rare to have a command like SPAWAR outside of the Washington D.C. beltway area and even more uncommon still for a community to have an opportunity to help such an important institution design and build a new facility.

For more information, you may access the Request for Interest via Navy Electronic Commerce Online (NECO) or Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) websites.

August 23, 2018

Last week, EDC welcomed a group of next-gen life sciences leaders to San Diego for an exclusive tour of the region’s life sciences industry. Over two days, 26 eager PhD candidates representing 15 schools across 11 states paid visits to seven local employers including ResMed, Takeda, BD, Janssen/JLABS, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Dexcom, and Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine. Upon completion of their PhD program, these students will enter high-demand occupations within the life sciences industry – namely, positions in bioinformatics, computational biology, genomics, and more. Our hope is that they chose to do so in our region.

EDC launched the San Diego Life Sciences Trek in 2017 as a strategy for attracting talent to support the growth of the region’s life sciences industry, mirroring the more typical MBA Trek model. Across the globe, leaders in genomics and connected health are gathering incomprehensible amounts of data with the power to unlock the human genome, make personalized care a reality, and enhance the way we live on a massive scale. Individuals skilled in bioinformatics, data science, and computational biology are instrumental in deciphering such data sets – a task with stunning implications across pharma, biotech, healthcare, genomics, and much more – and are thus highly sought after by companies and regions alike. The battle for talent is heating up.

Many trek participants attend this two-day program because they are curious about a career in industry, but with backgrounds in academia, have had limited opportunities to explore what one might look like. The Life Sciences Trek provides students a chance to get out from behind the lab bench to tour companies, talk with real professionals, and learn how their skills can be applied in life-changing companies in San Diego.

Through company tours, panel discussions, presentations, and a networking reception, students gained access to influential researchers and executives across leading life sciences employers. From drug discovery to connected devices, genetic sequencing to direct patient care, the breadth of opportunities for bioinformaticians became apparent within San Diego’s diverse life sciences ecosystem. In fact, after attending the trek, 90 percent of participants indicated that they plan to pursue a career in San Diego upon completion of their PhD program.

Below are their thoughts. See more at #SDlifesciencestrek.

“It was a fantastic experience for someone who's always been immersed in academia, but is interested in the industry.”

– PhD candidate in Bioinformatics, University of Michigan

“This was an incredible opportunity to network with the scientists that could be involved in hiring you in the future. It was an indispensable experience to see first hand the types of jobs that recent PhD graduates could be qualified for.”

– PhD candidate in Neuroscience, University of Southern California

“Seeing the positive testimonials from all the people at the companies regardless of their position about work-life culture will make me prioritize San Diego as my primary target for future job applications.”

 – PhD candidate in Animal Biology with a focus on Biotechnology, UC Davis

“The trek was really eye-opening and definitely changed my perspective about potentially pursuing a career there!”

– PhD candidate in Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Southern California

“The SD trek is a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with biotech opportunities in SD and to learn about a great town with a lot of potential for aspiring scientists.”

– PhD candidate in Microbiology and Immunology, Dartmouth College

 

The trek group represented 15 schools: Carnegie Melon, Cornell, Dartmouth, Duke, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Ohio State, UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, University of Southern California, University of Idaho, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of Texas. 


Trek highlights: Surprise guest Dr. Stephen Kingsmore, CEO of Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine and Guinness World Record holder for fastest genetic diagnosis through DNA sequencing.

  

You can't talk about San Diego life sciences without talking about startups. Trek participants tour JLABS followed by a panel discussion moderated by Ashley Van Zeeland, co-founder of Cypher Genomics and former CTO of Human Longevity.