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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


Regional Support Q317

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.

September 29, 2017

By now, just about everyone has heard the news about Amazon and its pursuit to develop a second headquarters operation (HQ2), somewhere in North America. The announcement came out through Tech Crunch and The Wall Street Journal last month and spread like wild fire through economic development communities and elected offices across the nation. Suffice it to say that Amazon has created one of the most competitive business attraction processes in history. Cities, counties, even states, are bending over backwards to make their areas fit the profile that Amazon is seeking: a metro or suburban region with more than 1 million people, the ability to attract and retain tech talent and other amenities like direct flights to key markets.

With the input of EDOs and partners across the county and state, San Diego Regional EDC is coordinating a regional response to Amazon’s HQ2 proposal.

On paper, the region checks all the boxes that Amazon lists in its RFP. In addition, the region has a handful of quality sites that meet the requirements of their build out: ability to deliver 500,000 ft2 by 2019 and up to 8 million ft2 in subsequent phases. San Diego also has a top-tier tech workforce (Amazon has stated they could hire up to 50,000 people) and quality of life that is unparalleled throughout most of the world. But when you look beneath the surface, San Diego also needs to realize that Amazon is commanding what will inevitably be record-setting incentive packages, an area where the State of California has scarcely been competitive, and for good reason. Incentives rarely yield impacts that exceed the costs. Further, when trying to find the location for a truly Life. Changing. company, incentives usually are nothing more than marginalia. Talent, quality of life and the prospect of being able to succeed are ultimately the more important factors. Nonetheless, the process that Amazon has put forth will command hundreds of millions, if not billions in incentives – amounts that can change minds.

Second, San Diego can’t change its geography. There has been debate throughout this process whether being in the same time zone as Seattle (Amazon's current HQ) would be a blessing or a curse. While there are “experts” on both sides of the argument, we ultimately don’t know what Amazon is looking for: West Coast ease of access to Seattle, East Coast access to financial and political centers and new talent pools, or somewhere in between. Only time will tell.

In summary, we don’t know where Amazon will ultimately end up. As an EDO, EDC is excited about the opportunity to bring our region together and present our best opportunities. It’s a good test to see just what we can do when the right opportunity comes along. In conjunction with partners from around the county and state, EDC will submit a response to Amazon’s RFP ahead of its October 19 deadline. After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

September 28, 2017

From Uber to GE to Qualcomm, companies in the tech world are racing to develop autonomous vehicles.  But you don’t have to go to Silicon Valley to find a company developing solutions for the first autonomous truck. TuSimple, a Bejing-based startup with R&D facilities in San Diego, is one reason. The company is developing technology for fully autonomous commercial trucks – a new frontier in the tech world.

In June, the company completed its first 200 mile test ride between San Diego and Yuma, Arizona, piloting its technology on a sedan. Soon, it hopes to move the technology into trucks, and with high profile investors like NVIDIA, they have a good shot.

When the startup was trying to get their product into testing phase, EDC stepped into help. Both SANDAG and the City of Chula Vista are part of an autonomous vehicle proving ground – one of ten in the country approved by Department of Transportation. EDC connected TuSimple with project leads at both entities to explore testing options right in their backyard.

Bringing a new technology to market is often met with regulatory challenges. EDC has connected TuSimple to the Department of Motor Vehicles to help navigate the regulatory framework to allow for autonomous testing of trucks in California.

The highway of the future will look very different. TuSimple is just one San Diego company driving that change.

August 17, 2017

In partnership with the Cyber Center of Excellence and SPAWAR, EDC coordinated a two-day tour for 40 DoD Chief Information Officers (CIOs) from the U.S. and allied nations. The tour is part of an annual best practices trip led by the U.S. to help military and intelligence agency CIOs learn about new commercial technologies in cyber, artificial intelligence, machine learning and nanotechnology. This was the first time that this group has selected San Diego for a best practices trip, typically traveling to Silicon Valley, Boston and New York instead.

The San Diego tour kicked off with an hour and half long conversation hosted at Qualcomm by their CEO Steve Mollenkopf, discussing the impacts of 5G technology. This was followed by a whirlwind of technical presentations from local companies AttackIQ, Qubitekk, Websense, Illumina, FICO, KnuEdge and iboss along with leadership from UC San Diego. Several companies who presented are now working on new projects with key agencies as a direct result of this trip.