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“If you build it, they will come…” This mantra was true of the Field of Dreams, and now of San Diego’s burgeoning tech ecosystem.
Together with 35 of San Diego's best and biggest tech companies, Innovate78 representatives joined the San Diego Venture Group's Tacos + Tech in Silicon Valley last week. The event – appropriately held at the Computer History Museum – played host to more than 700 curious Bay Area engineers and programmers, and served to showcase the high-tech jobs and opportunities available across San Diego.
With a special focus on attracting Bay Area engineers, North County companies like ViaSat, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Verve, as well as other San Diego companies like Illumina, Dexcom, ResMed, Qualcomm, Human Longevity, Cubic, Hired and LoanHero set up shop at the job fair-like event. Company recruiters spoke to San Diego as the alternative to Northern California’s congested traffic, high cost of living, hyper-competitive workforce culture and other issues plaguing the region.
As a proud sponsor, the EDC-led economic development initiative Innovate78 represented North County at a booth, with leaders from the five cities along the 78 Corridor – Carlsbad, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista – at the helm. Conversations with attendees ranged from North County housing costs to the growing tech sector, to the many breweries that make up the ‘Hops Highway’ – one of the primary booths highlighting the region's lifestyle.
While many attendees admitted connection to San Diego through family, school or dream vacations, it seemed as though the region’s tech ecosystem – which employs nearly 69,000 people – has flown under the radar. Tacos + Tech provided a platform for some of San Diego County’s top employers and innovators to attract Bay Area talent through simply sharing San Diego's reality: a broad diversity of career opportunity mixed with a top-tier quality of life (and, of course, tacos and beer). For decades, San Diego has built this ecosystem, and now…the talent will most certainly come.
Tacos + Tech comes on the heels of SDVG's Beachhead launch, a coworking space for San Diego entrepreneurs working out of Silicon Valley.
By Shea Benton, economic development manager
Late January, EDC ventured into new territory by hosting ExploreSD, a three-day showcase of San Diego’s economy and talented workforce for site selection consultants from all over the country. Our goals were twofold: 1) pilot a replicable multi-day tour of the best companies our region has to offer to tell the San Diego story; and 2) proactively promote our region’s unique economy in an effort to generate new business attraction opportunities.
Over the past year, our team has engaged with a select group of consultants whose business is to compare and contrast regions for their clients, based on a gamut of criteria from real estate and utility costs to talent and quality of life, in order to help companies decide where to expand or relocate. As you can imagine, many in this industry have an aversion to California due to perceived and real barriers to doing business in the state. EDC’s strategy was to sell the San Diego region based on our thriving innovation economy, talented workforce, collaborative relationship with local and state government and unmatched quality of life.
Day 1: Joined by Mark Field, CTO of Thermo Fisher Scientific, Melissa Floca, director of the Center for US-Mexican Studies at UCSD, and Erik Caldwell, director of economic development for the City of San Diego, we kicked off day 1 with an overview of our mega-region. The conversation turned quickly to cross-border manufacturing and our proximity to Mexico, an asset previously overlooked by this group. After a multi-hour discussion, the stage was set for the next two days of company tours.
Day 2: Starting with a visual overview of downtown from the top of Diamondview Tower, our morning featured tours of Red Door Interactive, ESET and EvoNexus incubator. This portion of the event showcased San Diego’s downtown, with visit to both tech startups and established companies. The afternoon included trips to three companies with some of the most unique stories in San Diego: Illumina, iBoss Cybersecurity and BD/Carefusion. Not only are these three of the most recognizable names in the region, but they also have something else in common: they all explored expanding or relocating to other regions, only to increase their presence in San Diego.
Day 3: We began our final day in North County with tours of General Atomics and D&K Engineering to help these individuals better asses our advanced manufacturing industry. After a quick lunch at Stone Brewing Bistro & Gardens - a necessary stop for anyone visiting the region that doubled as a highlight of our craft beer industry - we explored all 5 cities along the 78 corridor. With stops at CSU San Marcos, a drive through Ocean Ranch Business Park and Carlsbad giants ViaSat and Thermo Fisher Scientific, we finished out our tour strong.
One thing was clear throughout the tour – our region’s innovation economy, talented workforce, and quality of life permeated every discussion in an organic way. With the help of an articulate group of business leaders and San Diego’s leading industry and real estate experts, we effectively articulated the benefits of business location in our region over peer metros including Austin, Denver and San Francisco. Moving forward, we intend to replicate and use this style of tour as an effective method to tell the San Diego story.