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Big Picture San Diego Blog

August 30, 2016

EDC investor Innovative Commercial Environments (ICE) is a full service hospitality and office furniture dealership. From design concept to project completion, ICE creates an inspired, ergonomic workplace that allows companies to increase efficiency, creativity and output. In addition to representing more than 300 manufacturers, ICE also fabricates a line of locally made office furniture – supporting local artisans, welders and retired military personnel.

Recently, ICE provided EDC's office with a custom reception desk with walnut “live edge” wood slab accents and laser cut steel signage. We sat down with the company founder & CEO DeLinda Forsythe to discuss ICE's commitment to San Diego.

1)Tell us about Innovative Commercial Environments (ICE).

ICE helps organizations consciously build their corporate culture.  ICE crafts furniture solutions that encourage a company’s staff to connect, solve problems together, grow and ultimately “create magic.”  The open environment encourages team work.  The majority of the workforce today is under 35 and they have a strong affinity towards more simple materials.  They don’t want to work in a space that feels contrived.  They came through a rough recession, they want to work in a space that feels like money was spent wisely.  Our furniture is a fun way to help management build an empowered corporate ecosystem.
 
We've recently expanded from a full service office and hospitality furniture dealership to manufacturing a “brewery inspired” office benching system through ICE WorkShop. 

2) Tell us more about WorkShop and the benefits of innovative office design.

At $1000-$1500 per user, customization can not only be affordable, it can also be designed to complement and enhance the architecture of a space while meeting unique client requirements of height adjustability and flexibility. WorkShop can be designed to reflect your corporate culture, helping attract and retain the best talent at your company.  A talent race is on and we think the authentic design of our WorkiBeam system can provide a competitive advantage.

Join other local manufacturers on Oct. 7 for MFG Day 2016 as we celebrate one of San Diego's most diverse industries.

August 23, 2016

This week EDC sat down with Underground Elephant's CEO Jason Kulpa to discuss the company's recent office opening and expansion in San Diego. Founded in 2008, the 100-person technology company works to advance the online consumer experience in the insurance and financial services sectors. Recently featured in the New York Times piece, "A Beer Garden Lays Down Roots for a Technology Hub," Underground Elephant new innovative office space is driving company success and a collaborative culture.

1) Please tell us what your company does.

Underground Elephant (UE) is a digital marketing and technology company dedicated to advancing the online consumer experience. Starting in the insurance sector, we expanded over the course of 8 years into other financial services including credit cards, bank accounts, mortgages and loans. We have been listed on Inc. 5000’s list of Fastest Growing Private Companies for four consecutive years, seeing 192 percent growth in the past three years. With a team of more than one hundred employees, UE is dedicated to increasing quality interactions between consumers and providers. Recently, we moved our headquarters to the historic Wellman Peck warehouse in East Village. Designed by San Diego’s acclaimed Paul Basile of Basile Studios, the space lends itself to our open and collaborative culture, and is complete with an indoor schoolhouse, five olive trees and an in-house bar.

2) What are some advantages to being located/doing business in San Diego?

When deciding where to move our company, we considered relocating to Denver or tech-central San Francisco. However, the environment that San Diego provides is hard to find anywhere else. Not only is the weather idyllic, but the top-rated local universities make the area a hotbed for talent. The increase in San Diego tech startups has also created a community here that we wanted to be involved with. Our new headquarters in East Village is the ideal spot for us, since it intertwines the richness of San Diego's history with the future of innovation. Moving into the new space has not only changed our environment, but it’s also increased our entire company’s productivity. For instance, our tech team has reduced their deployment cycles by 62 percent since the move. Being located steps away from Petco Park, countless restaurants and cafes, and entertainment is also a great benefit for our unique, millennial-based culture.

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.

There are many companies throughout San Diego who are at the top of their industries and contributing to the culture of our city. In the hospitality realm, Please & Thank You Liquor Bar sets itself apart from all other catering companies by offering a distinctively unique cocktails-only service. We have had the pleasure of working with them in our new space; they are truly at the forefront of the craft cocktail industry in San Diego, which is a difficult niche to set yourself apart in since it’s already quite saturated.

Additionally, downtown agencies Red Door and Mirum (formerly Digitaria) are influencers as well, adding to the innovative digital tech hub in East Village with unique company cultures and spaces.

4) What do you anticipate for your company in five years? What do you anticipate for San Diego?

Our multi-million dollar investment in our office space in East Village signifies our intention to set down permanent roots. The bet is that our investment will trigger others to do the same; we’d like to change downtown into a buzzing work-epicenter. With the lifestyle that San Diego can provide, we believe the city will continue attracting both companies and talent from across the country.

 

Underground Elephant's newly opened office:


August 22, 2016

Every so often San Diego Regional EDC takes an influential group of civic leaders to a peer city to better understand its economic development best practices and bring ideas back home to replicate. This time, we're headed to Nashville, Tennessee to find out what America’s Finest City learn from the Music City. In preparation for the October trip, EDC recently sent a team down south to scout meetings and spokespeople who can speak to philosophies and best practices that have served Nashville well. Here are just a few topics on the upcoming trip agenda:
 
  • First, it’s clear that Nashville mayoral leadership has consistently focused on education, public safety and economic development over a number of administrations.
  • Second, Nashville has made investments to make the City a premier destination. Nashville has built arenas now home to pro football and pro hockey franchises, constructed a new home for the Country Music Hall of Fame, and opened a new downtown convention center, as well as the Frist Center for Visual Arts - all of which has occurred in the past 20 years. The City is now making a bid for a major league soccer team.   
  • The City is also focused on regionalism – the collaboration between area government bodies for the overall good of the region. The Nashville mayor not only oversees the City but also Davidson County, an area about twice the size with half the population of San Diego County. Streamlining government processes and policies has improved development services and transportation infrastructure planning. 
  • In a timely response to President Obama’s call for honest conversations about race relations in communities across America, Mayor Megan Barry is partnering with Lipscomb University's College of Leadership & Public Service and others to host forums with the community to address race, equity and leadership in the Nashville community.
 
Mayor Barry and an outstanding group of civic leaders have committed to speak to our San Diego delegation next month. Learn more about the trip details and agenda topics here. If interested in participating, contact Raquel Elbachri for more information.
 
August 19, 2016

As increasing costs and traffic have made headlines around the country, the Bay Area has been top of mind to many of those in economic development. We’ve seen stories indicating a third of Bay Area residents want to leave the region, making it ripe for other states to recruit companies and talent. Yet, economic developers from San Francisco to Oakland and San Jose are confident they can overcome challenges and continue to be world’s leading innovation engine. So what can San Diego learn?

This week, EDC and nine San Diego economic and workforce development practitioners spent two days in San Francisco with our Bay Area peers to find out. Meetings covered a range of topics including:

  • General understanding of the history of the Bay Area innovation boom
  • Regional collaboration models
  • Tech transfer and acceleration as economic drivers
  • Implementing technology within cities to boost efficiency and capability
  • Building a tech ecosystem
  • Collaborating to prepare a regional workforce
  • Working across departments to ease strain on business

Coming out of discussions with more than 25 Bay Area peers, it’s clear there is much San Diego can learn from our northern California counterparts. The region is certainly not without its challenges and many of the news we’ve read about Bay Area economic struggles were validated while there. But as Micah Weinberg, President of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute put it, “We have a culture of lawlessness here that drives people to find solutions.” He was talking about the entrepreneurial mindset that has driven innovation throughout the 101 city, 9 county region. That mindset has seen Google and Facebook to overcome traffic challenges by operating private bus fleets and ferry services for their employees that rival most transportation agencies. It has seen workforce investment boards establish partnerships that cut across multiple regions to better serve the population being displaced to cheaper locations further East. It has seen the development and implementation of new technologies meant to ease the launch of new startups. Lastly, it has shown that through innovative and out-of-the-box thinking, any challenge can be overcome.

As we breakdown all we learned from the best practices trip, it’s clear that the San Diego region is well-positioned to continue its evolution as a tech ecosystem – not one that mirrors or rivals Silicon Valley, but one that stands alone with its own set of strengths. 

August 19, 2016

With just under two months to San Diego Manufacturing Day, we’re kicking off a five-part blog series on San Diego-made products you didn’t know were made right in our backyard. Here are five of some of your favorite products #MadeinSD:

  1. WD-40 – If you’ve fixed a squeaky door, greased a bike chain or worked on cars, chances are you’ve used WD-40. Founded as a chemical company in 1953, WD-40 Company remains a staple in San Diego manufacturing. Gary Ridge, president and CEO of WD-40 explains, “San Diego is a good city to be in if you’re in international business, as I can be on a call with London in the morning and with Shanghai in the afternoonWe like to say ‘the sun never sets on WD-40.”
  2. TaylorMade golf clubs – PGA Tour pros like Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Sergio Garcia can be seen swinging TaylorMade clubs in tournaments watched by millions almost weekly. Best known for innovating metal drivers starting in 1979, TaylorMade remains the largest golf equipment and apparel company in the world. Fore!
  3. Taylor Guitars – Used by world-famous musicians including Jason Mraz  and Taylor Swift, Taylor Guitars – located in San Diego’s East County – is the world’s leading guitar manufacturer. With operations on both sides of the border, Taylor maintains a high-level of quality control over its products.
  4. Stone Brewing craft beer– The recognizable gargoyle and award-winning beer from Stone has made waves for taking on “corporate beer”. Started in North County in 1996, Stone now boasts seven locations including a newly opened brewery in Berlin. Cheers! 
  5. Illumina's instruments for genetic sequencing – Recently named the “Google of Genetic Testing”, Illumina has taken over San Diego’s UTC business center which houses the company’s worldwide headquarters and more than 2,000 employees. More than 90 percent of the world’s genetic sequencing is done on Illumina instruments.

Stay tuned for our next list: five #MadeinSD products used by the world’s top athletes

Celebrate with us October 7. Visit sdmfgday.com to get involved. 

August 5, 2016

This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf joined a panel of local business leaders from Solar Turbines, Solatube and Northrop Grumman to unveil UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy’s new study on the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the nation and San Diego. The summary, “San Diego and the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” produced by World Trade Center San Diego, explains how San Diego’s unique economic assets position the region to realize relatively greater benefits from TPP than the U.S. as a whole.

TPP, an international trade deal negotiated by the Obama administration and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, seeks to lower trade barriers for exporters and increase intellectual property protections for multinational companies.

San Diego’s prime location on the edge of the Pacific Rim, as well its specialization in advanced manufacturing and other key industries tied to the innovation economy – including scientific R&D, engineering, software and cybersecurity – position the region to benefit disproportionately from TPP.

Key findings include:

  • When compared to other TPP member countries, the U.S. has one of the least restrictive markets – it is easier for foreign markets to export to the U.S. than it is for U.S. companies to send their products abroad.
  • More than 97 percent of San Diego’s exports – primarily high-value advanced manufacturing products – are sold in TPP markets and are collectively worth $22 billion.
  • Enhanced IP protections would benefit San Diego’s innovation economy; San Diego is the third most patent intensive region in the world and five times more specialized in scientific R&D than the nation as a whole.
  • Increased export growth could produce real rising wages for 150,000 high-wage jobs in the region’s manufacturing and innovation sectors.
  • San Diego’s service-providing sector – generally non-traded industries accounting for 87 percent of total employment – is largely insulated from foreign competition. 
August 4, 2016

This is part of a weekly series featuring a profile on one of the 2016 MetroConnect Program companies. MetroConnect is dedicated to helping local San Diego businesses go global and is presented by JPMorgan Chase.

With a metro ranking of #3 for cleantech leadership and one of the few cities in the world aiming for 100 percent clean energy utilization by 2035, it’s no surprise that San Diego is a hotbed of green and sustainable tech innovation. And with this year’s MetroConnect cohort representing an impressive cross-section of the region’s burgeoning industries, we’ve found a strong example of said innovation in LED lighting company Hyperikon.

Sorrento Valley-based Hyperikon’s mission statement is a simple one – Greener. Cheaper. Smarter. When creating their sustainable lighting solutions for both home and office, quality is the company’s top consideration. Distributed primarily via Amazon’s online channels, Hyperikon’s products have been met with rave reviews – so much so, that Hyperikon’s products were the online giant’s top seller under the “Tools & Home Improvement” department earlier this year.

Jeppe Lisdorf, the company’s VP of finance, didn’t always envision a career in the cleantech sector. Hailing from Denmark, Lisdorf was originally trained as a journalist and later made the switch to banking on Wall Street. With an infectious smile and overwhelmingly positive attitude that makes one think he’d probably succeed in any industry he put his mind to, Lisdorf notes that his Danish roots were a deciding factor in his move into the green lighting space.

Lisdorf explains, “Many people here don’t know it, but Denmark has a huge cleantech cluster. When I was considering putting down roots in San Diego, I met with a fellow Dane who happened to be one of the founders of Hyperikon. Considering our shared experiences and the fact that sustainability has always been top of mind for me, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to help grow a unique and important technology.”

Considering its success with Amazon domestically, Hyperikon plans to utilize the MetroConnect grant, in part, to help boost its activities with the online retailers in other countries, including Mexico, Canada and eventually Japan. And with sales activity strong, Hyperikon is beginning to think about capacity expansion, both from a customer service and warehousing perspective. With the market for LED lighting showing no signs of slowing down, Hyperikon is well positioned to continue its impressive growth streak and be a valued example of San Diego’s cleantech scene.

 

The success of small- and medium-sized businesses is critical to the region’s future, and increasing their global reach is crucial to that success. Through the MetroConnect Program, companies such as Rough Draft Brewing Company are to be awarded a $10,000 grant provided by JPMorgan Chase to assist with their international efforts, as well as additional support services including: a dedicated trade and investment manager at WTC San Diego to support company participants in deploying overseas strategies during the grant period; access to workshops that address export compliance, financing and fundraising and global marketing; reduced airfare on Japan Airlines direct flights from San Diego to Tokyo; free access to SYSTRAN software for website translation and customer service needs; and consideration to compete for an additional $35,000 during the MetroConnect Grand Prize Pitchfest in November 2016.

July 27, 2016

This is part of a weekly series featuring a profile on one of the 2016 MetroConnect Program companies. MetroConnect is dedicated to helping local San Diego businesses go global and is presented by JPMorgan Chase.

In a recent report released by California Life Sciences Association, $23 billion in California’s 2015 exports came from life sciences. With more than 1,100 companies and a total economic impact of more than $31.8 billion, it is no surprise that San Diego’s life science sector ranks 4th in the nation. Our next MetroConnect company profile features an innovative medical device company that plans to advance San Diego’s life science reputation abroad, AVACEN Medical.

In 2009, Tom Muehlbauer founded AVACEN Medical, a company that produces a medical device initially developed for his sister-in-law who suffered from chronic migraines. Through a micro-circulation mechanism, the AVACEN 100 provides non-invasive, temporary arthritis and muscle pain relief and relaxation. Cleared by the FDA, the device is an over the counter option that’s can be self-administered from the comfort of one’s own home.

Recognizing an opportunity to expand into the EU, AVACEN Medical plans to leverage the MetroConnect Grant Prize to help in obtaining their CE mark, as well as developing better ways of delivering their products to international markets. The company also plans to use the MetroConnect Program to expand their patent portfolio, particularly across Japan, Europe and South Korea.

Muehlbauer states, “Based on the early interest and success we’ve seen in the launch of the AVACEN 100, we’re excited to scale up and bring our product to an international customer base. Arthritis and muscle pain is something that affects millions around the world, and our participation in MetroConnect will allow our at-home solution to help more of those patients in need of relief.”

The success of small- and medium-sized businesses is critical to the region’s future, and increasing their global reach is crucial to that success. Through the MetroConnect Program, companies such as AVACEN Medical are to be awarded a $10,000 grant provided by JPMorgan Chase to assist with their international efforts, as well as additional support services including: a dedicated trade and investment manager at WTC San Diego to support company participants in deploying overseas strategies during the grant period; access to workshops that address export compliance, financing and fundraising and global marketing; reduced airfare on Japan Airlines direct flights from San Diego to Tokyo; free access to SYSTRAN software for website translation and customer service needs; and consideration to compete for an additional $35,000 during the MetroConnect Grand Prize Pitchfest in November 2016.

July 22, 2016

Phil Blair

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“While June's unemployment rate climbed – a typical trend as educational workers tend to lose employment during summer  key sectors like leisure and hospitality, PST and PBS all experienced strong year-over-year growth. San Diego's unemployment rate continues to remains lower than statewide unemployment.”
Phil Blair, Executive Officer
Manpower San Diego


This post is part of an ongoing monthly series dedicated to the California Employment Development Department (EDD) monthly employment release and is brought to you by Manpower

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) released statewide county employment data today for June in addition to revised data for May 2016. This month’s data shows that San Diego's economy has slowed during the summer months; unemployment experienced an increase while total regional employment grew more slowly than previous months.  

June’s unemployment rate climbed back to 5.1 percent for the first time since October 2015; up 0.9 percentage points from a revised 4.2 percent in May. The unemployment rate is down 0.1 points from the previous year. San Diego’s unemployment rate continues to remain lower than statewide unemployment and is now on par with national unemployment rates of 5.7 and 5.1 percent, respectively.

San Diego’s rate rose in part due to an increase in the labor force. A familiar trend in the region this time of year as many public and private seasonal educational workers tend to lose employment during the summer months. Education accounted for nearly 1,000 jobs lost during May and June combined. Although a seasonal uptick in unemployment is common during the summer, the increase of 0.9 percentage points is significantly higher than seen in recent years. Additional job losses in finance and insurance in addition to health care and social assistance also contributed to the increase in unemployment.

Total nonfarm employment increased steadily since May, adding 8,000 jobs. More importantly, year-over-year nonfarm employment went up by 37,600, a 2.7 percent increase. The private sector drove employment growth in June, as private employment accounted for nearly 83.2 percent, or an increase of 31,300 jobs, of all employment growth over the year. The total private sector grew by 2.7 percent year-over-year.

 At the height of summer and peak tourism season, the region’s leisure and hospitality industry was the largest driver of regional employment growth, adding 5,400 jobs since May. Leisure and hospitality experienced strong year-over-year growth, adding 7,800 jobs, a 4.2 per

cent increase over the previous year, and contributing to 24.9 percent of private sector growth.

Professional, scientific and technical services (PST), a subset of professional and business services (PBS) and strongly associated with the region’s innovation economy, accounted for over 11.5 percent of private sector growth, adding 1,000 jobs since May.

While the June report released today showed increased unemployment in the region’s economy, which is in line with familiar seasonal trends, overall job growth was solid. Unemployment remains well below the state and year-over growth in the region was spread out across a variety of base sectors.

This report was performed with assistance from the CBRE research team in San Diego.

 

July 22, 2016

The California Competes Tax Credit is a program created by the California legislature and managed by the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). The tax credits are awarded by the state to companies who are looking to move to, or stay and grow in, California. In the 2015-16 round, the state awarded more than $150 million in tax credits to 259 companies who pledged to create almost 20,986 jobs over the next five years.

Within each year of the Cal Competes program credits are awarded over three separate rounds. In the last round of the 2015-16 fiscal year of the program, which closed in June, San Diego companies captured $7 million in tax credits – the largest amount of tax credits in the state and 16 percent of the total allotted credits. San Diego received more than $1 million more in tax credits than the second-place region, El Centro – San Diego’s neighbor to the east.

Throughout the entire 2015-16 program (encompassing three rounds), the California Competes program granted 38 San Diego companies more than $19.7 million in tax credits – 13 percent of the total tax credits awarded and the second highest of all regions in the state. With this, local companies committed to the creation of 2,070 jobs over the next five years, which will result in more than $369 million in wages. Those same companies will be investing $214 million in a variety capital projects over that same period.

The program divides companies into either the small or large business category where companies compete separately for a tax credit. In San Diego, large businesses received 7.6 percent – or $11.6 million – of all tax credits for the 2015-16 year. The region’s small businesses were awarded $8 million in tax credits, or 5.32 percent of the year’s pool.              

The Cal Competes program will open its first round of the 2016-17 fiscal year on Monday, July 25 where $75 million of this year’s $250 million is up for grabs. If your business is considering relocating to, or expanding in, California, we encourage you to look at the program as tool to reduce your tax liability. Our team stands by to assist with applications, as we have with many other San Diego companies including Hunter Industries, Taylor Guitars and more.

Attend a workshop to learn how your business can apply for a tax credit, or contact Jesse Gipe for more information.