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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


San Diego: Welcome to the Knowledge Economy

September 30, 2016

Understanding any economy starts with strong data. At EDC, we pour significant resources into research, so we can better understand San Diego's economic strengths, and even more importantly, our weaknesses.

Finding the right data to quantify our economy and understand where San Diego’s stack up with other regions is where it becomes more difficult. Many regions – including San Diego – call themselves innovative, but measuring it becomes more complicated.

In 2012, EDC joined the Global Cities Initiative (GCI), a joint project between Brookings and JPMorgan Chase, which helps metropolitan leaders grow their regional economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness. Conducting independent research has been a cornerstone of the GCI since its launch.

This week, EDC/World Trade Center San Diego staff traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in the Brookings Global Cities Summit – a culmination of five years of research and exchanges to help metros grow their economy.

Based on five years of research, Redefining Global Cities," the latest Brookings report, found that there were seven types of global cities. 

There are the Global Giants – regions like London, New York and Paris; these cities are financial hubs and serve as the control center for the world’s largest economies. Then there are the American Middleweights (Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Saint Louis, etc.) and the International Middleweights (Frankfurt, Munich, Rome, Barcelona, Toronto, etc.): connected and important mid-sized cities where post-recession growth has lagged. And then there are the Knowledge Capitals – 19 mid-sized cities throughout the U.S. and Europe that are home to talented workforces and elite research universities.

San Diego is in good company as a Knowledge Capital with Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Stockholm, Zurich and others.

Turns out, when it comes to patent intensity, San Diego is second out of 123 global cities. When we say that San Diego is innovative, it’s not just boosterism – we have the data to back it up.

As a Knowledge Capital, San Diego may attract a highly-educated workforce and high-levels of entrepreneurship, but one area where it lags is foreign direct investment. Nearly 98 percent of our economic growth is going to come from growing small and medium-sized enterprises and startups already present in the region. San Diego’s participation in the Global Cities Initiative is not just an opportunity to connect with likeminded cities; it’s an opportunity to connect with and better understand our customers. After all, our SMEs will not reach peak growth rates without expanding their businesses and finding customers outside the region. As a response to this insight, we founded the MetroConnect Initiative, a comprehensive export assistance program now in its second year.  

As a region, we’re proud to be known as a Knowledge Capital, but our work is still cut out for us. By connecting with other GCI cities, we can expedite our economic growth through careful understanding and analysis of best practices. And through insightful data and programs like MetroConnect, we’re hopeful that we’re well on our way.