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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


ExploreSD: a different approach for business attraction

February 8, 2016

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.