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Mega-Region

October 31, 2013

NACIC 2013 panel image

Earlier this week the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and The Mexico Business Center hosted the North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference (NACIC). The conference focused on cross border trade and business opportunities between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. 
 
One of the most popular panels focused on developing workforce talent and was moderated by EDC’s CEO Mark Cafferty. The panelists were Bill Bold, sr. vice president of QUALCOMM, Lauren Friese, CEO and founder of TalentEgg from Ontario, Canada and Rafael Sostmann, professor of practice for education innovation and special advisor to the president of Arizona State University.
 
Mark opened the session by explaining that San Diego Regional EDC’s attraction efforts focus on corporate executives and talent, specifically young people just graduating from universities. He said competitiveness for North America is about talent and asked the panel: “How we develop the workforce of the future?”
 
Rafael, an engineer by training, is also the former president of Mexico’s largest private, nonprofit educational system, Tecnológico de Monterrey. He suggested that industry linkages with universities are critical. At ASU, student startups are supported through on campus incubators and on campus industrial parks leased to businesses.
 
Lauren explained that she started her company, an online tool that connects young talent with job opportunities, after she finished graduate school in London. She discovered that linkages between students and industries were much stronger in the United Kingdom than in Canada. Inspired by the tools she saw working in the UK, she replicated the networking platform through TalentEgg. She suggested that too often employers only want to hire young people with “the right” degree, when there are plenty of people who can be trained for just about any career. 
 
Bill spoke about the investments and partnerships QUALCOMM has with students and universities to grow its future workforce. As a world leader in mobile communications and computing technologies, QUALCOMM licenses its innovations to smart phone manufacturers. QUALCOMM is also the world’s largest producer or semiconductors. Of its 31,000 employees worldwide, 81 percent have a degree in a STEM field. The mobile giant is dependent on international markets; While 92 percent of the company's revenues are earned outside the U.S 67 percent of its workforce is in San Diego because they care about hiring locally. Bill said Qualcomm is intense about recruiting – pursuing only the top one percent of graduates from the top five percent of universities – likening it to college football recruiting. Last year Qualcomm had 1,100 paid interns, of whom 300 got offered full time jobs, and 250 accepted. The company recently invested $20 million in a new engineering center at Berkeley to build a cutting-edge program blending art, architecture and engineering. 
 
Responding to a question from the audience about the best ways to prepare young people for careers, the panel pointed to the German apprentice-style model. Germany’s vocational education system pairs classroom studies with on-the-job learning. Students apply for a specific apprenticeship at a company. For two to three years they spend a few days a week at a work site, getting paid a stipend from their employer, and one to two days a week in a classroom learning theory. They graduate with a certificate that signifies they know all the basics to begin working professionally in their fields. Not only are the certificates standardized throughout Germany,  but they are also well-respected and often a necessary requirement for jobs. Companies like Siemens have brought the work experience aspects of the program to the U.S. offering students here similar opportunities. 
 
If San Diego wants to maintain its share of talent, it would be in our best interest to explore similar programs. 
 
October 4, 2013

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Every San Diego company has a unique story to tell. That became very apparent as the region came together to celebrate MFG Day at San Diego City College on Friday. Four panelists representing a diversity of San Diego companies talked about the challenges and opportunities facing the region’s manufacturing sector, which employs more than 90,000 individuals.

Take D&K Engineering, a high-tech manufacturer.  When the entrepreneurs who created EcoATM were looking to make their idea a reality, they went to the Rancho Bernardo firm to create an e-recycling kiosk. As a result, D&K Engineering had to scale up its production and hire more employees. And they chose to do it in San Diego. “Access to talent and the border opportunities are one of the main reasons I chose to start D&K in San Diego. Besides, who wouldn’t want to live here?” said Alex Kunczynski, one of the company’s founders.

The border also adds a significant competitive advantage for local manufacturers. As Interim Mayor Todd Gloria said in his opening remarks, “this is a big deal.” San Diego and Tijuana are currently working together like never before. When asked about why Taylor Guitars chose to open up a manufacturing facility across the border in Tecate, VP of Manufacturing Chris Wellons said “We have a saying at Taylor Guitars. We say ‘We’ll we be happy we did this in 10 years.’” And happy they are. Manufacturing in Mexico, as opposed to China or somewhere else overseas, has given Taylor more control over its finished product. It’s also become more cost competitive.

Wellons alluded to the entrepreneurial spirit of another panelist. Stephan Aarstol started Tower Paddle Boards - a sports and active lifestyle company - in 2010. With a little help from ABC’s “Shark Tank,”he transformed his sales from $3,000 in 2010 to $3 million in 2013.  Although he only has four employees in San Diego, he plans on growing in the coming years, and he’s looking to do it in the region. To him, he’s not just selling a paddleboard but also exporting California culture to consumers all over the globe.

As Chris Wellons of Taylor Guitars echoed, keeping manufacturing jobs close to home really comes down to innovating the process. Taylor Guitars has more than 700 employees, with many of them working out of its El Cajon headquarters. Although customers can still rely on the same quality that made Taylor a household name when it was founded in 1974, the manufacturing process has evolved. Taylor used to carve each of its guitar necks out of an individual piece of mahogany, meaning 60 – 70 percent of the materials were wasted. In 1999, Taylor decided that process needed to change. The result was one of the greatest guitar innovations in the past 100 years.  Instead of using a one-piece neck, Taylor switched to a three-piece neck, which resulted in a 66 percent yield in materials and created a more sustainable product. This, Wellons said, was possible because of the ability to execute a vision, which he thinks is a strength of San Diego.

So what can San Diego do to continue incubating manufacturing?

The answer may be easier said than done. San Diego is fortunate enough to have a highly-educated workforce. The metro currently ranks fourth in the U.S. for Ph.D. attainment rates.  Although Ph.D.-trained workers are essential for many San Diego sectors, as the panelists noted, it’s not necessarily these types of jobs they have trouble filling, but the machinist jobs where workers require hands-on manufacturing skills.

Wellons learned these skills in his high school shop class, and so did many other highly-skilled manufacturers. Admittedly, we focus a lot of time on retaining and incubating high-tech talent, but as Interim Mayor Gloria pointed out “These jobs are important too. They provide a comfortable middle-class life.” San Diego City College provided the perfect backdrop to get this conversation going. As San Diego Community College District Trustee Peter Zschiesche noted, 98 percent of San Diego City College grads remain in San Diego. 

With the guidance of San Diego Community College District and organizations like San Diego Workforce Partnership, San Diego – and it’s nearly 2,800 manufacturers – are looking to put these grads to work.

Of course, this all starts with the conversation we had this morning. A conversation that I’d bet we’ll be happy we had in 10 years.

Please check out MFGday.com for a list of local companies that held tours today,

Media Coverage: 

KPBS, Taylor Guitars still strumming along as example of San Diego manufacturing success

U-T, S.D. county product makers open doors to public

 

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August 27, 2013

On the border of San Diego and Tijuana sits San Ysidro, the busiest land port of entry in the world. Every day, an astounding 50,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians wait in line to enter the U.S. One in eight people who cross into the country daily will do so via the San Ysidro Port of Entry. And that’s only one of California’s six ports of entry.

The border provides enormous economic opportunities for the region, but wait times are impeding our ability to harness this potential. Current infrastructure needs must be addressed. According to the San Diego Metropolitan Export Initiative: Market Assessment, San Ysidro is an “infrastructural bottleneck,” with many respondents citing difficulties with border crossing as a barrier to doing business in Mexico.  Even with the recent expansion of several border crossings, today’s average wait time sits at 70 minutes, translating into more than eight million trips lost due to congestion each year. In fact, more jobs are lost in San Diego every year to border congestion than the government’s recent budget sequestration.*

A new bill is trying to speed up border wait times. SB 397, sponsored by Sen. Ben Hueso (D- San Diego), calls for the creation of an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL), which will permit carriers to use “Ready Lanes.” The technology in these new driver licenses, which will be issued by California’s DMV—eliminates the need to manually key –in travelers information, translating into a 60 percent faster processing time.

Several Canadian border states have successfully implemented EDLs and Arizona and Texas are working on instituting similar programs for our neighbors to the south.  

Although SB 397 is only a small part of a long string of reforms that are needed to expedite border crossing, it’s a step in the right direction. The San Diego region cannot afford to lose out on the $1.3 billion in revenue and $ 42 million in wages that dissipate due to border congestion every year. The border is one of the most unique aspects about the region. Companies including 3Drobotics and Aqualung don’t shy away from the fact that this is one of the reasons they are proud to call San Diego home. Through work with the CaliBaja Bi-National Mega-Region, EDC understands the fundamental necessity of teaming with Baja California, Mexico and Imperial County to the East.

Bottom line: the border means big business for the mega region. SB 397 is one step in helping us maximize our cross-border potential.

 

Sources:  AB 17, SB 397, SB 397 Fact Sheet

*Projected impact of sequestration was 10 percent of military personal across board in San Diego; Recent SDMAC report found that the military had  311,000 direct employees in the region, SDMAC Military Impact Report 2012

 


 

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May 30, 2013

San Diego Regional EDC 48th Annual Dinner

America leads the world in innovation says Jim Clifton, author of The Coming Jobs War and Chairman and CEO of Gallup, but innovation alone is not enough to fuel job growth. Clifton was in town to give the keynote speech at San Diego Regional EDC’s annual dinner. More than 800 people listened in almost total silence (no mean feat for a group that size) as Clifton talked about the difference between innovation and entrepreneurship. According to Clifton, we know how to test for intellectual talent and scout intellectual talent but we have no mechanism to determine who can best take those ideas to the marketplace. And without a customer, the best ideas do nothing for job creation.

Clifton picked up on the dinner’s recurring theme of collaboration as reflected in the comments of EDC Chairman Stath Karras and EDC President and CEO Mark Cafferty. He referred to his concept of “tribal leaders” in a community, those who constantly question and suggest new approaches to issues. “When leaders get their strength together, there is no limit to what you can do,” Clifton said, recognizing that most of the region’s leaders were in the room.

Clifton acknowledged one of San Diego’s best examples of a tribal leader – Malin Burnham – who was instrumental in bringing Clifton’s ideas to the business community and in bringing Clifton himself to San Diego.

Clifton made it clear that no one should be looking to Washington for solutions to America’s problems. “We have to win the world back one great city at a time,” he said.

EDC’s annual dinner also honored former EDC Chairman Bill Geppert with the Herb Klein Civic Leadership Award. Geppert was humble and gracious in his remarks, mentioning many beloved San Diegans who came before him as great civic leaders.

Many people took to twitter to discuss the event:

 

 

May 13, 2013

“It’s clear to us we are a global city,” said City of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner as he kicked off a press conference and town hall on May 13. Its focus was the need for the San Diego region to increase export activity in order to grow jobs and economic prosperity. It may be clear to San Diego, but it might not be clear to the rest of the world. He's out to change that perception and at the same time create more of the middle class jobs that were once the backbone of the San Diego economy. "We have not fulfilled our potential," he said, adding that we have the political will to change.

Each speaker commented on the findings of a market assessment that was the catalyst for the gathering. The market assessment is the first key step in the Brookings Metropolitan Export Initiative, a program focused on helping eight regions create collaborations from the ground up to design and implement customized metropolitan export plans.

City of San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey pointed out that San Diego has lots of advantages other areas don’t have, such as our technology sectors.

Michael Masserman, from the U.S. International Trade Administration came to offer his agency’s support which includes opening markets for exports and entering into trade agreements to facilitate exports. “Jobs in export-oriented companies pay 15 – 20 percent higher wages that their non-exporting counterparts,” said Masserman.

Elliott Hirshman, president of San Diego State University, discussed the importance of international engagement in educating the workforce of the future citing a substantial increase in international programs at San Diego State.

Peter Cowhey, dean of the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UC San Diego, presented highlights from the market assessment. Cowhey, along with two of his graduate students, was responsible for conducting the survey and collecting the data for the market assessment. “San Diego is punching well below our weight,” said Cowhey, pointing out that although San Diego is the country’s 17th largest metropolitan economy, we rank only 55th when examining exports as a share of our regional economic output.

The market assessment revealed that San Diego’s exporters see a need for infrastructure development in three major areas: port, airport and cyber infrastructure.

Bob Nelson, vice chair of the board of port commissioners, agreed that if the region is going to see growth in exports then we need to see growth in infrastructure. The Port has in the works infrastructure improvements worth close to $100 million.

Robert Gleason, board chair of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, said that San Diego International Airport has a critical role to play in increasing export activity. That includes additional international non-stop service and increasing cargo capacity. An added benefit of more international visitors (which are also considered exports) is that they typically spend almost double what a domestic visitor spends on a trip.

Steven Weathers, president and CEO of World Trade Center San Diego, an organization that provides direct services to exporting companies, said that many people ask him, “What’s the big goal?” His answer? “Job creation – sustainable, diverse, job creation.”

photo left to right: Mayor Bob Filner, City Councilman Mark Kersey, Michael Masserman, Peter Cowhey, Bob Nelson, Robert Gleason, Elliot Hirshman, Steven Weathers

Access the full report: San Diego Metropolitan Export Initiative Market Assessment

Media coverage 

Region needs to boost exporting, report saysU-T San Diego
Local leaders push boosting trade, The Daily Transcript  
San Diego could be exporting more, Brookings Institution reports, KPBS

 

 
 

                                  

April 19, 2013

The Sunrise Powerlink is a 117-mile, $1.88 billion 500kV electric transmission line from Imperial Valley to San Diego. At the recent regional economic forum Michael R. Niggli, SDG&E President & COO, presented a case study on the Sunrise Powerlink project detailing the economic impact of the project and some of the ways in which the project worked to protect sensitive species during construction. The project was the largest infrastructure project in SDG&E's history. Completed in June 2012, it has already made a tangible difference in system operations and is crucial to alleviating the summer capacity shortages that threaten the area due to the ongoing outage at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Economic impact:

  • It's a veritable “renewable energy superhighway” that delivers 1,000 megawatts of power – enough energy for 650,000 homes
  • Generated an astounding $3.2  billion in economic activity and 23,000 jobs for California
  • Injected $1.7 billion into the U.S. economy - $1.1 billion of which was spent in Southern California
  • Catalyst for renewable energy construction; local projects currently under construction generating more than $5 billion in spending and 3,000 jobs

Protecting sensitive species:

  • Created a 13-mile construction free zone for bighorn sheep lambing season from January 1 – June 30
  • Established no-fly zones of more than 4,000-feet around golden eagle nesting sites from December 1 – June 30
  • Relocated hundreds of flat-tailed horned lizards relocated Imperial Valley construction yards and protecting them with specially-designed exclusion fencing
  • Installed special fencing to protect arroyo toads in project locations
  • Preserved in perpetuity more than 11,000 acres of scenic habitat for future generations to enjoy

Sunrise Powerlink enhances reliability, accesses renewable energy and significantly boosts economic development. Businesses are looking for a healthy, reliable power supply. Sunrise Powerlink provides that - while at the same time it is encouraging renewable projects and promoting cleantech industries.

April 10, 2013

What Makes San Diego an Ideal Home for Your Business?

Moderator Randy Frisch addresses a packed room at the Forum

Six private sector executives told 300 forum participants about their experiences doing business in San Diego. The panel was part of the 2013 Regional Economic Development Forum sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric, Wells Fargo and the Morgan Family Foundation. San Diego’s regional forum is the first of 15 forums gathering input that will culminate in the California Economic Summit in Los Angeles in November 2013.  Broad questions touching on successes, challenges and the ubiquitous Why San Diego? brought mostly positives from the panelists. Bottom line: we need more of what we’ve got – more talent, more capital, more support for entrepreneurship. The only thing we need less of is regulation – actually the panelists’ companies are willing to comply with regulations – but they uniformly called for better coordination among regulators.

 

Craig Bartels, vice president of technology for Hydranautics, described how his company has to keep changing and reinventing, citing that 30 – 40 percent of their sales are from products introduced within the last three years. San Diego has the talent and the know-how to innovate so Hydranautics can stay on the leading edge of their industry, which is providing technology for reverse osmosis water treatment.

Joseph Mahler is CFO of Synthetic Genomics, a company using genomics to create sustainability for food and fuel. The company is currently focused on algae biofuels. Mahler calls it “intellectual capital,” and says San Diego has what it takes to anchor a core in genomics and that we should focus on leveraging the talent here to build capacity in the industry.

Panelist from a diverse range of businesses discuss why they chose San Diego

Brick Nelson is the corporate lead executive for Northrop Grumman Corporation in San Diego.  As someone who was transferred to San Diego, with peers around the country in similar positions, he said that San Diego has no equal in the country in terms of partnerships and the spirit of collaboration. Nelson reiterated the need for “smart, young folks,” and mentioned STEM education as very important in an industry where many employees will soon be aging out of the workforce.

Matt Raine, executive vice president of business development at Evolution Hospitality, brought the perspective of the tourism industry to the panel. His company provides hotel management services to a range of hotel properties, including 10 in San Diego. Raine described the three pillars of San Diego’s tourism industry as groups, leisure and government business. However, one area where San Diego trails other major cities is the number of individual business travelers. He stressed the importance of marketing the destination.

Don Rockwell is the CEO of Aqua Lung International, a company that develops, manufactures and distributes sports and defense equipment. Rockwell described San Diego as a hub for dive companies – even the industry association is located in San Diego. When asked what San Diego can do for his business, he mentioned water quality as a concern.

Tom Tullie, president and CEO of ecoATM, talked candidly about the challenges of raising capital from local sources. While he thinks San Diego has a good angel community, entrepreneurs must still look outside San Diego to raise significant venture money. His company, which provides automated, self-serve kiosks for recycling electronics, has benefited from the support network provided by CommNexus and their incubator EvoNexus, and CONNECT.

Check out the complete briefing book from the forum that gives an overview of regional priorities and continue to join the conversation on twitter #Caeconomy

March 12, 2013

175 projects. 6, 215 jobs. What a year 2012 was. Check out our annual report, detailing some some of the highlights and programs from last year.

To all of our investors, partners and the rest of the San Diego business community, thank you for helping us carry out EDC’s mission is to maximize the region’s economic prosperity and global competitiveness. 

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March 4, 2013

CaliBaja MegaRegion

How many positive articles about Mexico does it take to confirm a trend? Three seems about right, but add in a major think tank calling 2013/2014 the “Year of Mexico,” and you’ve got a full-fledged movement going on.

First came Chris Anderson’s New York Times opinion piece titled “Mexico: The New China,” where he describes his cross-border company 3D Robotics. With facilities in both San Diego and Tijuana he is able to do what he calls “quicksourcing,” where the short supply chain between the two locations enables the company to innovate faster and control inventory more efficiently. Anderson, who was the editor of Wired before he left to join 3D Robotics full time, compares the Hong Kong and Shenzhen special economic zone of the late 1990s and early 2000s to today’s experience working between San Diego and Tijuana. “The sense of possibility I felt when I first crossed from Hong Kong to Shenzhen in 1997 is what I now feel when I cross from San Diego to Tijuana,” said Anderson.

Flat-worlder Thomas Friedman weighed in from Monterrey, Mexico on “How Mexico Got Back in the Game,” with stats on Mexico’s trade with the U.S. – a staggering $1.5 billion a day. Friedman cites The Financial Times reporting that Mexico has signed 44 trade agreements, which is more than any country in the world, and exports more manufactured products than the combined exports of all other Latin American countries. “Better integration of Mexico’s manufacturing and innovation prowess into America’s is a win-win. It makes U.S. companies more profitable and competitive, so they can expand at home and abroad, and it gives Mexicans a reason to stay home and reduces violence,” wrote Friedman.

Violence is where USA Today’s article “Mexico’s commerce crawls back from drug war’s chaos,” started – but the story focused on the fact that border violence has been dropping steadily in the last year –  quoting a study from the University of San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute citing that organized crime-related murder in Mexico dropped 21 percent in 2012. In Mexico’s six border states the drop was a dramatic 32 percent.  San Diego Regional EDC’s Christina Luhn, who leads the Cali Baja Bi-National Mega-Region initiative, worked closely with the reporters and introduced them to people on both sides of the border.

EDC Vice President Sean Barr was in Washington DC last week for meetings at the Brookings Institution regarding their Metropolitan Export Exchange program where teams of metropolitan leaders are working on developing Metropolitan Export Plans to improve their global trade strategies so the nation can remain a center of growth and innovation for years to come. At the meeting Brookings announced that 2013/14 will be the “Year of Mexico.” According to Barr, the ongoing reshoring and nearshoring trends have attracted their attention. Their effort will start with an in-depth study of US-Mexico supply chains.  “The Mega-Region Initiative is of considerable interest to them,” he told the EDC team.

Let’s make sure it’s really the year of cross-border progress.

 

March 1, 2013

A message from Mark Cafferty

 
As you are aware, the law of sequestration will likely take effect today. The result – essentially a 10 percent across-the-board cut of all federal programs, projects and activities – will bring a dense rolling wave of financial implications for our region.
 
The impact to our military economy is significant. The impact to our innovation economy is troubling. The impact to our tourism economy compounds the problem we already have with the region’s TMD standoff. Effects throughout the local economy will be felt in the coming months and thousands of jobs are at risk, quickly making this a harsh reality for families and businesses across the region.
 
These cuts have the potential to set back medical research and our innovative economy by a generation or more, according to former NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni. Imagine all that will be lost – life-altering innovations, technological breakthroughs, not to mention jobs and businesses. There will be immediate impacts, for sure. We’re already seeing some. But the long-term effect – the slow and steady burn – is what really has the potential to hurt San Diego most. 
 
Our partner Larry Blumberg, Executive Director of the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC), put it this way: “Defense contractors are going to be the first ones let go — and we know some of them are already starting to receive pink slips. In mid-April, the Department of Defense is going to furlough civil servants one day a week. This would impact 25,000 San Diegans, and a day’s pay for each of them is a lot of money to take out of the local economy.”
 
Just this past Tuesday, EDC received notice from GD NASSCO that the company has informed 1,040 employees in San Diego, Norfolk and Mayport that layoff notices would likely be issued in early April. Notices from BAE, Continental Maritime and other shipbuilders also have been received by our office over the past month totaling an additional 1,321 job losses. The job numbers are real and estimated to total more than 5,500 in the shipbuilding industry alone.  
 
It’s also worth noting that sequestration is only one of the challenges coming out of Washington.  We face additional threats in the weeks ahead.
 
On March 27th, the current continuing resolution (CR), the mechanism through which the federal government draws funds it needs to operate, will expire. A federal government shutdown is on the horizon without a new CR in place before the end of March.
 
At some point toward the end of March, President Obama is expected to deliver a budget for fiscal year 2014. Based on everything we are hearing in Washington, I believe a request for another round of base realignment and closures (BRAC) will likely be included within that 2014 budget.
 
On May 19th, the current debt ceiling will be reached, which represents an unprecedented fourth fiscal event in three months with serious implications for the country and San Diego’s economy.
 
There is plenty our region must do. EDC, SDMAC, the Chamber of Commerce, CONNECT, BIOCOM and other partners are ramping up efforts in Washington, Sacramento and throughout the region to ensure that our military and innovation economies are protected. We thank you all for your interest and support to date. As always, we will work to keep you informed of both the implications and challenges we face, along with our plans for addressing them in the weeks ahead. 
 
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