Skip to Content
The Big Picture San Diego Blog


inclusion

April 16, 2018

This op-ed was first published in the San Diego Business Journal, authored by EDC's Dr. Nikia Clarke, Brown Law Group's founder and owner and incoming EDC Board Chair Janice Brown, and Brookings Institution's Amy Liu. 

San Diego is poised to become an unstoppable force in the global economy. The region is home to 34 percent more STEM workers than the national average, ranks third in the U.S. for patent intensity and has the sixth highest rate of income mobility.
 
While the rise of the innovation economy has created wealth and opportunity, it has also left many residents behind. This is leading to wide economic inequalities that, if left unaddressed, will cause San Diego to lose employees and companies to other regions.
 
San Diego Regional EDC and the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program have collaborated over several years to make San Diego a prosperous global city. Last year, San Diego joined Brookings in a learning lab focused on inclusive economic growth. Here is what we learned:
 
According to the Center on Policy Initiatives, more than one million residents cannot afford to live in San Diego. Driven by wage increases in the innovation economy and constraints on the supply of housing, the region now has the fourth highest cost of living in the country.
 
San Diegans are spending an increasingly greater proportion of incomes on housing. These pressures are already impacting some of San Diego’s largest employers, as prospective talent opts for competing regions with lower costs of living.
 
In San Diego, more than 98 percent of the region’s employers are small businesses (less than 100 employees), which have less capital available to pay competitive wages. Employees of small businesses typically earn up to 20 percent lower wages than their peers at larger corporations. Because of this dynamic, the region’s small businesses struggle to compete with larger companies for skilled talent.
 
And this all comes at a time when workforce demographics are rapidly changing. Brookings research has shown that 59 percent of millennials and 67 percent of post-millennials in San Diego are racial and ethnic minorities. By 2030, Hispanics will become San Diego’s largest demographic group, and yet 85 percent currently do not hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
 
Achievement Gap
 
Unless all San Diegans are willing to invest in closing this minority achievement gap, we will continue to constrain the region’s ability to compete in the global market. Employers cannot simply rely on the in-migration of workers. The real opportunity lies within our local talent pool. 
 
With the compounded impact of a high cost of living, low educational attainment in our fastest growing population and a small business-centric economy that struggles to pay competitive wages, San Diego has a problem that cannot be ignored. They point to an economic imperative for change. We must recognize that the roots of exclusion are economic, and must be systematically addressed by employers and policymakers, not left to philanthropy.
 
Calls to Action
 
Over the next year, a regional Steering Committee will be releasing research and recommendations to address these challenges that together create a platform for inclusive growth.
 
If leaders do not take measures to promote economic inclusion, San Diego will find itself unable to compete in a global economy that is increasingly unforgiving to businesses and regions that cannot adapt. If San Diego tackles these challenges head-on, it will position itself as a national leader among metro areas in building an innovative economy that works for all.
 
San Diego has evolved from border town, to military hub, to tech and innovation powerhouse. With the will, leadership and a healthy dose of experimentation and collaboration, San Diego can build an economy that reaches and includes all of its residents and employers.
 
Janice Brown is president of Brown Law Group. Nikia Clarke is executive director of World Trade Center San Diego. Amy Liu is director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution.

 

 

 

 

 

September 29, 2017

Last week, members of the EDC team joined 20 board members, investors and partners on a trip to Louisville, Kentucky. The purpose was to learn about that city’s emphasis on inclusion and compassion as focal points for their branding and economic development efforts. We met passionate people—both in the private and public sectors—who are working hard to create a community that is uniquely Louisville.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer set the tone when he welcomed our group Wednesday evening and stayed to talk with us about Louisville’s past, its present challenges and the city’s goals around lifelong learning, health and compassion. Louisville’s challenges are significant, but they do not shy away from talking about them openly. And there is a genuine continuity to how people raise, speak about and confront these issues.

Research and workforce representatives presented hard-hitting data on the region’s existing economic disparities, as well as ambitions to add 55,000 degrees over a ten year span. The city’s economic development team and business leaders explained how the region has to work harder than most to attract and retain talent, and showcase their region as a place that is ripe for investment and growth—despite having 30,000 current job openings and being among the most affordable of large metros.

Many of the challenges that they face today stem from events that happened generations ago. But they embrace their past with the belief that they can’t chart where they are going if they ignore where they have been. Addressing a history of racial segregation, poverty and stagnant population growth are as much a part of their economic development discussion and focus as attraction, retention and expansion. The authenticity that was threaded throughout our visit culminated in an honest dialogue among our delegation.

San Diego’s Story

Back home, San Diego has experienced solid economic growth, led by its innovation industries, which have added jobs three times faster the overall economy1. However, this prosperity has not been shared by all San Diegans. A recent study found that there are more than one million people in our region with incomes too low to afford basic costs of living—the numbers are even more appalling for our black and Latino populations.

In San Diego Latinos represent one-third of the population, and are projected to be the majority by 20302. Yet only 17 percent have completed a bachelor’s degree program or higher3. Meanwhile our region has a deficit of 4,500 STEM graduates4. But talent shortages exist in every metro area—our population is our talent pool.

And while we have large employers in our region that are the vanguard of innovation, 59 percent of our workforce is employed by smaller firms that often pay below average wages5. Layer on the fact that San Diego has the second highest median home price and is the fourth most expensive metro to live in6, and you quickly see the risks to our competitiveness as a region.

We spent the past six months working with key partners to develop our story and better understand our own regional challenges. And in the coming weeks we will reassemble our delegation, as well as business and community leaders, to build an economic development agenda that benefits more people, companies and communities: an agenda that grows our own talent, bolsters small- and medium-sized firm growth, and addresses the cost of living pressures on talent attraction and retention.

There is a lot of work to be done, and it will require great collaboration and coordination. Our mission at EDC is to maximize the region’s economic prosperity and global competitiveness. To live up to that mission our economic development strategies must promote and account for growth and inclusion.

Click here for an EDC-produced research profile on the Louisville and San Diego economies.

Footnotes

1.      U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006-2015.

2.      American Community Survey, 2016; SANDAG population projections.

3.      American Community Survey, 2016.

4.      EMSI, 2017.2.

5.      Firms with fewer than 100 people; CA EDD Business Statistics, 2015.

6.      Among 50 most populous metros; National Association of Realtors, 2017; C2ER, 2017; EMSI, 2017.3.