Skip to Content
The Big Picture San Diego Blog


World Trade Center San Diego

April 27, 2016

By Nikia Clarke, Director, World Trade Center San Diego

WTC San Diego is on the road again, with a focus on deepening channels of connectivity between global cities around trade, investment, innovation and thought leadership (as well as herring, it turns out).

I spent last week in Stockholm, Sweden, participating in a Brookings/JPMorgan Chase Global Cities Forum. San Diego joined the Global Cities Initiative (GCI) almost four years ago, led by WTC San Diego founding partners—the City of San Diego, San Diego International Airport and the Port of San Diego—and followed by more than 30 other metros. Stockholm is now joining the GCI and drafting its own internationalization strategy. Together with four other GCI representatives, I spoke on panels and participated in working groups convened by Brookings, the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce and CONNECT Sweden to share San Diego’s experience of building a data-driven trade and investment strategy backed by a regional coalition of partners.

And, as is always the case with these Brookings Metro Exchanges, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn from our peer cities. Philadelphia’s Economy League, together with their very active WTC, just launched a regional export plan, leveraging service provider networks to reach exporting firms. In London, the Mayor’s office and London & Partners are linking with private sector multinationals to create opportunities for 800 SMEs in new markets. Minneapolis-St. Paul has built strong regional economic development infrastructure that drives significant foreign investment to their bi-city region. World Business Chicago has been leading an effort among dozens of counties to move from competition to collaboration in a metro region that is one of the country’s largest foreign investment destinations.

At the close of the forum, the Chamber—along with the Mayor, Governor, Airport Authority and other public and private sector senior leadership from the region—launched Team Stockholm to drive the effort forward. As the CEO of AstraZeneca—an English-Swedish firm that is the seventh largest pharmaceutical company in the world—spoke to the group about the importance of global connectivity, on the other side of the world, his company inked a deal with San Diego’s Human Longevity Inc. to sequence more than 500,000 genomes and analyze samples from clinical trials. Indeed, competitiveness is all about connectivity.

So how do we continue to grow this kind of connectivity here in San Diego? Turns out Stockholm is the perfect place to reflect on this question, which is why innovation economy experts, like our own Mary Walshok, have been building linkages between our two regions for decades. Stockholm and San Diego have a lot in common: we are both metro regions of 2-3 million with world-class research ecosystems, strong life sciences, telecomm and technology sectors and we happen to be two of the top three most patent intense regions in the world. It is why as you drive down the road you see big names in our region that are also big names in Sweden: Thermo Fisher, Kyocera, Trinity Biotech, Ericsson, JLabs among others.

And in both our cities, so much of the innovation ecosystem is driven by SMEs—which in both San Diego and Stockholm make up around 95 percent of all companies—and the ways in which they are able to engage with large firms and global networks. I visited a number of the institutions that incubate, accelerate and commercialize technology in the region and there is much we can learn from Stockholm.

The Karolinska Innovation Institute spins life sciences and pharmaceutical discoveries out of the university research hospital. Sting—a city-university-private sector collaboration that runs a network of incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces in the region—is launching a new digital health accelerator program that will launch firms into international markets.

EpiCentre is an innovation house founded as a temporary experiment in a downtown high rise awaiting redevelopment last year. Now it has 600 members—large tech corporates, entrepreneurs and everything in between—who run incubators, accelerators, hackathons and labs. As companies grow and scale they move through the flexible, diverse office spaces throughout the building. It will anchor plans for an expansive downtown redevelopment with hotels, restaurants and office space all linked by aerial walkways. Too cool, right?

I had the opportunity to continue these conversations with a brief stopover in London on the way home to visit co-working spaces, tech hubs and San Diego company Cubic’s new transit innovation centre. Cubic already moves 10 million people around London every day as the operator of the Underground’s oyster card payment system. But here they are working with universities, transport providers and entrepreneurs on what’s next for the ever smarter, safer cities of tomorrow? (hint: it might involve talking holograms and buying your ticket with the veins in your hand

One of WTC San Diego’s primary mandates is to grow opportunities both for local firms in overseas markets, and for foreign ones investing in our region. To this end we’ve spoken with more than 400 investors in Japan, taken a group of water tech companies to England and France and are about to select our 2016 cohort of MetroConnect firms. As we reflect on what’s next for our region in terms of boosting our global competitiveness, it is clear that international innovation networks are critical. Certainly some great lessons were taken from this trip: creating great spaces, collaborating with diverse partners and being a little wild and very flexible.

As always, at each stop we were sure to leave behind one of San Diego’s best exports: Stone Brewing Co. craft beer—this time the Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout. No wonder they like us.

Cheers to Stockholm and London, and see you soon, San Diego. 

February 23, 2016

By Mark Cafferty, President & CEO

Kia ora!

Just back from a long trip to Auckland, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia. I wanted to share some updates and observations from my time representing EDC and marketing our region to our friends Down Under and in the City of Sails.

Unlike many of my recent international trips, I spent a great deal of time over the past few weeks engaging with our economic development peers at the Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development agency (ATEED) and the leadership of the Committee for Sydney – two very different and interesting models in two very different and interesting cities. EDC’s relationships with these highly regarded organizations have been continually strengthened and enhanced through our work with JPMorgan Chase and Brookings Institute. Our colleague Greg Clark from Brookings was especially instrumental in setting up several of these meetings over the course of my trip.

Most exciting for me to see was the buzz EDC’s work has created over the past few years. Both the ATEED and the Committee for Sydney were familiar with our research and gave high praise to our work with the region’s traded clusters. Quite surprisingly, the organizations knew about our transition away from politics/policy over the last four years and praised EDC for being a leader in redefining regional economic development through a collaborative, employer-led approach – a strategy that has served us well.

In Auckland, they are building a "sports and active lifestyle" sector strategy based on the research EDC conducted a few years ago in partnership with San Diego Sports Innovators. They have also analyzed our export strategy and Go Global efforts, and are working to mirror several of our programs/initiatives – now spearheaded by the WTC San Diego housed within EDC.

In Sydney, the highly influential Committee for Sydney was excited about what they have seen/read regarding our collaboration with Mayor Faulconer's office. Specifically, they are hoping to set up a video conference in May with their business and political leadership in Sydney to hear about the "San Diego Story" from the Mayor and the EDC team. From there they are hoping to open the door to a large-scale trade/investment mission in 2017. Stay tuned...

Along the way I also had a fantastic meeting with Baseball New Zealand set up through the San Diego Padres, meetings with the airline industry set up by our colleagues at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, and continued engagement with leadership from two of our greatest San Diego/Sydney business connections: Cubic and ResMed. Lastly, I met with an Auckland-based VC firm who will likely be visiting businesses in San Diego within the next few months.

As always, San Diego’s universities, world renowned research institutions, biotech industry, defense technology and proximity to Mexico dominated conversations throughout the course of my trip. And with international commerce opportunities increasing and expanding through the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), everyone I spoke with saw San Diego's geography, entrepreneurship and economic diversity as key assets for expanded international trade and investment.

But what was incredible to see was how much better San Diego's economic story was understood and appreciated in comparison to my first visit to Auckland and Sydney just two years ago.

With and through our partners/investors, EDC is successfully placing San Diego on the radar of international businesses, investors and thought leaders across the world. The National Geographic Smart Cities documentary and our work with Brookings and JPMorgan Chase have a lot to do with this, but so does the hard work of our economic development team, the outstanding research we have been producing and the creative way in which our marketing team is framing our work and telling our story. For that, we have nobody to thank more than our board members and investors whose leadership, guidance, support, direction and vision are helping to change the way the world sees our region and our economy. And the best is yet to come.

A fascinating person I met with during this trip told me that an old Australian Aboriginal Proverb states:

"We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love...and then we return home."

Thank you for sharing this time and place with us, and thank you for continuing to support our efforts to observe, learn and grow. 

January 28, 2016

By Sean Barr, senior vice president of economic development

Greetings from Tokyo, Japan. This week, behind a newly relaunched World Trade Center San Diego, EDC kicks off its 2016 international program. Our goals are clear – grow exports and position the region as a choice location for investment and science and technology partnerships.  

I am here in Tokyo the next few days with the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego. From day one, we were met with great enthusiasm for expanded partnerships with the University of Tokyo, University of Osaka, and private industry leaders such as Mitsui, Honda and the Japan Venture Capital Association, to name a few.

Japan represents San Diego's largest trade and investment market, making the relationship key to our economic growth. Tokyo alone accounts for nearly 25 percent of all foreign owned establishments in the region. With operations in San Diego, Japanese companies such as Kyocera International, Sony, Ajinomoto, and Takeda are some of the most active and community-minded companies, employing hundreds of San Diegans. Japan leads the way as an export market, consistently ranking among the top five most important markets for San Diego. From water technology, to microelectronics, to tourism, to telecommunications to renewable energy and craft beer, Japan punches way above its weight in the consumption of San Diego products and services. 

The relationship, however, is not one-sided. A number of organizations in San Diego have long recognized the importance of Japan to our economy, with some committing to a fulltime presence abroad, including Biocom, the San Diego Tourism Authority, the San Diego International Airport, the Port of San Diego, SDSU and of course, UC San Diego. We are looking to build on, amplify and support their work to advance the region's trade interests. 

Leading with our universities and science and engineering talent, San Diego is successfully attracting attention to our global innovation economy. In partnership with Al Pisano, Dean of the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, EDC co-hosted a symposium this week for more than 30 Japanese investors. As investors traveled from Osaka, Kyoto, and throughout Tokyo to attend, it was evident that San Diego’s technology and engineering prowess has garnered global attention, with many inquiring about the region’s business climate and international presence.

 

The global outreach continues next week, through the end of April, and beyond. Next stop: Tokyo (return visit), Nagoya, Osaka, Auckland, Sydney, London, Toulon and Stockholm. We will certainly keep you updated from the road. 

 

December 11, 2015
San Diego Regional EDC is pleased to announce the relaunch of the World Trade Center San Diego (WTC San Diego), an organization dedicated to growing international trade and investment opportunities for San Diego. After an extensive search, the organization has hired Dr. Nikia Clarke as the new director of the WTC San Diego.
 
The city of San Diego, Port of San Diego and San Diego County Regional Airport Authority jointly own the license for the WTC San Diego, and have partnered with San Diego Regional EDC to execute World Trade Center programs. As a member of the World Trade Centers Association (headquartered in New York City), WTC San Diego will connect San Diego businesses to a global network of more than 330 World Trade Center licensees in roughly 100 countries. 
 
Mayor Kevin Faulconer said, “The WTC San Diego is a critical part in the engine that will fire up our economy and workforce through creating foreign-direct investment and export opportunities. I’m proud of this accomplishment and the hard work that our partnership did to bring this vital organization back to life. I’m also proud of San Diego Regional EDC for coordinating the day-to-day tasks of this organization that will ultimately help showcase San Diego on the world stage as a talented and innovative city.”   
 
Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of San Diego Regional EDC said, “We are fortunate to have three of our most important public partners driving San Diego’s international engagement strategy. The best way to grow jobs locally is by helping our companies increase ties with global markets.”
 
Dan Malcolm, chairman of the board of Port Commissioners said, “As a founding License Holder of World Trade Center San Diego, the Port of San Diego is excited to continue to develop and optimize international networks and trade and investment opportunities to drive economic growth in the region.” 
 
Robert H. Gleason, board chairman of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority said, “At San Diego International Airport, we know that a region’s economic competitiveness relies on effective air transportation and efficient connections to global markets. So we have looked forward to the relaunch of World Trade Center San Diego for some time and are excited to help advance the work of this crucial organization on behalf of our region and its international airport.”
 
WTC San Diego will capitalize on the brand’s strong local legacy to further drive a comprehensive regional trade and investment agenda.  WTC San Diego will operate as an affiliate of San Diego Regional EDC, executing the region’s Go Global San Diego initiative and providing other trade-related services. Released in early 2015 as a roadmap for reorienting the region’s economy towards greater global engagement, Go Global San Diego aims to grow jobs, enhance San Diego’s global identity and increase connections to markets that matter most to the region’s economy.  
 
In her new role, Clarke will be charged with overseeing San Diego’s international engagement strategy. A graduate of Oxford University with a Ph.D. in international relations, Clarke joins WTC San Diego with an extensive background in global business strategy, foreign direct investment (FDI) policy research and investment trends consulting. Clarke has spent the last ten years working in the private, public, and non-profit sectors in the U.S., the U.K., China and South Africa, and is founder and former director of OUCAN, an international network of emerging market industry leaders, researchers and policy makers. 
 
This week, WTC San Diego convenes the Global Competitiveness Council for its inaugural meeting. This group of senior partners and stakeholders will help to drive global engagement programming for the region. Highlights of WTC San Diego programming in early 2016 include: 
  • Outbound Mission: Japan (January)
  • Outbound Mission: Australia/New Zealand (February)
  • San Diego Global Forum: Latin America (February)
  • MetroConnect Export Challenge Kickoff (March)
  • Incoming Mission: American Competitiveness Exchange (April)
  • Outbound Mission: United Kingdom (April)
 
WTC San Diego is co-located with the San Diego Regional EDC offices. 
 
October 29, 2015

This is part of an ongoing series which will feature one company every week that received the MetroConnect Prize, presented by JPMorgan Chase


The digital health industry is on the brink of rapid growth.

One in five people in the world now own a smartphone. By 2016, the number of smartphone users worldwide will surpass 2 billion. Although most people are familiar with using smart phones to text message, check emails, or play games, the ubiquity of smartphone technology has allowed for transformative advances in many fields, not the least in healthcare and medicine. 

Entra Health, a San Diego-based mobile health IT company, capitalizes on smartphone technology to bring to patients and healthcare providers a system to monitor and communicate about patients’ health.

“We provide a suite of technology solutions and services,” said Richard C. Strobridge, CEO and co-founder of Entra Health, “[Our services] range from our own FDA Class II software platform through to our comprehensive one-stop shopping for remote patient monitoring, telemedicine and mobile health devices.”

Entra Health integrates wireless technology with healthcare needs. The company’s expertise in worldwide medical device regulations have also propelled their devices into an international standard.

“Foreign markets have always posed a unique strategic advantage for Entra Health,” said Strobridge. “Our strategy from the beginning was to get as many international regulatory approvals for our medical device product as possible.  This strategy has allowed us to become the de facto glucose meter for clinical trials worldwide.”

With the MetroConnect prize, Entra Health used the funds for sales development, regulatory submissions, patent development, and travel to develop business partnerships in South Korea, China, Australia, and Germany.

“We plan to continue with our strategy of strengthening our intellectual property position, complete platform licensing strategy in Australia, and complete regulatory submissions […] in Australia, Europe, and Mexico,” said Strobridge. “The MetroConnect prize has given us an added sense of pride and affirmation of Entra Health's core mission of keeping people healthier while decreasing the financial burden of chronic disease.”

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 Prize, companies such as Entra Health received $10,000 grants to assist with their next step in going global.


Subscribe here to receive new posts on this topic

May 16, 2013

At EDC, we're always looking for new ways to tell San Diego's unique story. With the release of the Brookings Metropolitan Export Initiative was a good time to try it out. Using Storify, we integrated pictures, tweets, quotes and other forms of media from the event. Here's what we came up with:

 

Help us keep the conversation about the critical role exports can play in the region's global competitiveness strategy 

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