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The Big Picture San Diego Blog

April 2015

April 24, 2015

While San Diego is known to the rest of the world as “America’s Finest City,” it also happens to be one of the world’s smartest cities.

At least that’s the way the National Geographic Channel sees it. San Diego is featured in Nat Geo’s “World’s Smart Cities” documentary, a one-hour documentary special uncovering what makes this unique city one of the most innovative, forward thinking cities across the globe. The documentary begins airing tomorrow on the Nat Geo Channel at 8 a.m.

In anticipation of tomorrow’s public premiere, we’ve pulled together 9 reasons Nat Geo calls us a Smart City.

Here it goes:

  1. We don’t just drink beer, we make it too.

    Home to nearly 100 craft breweries, San Diego is serious about suds. But it’s not just about drinking it; it’s also about brewing it. In the documentary, you’ll meet Neva Parker, director of laboratory operations at White Labs, who talks about cultivating brewer’s yeast, a key ingredient in the brewing process.
  1. Our grid is smart.

    Today, 32 percent of San Diego’s electricity is renewable, and there is no coal in SDG&E’s energy portfolio. Jim Avery of Sempra Energy discusses the Smart Grid which increases the use of renewable energy and helps manage the region’s power.
  1. Our port makes us a  “plug-in.”

    Speaking of clean energy, the Port has fully switched to a shore-power system that improves air quality and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by allowing cargo vessels to "plug in" rather than run their diesel engines while in port.  You can catch some sweeping views of the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal in the documentary.
  1. We cultivate the innovators of the future.

    Most San Diegans know the story of Qualcomm, the region’s largest private-sector employer, but what many people in San Diego (and across the world) don’t know is about their focus on cultivating future leaders. In the documentary, Host Andrew Evans visits Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™, equal parts innovation lab and art studio, that provides students from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds in San Diego with access to hands-on experiences in engineering. They are ensuring San Diego remains a “smart city” for generations to come.
  1. We’re home to one of the smartest universities in the world…and they just created the world’s first algae-based surfboard.

    UC San Diego campus is one of the top 15 research universities in the world and is an innovator nationally in solar and other renewable technologies. At the California Center for Algae Biotechnology, which host Andrew Evans visits, UC San Diego researcher Stephen Mayfield is turning pond scum into fuel for the next generation of transportation. He also turned this pond scum into the world’s first algae-based surfboard, which he showed off at the San Diego premiere Tuesday evening.
  1. Innovation is in our DNA.

    When it comes to the field of genomics, San Diego is second to none. Evans pays a visit to Illumina, the first company that cracked the $1,000 genome challenge, to get his DNA mapped by Chief Medical Officer Rick Klausner. Illumina was called the “World’s Smartest Company” ahead of Samsung, Google and Tesla by MIT Technology Review. It’s no coincidence the “World’s Smartest company” is headquartered in one of the “World’s Smart Cities.”
  1. We make the things that go where no man can go.

    From the frozen Arctic to the coast of Africa, the Northrop Grumman-built NASA Global Hawk has flown all over the globe conducting unprecedented scientific and environmental missions. Evans explores San Diego’s dynamic aerospace industry through the eyes of Northrop Grumman, where he has the opportunity to meet with George Guerra, an unmanned aircraft expert.
  1. Lifesaving innovations are applied to multiple fields.

    SeaWorld is more than just a theme park operator – they’re also an innovator. In the documentary, we meet Todd Schmitt, senior veterinarian at SeaWorld, who discusses SeaWorld’s Zoological Stem Cell Bank Initiative which contributes to the scientific advancement of stem cell use in marine species and has the potential to replace drugs in the treatment of many chronic diseases, especially in older animals.
  1. Our people care.

    San Diego resident Rob Machado is a surfing hall of famer and legend. Yet rather than focusing on his sport and why it’s important to the culture of San Diego, he chose to focus on the volunteer work that he and others are doing through the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) to help children with disabilities learn to surf, develop confidence in themselves and connect with the ocean and nature.

It’s easy to see that San Diego is more than just the beach. Make sure not to miss out on the full picture, see why we’re one of the “World’s Smart Cities.” The program will air Saturday, April 25, 8-9 a.m., and Saturday, May 2, 8-9 a.m., on the National Geographic Channel.

April 22, 2015

Perhaps nothing encapsulates San Diego’s mix of innovation and lifestyle more than the surfboard pictured below. Let us explain…

Although it looks like any other surfboard, it’s actually made from algae, instead of petroleum-based polyurethane which is typically found in surfboards. We have Stephen Mayfield, a scientist from UC San Diego and director of the California Center for Algae Biotechnology, to thank for that. Like quite a few San Diegans, he can call himself both a scientist and a surfer.

Mayfield is featured in “National Geographic Channel’s: World’s Smart Cities” documentary about San Diego, which premiered last night at San Diego Symphony Hall.  Following the documentary, Mayfield presented the world’s first algae-based surfboard to Mayor Kevin Faulconer. Surfing legend and San Diego local Rob Machado, who also appeared in the documentary, was on hand to help present the surfboard. In the documentary, Mayfield talks about industry/academic collaborations that are helping to make biofuels from algae a commercially viable transportation fuel in the future. 

The documentary follows San Diego’s innovation narrative as National Geographic host and Digital Nomad Andrew Evans gets his genome sequenced at Illumina, performs stem cell surgery on a penguin at SeaWorld, flies UAVS at Northrop Grumman, learns about the Smart Grid at SDG&E, checks out the Qualcomm® Thinkabit Lab™,  part engineering lab and part art studio – all while enjoying the sites, culture and lifestyle that San Diego is known for.

Last night, Andrew Evans made the trek back to San Diego to join Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Diego Tourism Authority’s Joe Terzi, EDC’s Mark Cafferty and a packed house of San Diegans to show people why San Diego is the only city in North America chosen for the documentary.

"San Diego is a neat city. There's no place like it in the world," said Evans at the premiere.  

The documentary will be shown in more than 60 countries, reaching approximately 250 million households world-wide.  Make sure to tune in (or record) the documentary, which begins airing this Saturday, on the National Geographic Channel.

Spread the word. It’s time the world learns what San Diego is really about.

Follow the conversation at #Smartcities.

April 21, 2015

National Geographic Channel features San Diego, one of only four cities in the world and the only U.S. city on the list, in its acclaimed documentary series “World’s Smart Cities”. San Diego was chosen for its strong technology sector, local innovators, green practices, smart public planning and an unparalleled quality of life. Other selection factors included San Diego’s size of population, demographics/cultural diversity, livability, economy and business climate, educational institutions, leadership and strong sense of community.

The documentary will be shown in over 60 countries reaching approximately 250 million households world-wide.

Watch the trailer...

Watch the premiere on:

National Geographic Channel



Current Show Schedule (based on country feed)

Country Date Air Time
United States April 25, 2015 8:00 AM (All Time Zones)
  May 2, 2015 9:00 AM (Check your local listings- may vary by time zones)
Australia May 7, 2015 18:30
  May 10, 2015 12:00
  May 12, 2015 10:30
  May 15, 2015 14:30
  May 19, 2015 8:30
Brazil May 8, 2015 19:00
  May 9, 2015 15:00
  May 17, 2015 13:00
  May 23, 2015 18:30
  May 25, 2015 15:00
China May 22, 2015 TBD
France May 9, 2015 18:30
  May 11, 2015 23:55
  May 14, 2015 8:40
  May 17, 2015 12:50
  May 23, 2015 10:20
Germany May 5, 2015 23:55
  May 6, 2015 10:05
  May 8, 2015 9:15
  May 9, 2015 14:25
  May 10, 2015 8:25
  May 11, 2015 13:45
  May 13, 2015 9:15
  May 14, 2015 8:25
Italy May 4, 2015 17:00
  May 8, 2015 18:00
  May 9, 2015 10:00
  May 11, 2015 12:00
  May 16, 2015 10:00
Japan May 10, 2015 20:00
  May 15, 2015 16:00
  May 19, 2015 8:00
  May 20, 2015 15:00
  May 24, 2015 19:00
Korea May 6, 2015 19:00
  May 7, 2015 8:00
  May 9, 2015 11:15
  May 10, 2015 12:00
  May 13, 2015 10:00
Russia May 4, 2015 17:00
  May 8, 2015 11:25
  May 9, 2015 18:00
  May 10, 2015 8:50
  May 11, 2015 11:25
Spain May 5, 2015 18:10
  May 10, 2015 9:30
  May 16, 2015 11:15
  May 20, 2015 18:10
  May 24, 2015 10:20
United Kingdom May 8, 2015 17:00
  May 9, 2015 8:00
  May 10, 2015 9:00
  May 10, 2015 0:00
  May 11, 2015 8:00


The documentary features leading companies and institutions that are based in San Diego and provide world-class research, education, and innovative technologies. We thank them for their participation and support of this project.


April 21, 2015

iboss Cybersecurity is a leading provider of innovative APT defense, web security and mobile security solutions. It’s Cyber Week in Washington, DC and the RSA Conference — “where the world talks security” — opens today in San Francisco with a lot of San Diego companies, including iboss. With increasing cyber threats to both business and government,cybersecurity is ubiquitous in every industry.  

This week, we had the opportunity to sit down with Paul Martini, CEO at iboss Cybersecurity in San Diego, to learn more about the company’s relationship with the region, and what’s in store for the future.


1) Tell us about iboss Cybersecurity

iboss is on the cutting-edge of cybersecurity, protecting over four thousand organizations from evasive malware and data theft.  Founded in 2003, iboss was created to provide next-gen cybersecurity for today’s complex network environments. Unlike legacy technology, we saw an opportunity to address emerging technology phenomena including mobile connectivity, cloud adoption, increasing bandwidth demands as well as the growing use of non-standard and often hidden Web ports for data stealing attacks.  With the release of FireSphere in 2014 iboss has introduced lean forward patented technology designed to close the critical gap between malware infection and detection, and contain data theft before malware can complete its mission.

We’re very proud of the fact that our technology is consistently cited by customers as being easy to use and supported by world class technical support that has delivered an industry-leading customer retention rate of over 98.5% for the last two years.


2) What are some advantages to being located in San Diego?

First, we consistently find prodigious talent in San Diego, including cybersecurity, engineering & software development experts.   Second, we have a many former UC San Diego (my alma mater) students working here, and we’re relocating our headquarters to be across the street from UCSD, which will make it even easier to access students and engage in collaborative research.  Lastly, one can’t forget the sometimes overlooked but significant benefit of being located in such a desirable travel destination, which always adds value for a wide range of visitors, from industry analysts and partners to customers and potential prospects.


3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.

San Diego has always been known for defense and is of course a burgeoning hub for technology, cybersecurity and biotechnology.  We recently met with SPAWAR who is doing amazing things to keep our critical infrastructure and data safe.   There are many other great companies developing amazing technology and adding major value to customers and the region alike, including well-known enterprises such as Qualcomm, Solar Turbines, and CareFusion.


4) What do you anticipate for your company in five years? What do you anticipate for San Diego?
iboss is in a rapid growth phase and we look forward to meeting our goal of nearly doubling employees and overall revenue in 2015.  We’re also eager to move into our new location later this year, a 43,000 square foot facility off the I-5 in La Jolla, to house our worldwide headquarters and state of the art threat research center.   Our new facility is groundbreaking on construction in early April as part of a multi-million dollar renovation.  Once complete, it will house a cutting-edge threat research center, a technology incubator and engineering facilities. The building, which was previously home to SAIC worldwide data center, is primed to support iboss’ cloud infrastructure with multiple fiber drops, fully redundant power and suppression systems. The property will also feature an energy-efficient design, corporate fitness center, putting green, two-story slide and a technology incubator area.  iboss Cybersecurity has ambitious aspirations backed by innovative, patented technology.  Our goal is to be the next billion dollar Cybersecurity Enterprise in our region and we are putting the people and processes in place to achieve it.


April 17, 2015

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"San Diego's labor market has really hit its stride. The unemployment rate is at a seven year low and two full percentage points lower than a year ago. More than 30,000 people who were unemployed have found employment in the past year, and the labor force continues to grow. Job growth has been led by key middle-to-high-wage industries like construction, health care, education, manufacturing and scientific services. These are great signs as we move ahead in 2015."
Phil Blair, President and CEO
Manpower San Diego


This post is part of an ongoing monthly series dedicated to the California Employment Development Department (EDD) monthly employment release and is brought to you by Manpower. Click images to enlarge in a new tab/window.

The California Employment Development Department (EDD) released statewide county employment data today for the March 2015 period. This month’s data shows that unemployment was down again in March as the economy continued to grow at an increasingly solid pace.

The unemployment rate is likely the big story again this month since at 5.1 percent, it is the lowest it has been in nearly seven years (April 2008). This is 2.0 points lower than the previous year and 0.2 points lower than the previous month. San Diego’s unemployment rate remained below the U.S. average of 5.6 percent and well-below the California average of 6.5 percent. The region also experienced labor force growth. More than 3,000 people were added to the region's labor force from March 2014 to March 2015, indicating that the continued drop in unemployment is likely due to a healthy economy rather than a dwindling labor force.

[Unemployment Chart]

When looking at monthly or seasonal employment, San Diego County employers added 8,000 jobs from February to March. Construction accounted for a quarter of this monthly growth, adding 1,500 jobs from February to March. Tourism , health care and private education industries also experienced high seasonal growth, while retail and wholesale trade experienced slight seasonal declines.

From a year-to-year or non-seasonal perspective, the region’s economy is showing signs of picking up the pace. Total non-farm employment grew by 40,900 jobs from March 2014 to March 2015­—a 3.1 percent growth rate. This exceeds the U.S. growth rate of 2.3 percent. In all three months to date in 2015, the region recorded annual job growth of more than three percent, compared to 2014 when not a single month exceeded three percent annual growth.

[Employment Chart]

The private sector economy accounted for 92 percent of the year-to-year job growth and grew by 3.4 percent. This rate also outpaced the U.S. growth rate, which was 2.7 percent over that same period. This job growth continued to be fueled by key sectors. Construction jobs grew by 7.4 percent and added 4,600 jobs. One of the region’s key manufacturing sectors ship and boat building grew by 18.7 percent and added 1,100 jobs. 

Innovation service sectors also continued to show high job growth. The professional, scientific and technical services (PST) sector grew by 7.2 percent year-to-year, and accounted for approximately a quarter of the job growth. This sector represents many of our innovation employers. More specifically, scientific research and development services, a subsector of PST that represents many cleantech and life science companies, grew by 8.4 percent since last March.

[PST Chart]

The region’s tourism continued to show high year-to-year growth as well. The leisure and hospitality industry added 7,300 jobs over that period, which is about 4.3 percent growth. Food service and drinking places accounted for 7,000 of those jobs. Private and public education services experienced high seasonal and non-seasonal growth. Education services added 1,400 year-to-year jobs (4.5 percent growth) while state and local government education added 2,500 year-to-year jobs (3.0 percent growth).

The March labor market report was all around positive. Low unemployment, high job growth and a growing labor force are all excellent signs of burgeoning regional economy. More importantly, this growth continues to be driven by key sectors to the region's economy. Continued rapid growth in construction indicates that regional builders are constructing important infrastructure to address a growing economy. Furthermore, the region's key high-wage and innovative sectors are driving private sector growth. The region is far outpacing the state and nation in these important metrics, all good signs for the year ahead.

[Growth Chart]

Note: Our Economic Indicators Dashboard will show how our unemployment rate compares to other US metros and the US total rate when that information is released in the coming weeks.

April 16, 2015

This post is part of an ongoing series dedicated to EDC’s 50th Anniversary. Please follow along at #EDCTurns50.

Along came the 1970s. Former Mayor Frank Curran and EDC's first CEO Dallas Clark saw their vision of a diversified San Diego economy come to fruition under the aegis of then CEO Richard "Dick" Davis.

San Diego (and EDC) were in good hands, as Malin Burnham stepped up to chair EDC in 1972 and Pete Wilson took over as Mayor.

We combed through the archives- here are a few of our favorite below:

Our innovation economy was beginning to take shape
New business is flowing to the region. From Sony, to the Wickes Corporation to Beckman Instruments, San Diego was booming in many industries, including the emerging field of “health sciences electronics.” We now know this industry as medical devices.

(Correctly) Predicting our future
At the same time, UC San Diego was beginning to establish itself as the research based institute that it is today. In 1971, National Science Foundation Director William McElroy became chancellor of UC San Diego, attracting world-class faculty. An article in the San Diego Union  from 1974 asks UC San Diego researchers to predict what San Diego would be like in the year 2000. Professor William Neirenberg got it right, “between 1974 and the year 2000, San Diego will become one of the top three or four research and development areas in the world…

Shipbuilding diversifies to include oil tankers and ferries

Kearny Mesa booms along Convoy St.

The close of the decade saw the birth of two iconic downtown San Diego landmarks: our beloved Convention Center and the idyllic Seaport Village.
From an edc newsletter

Telling the world our story
As the economy diversified, EDC began to share San Diego’s story with the world.

An advertisement in Businessweek (late 1970s- early 1980s)

Advertisement, unknown publication, 1976

We’ll be celebrating all through 2015, but we’ll be paying homage to our past – as well as celebrating our future – at EDC’s 50th annual dinner event on June 4, 2015, at SeaWorld San Diego.  Until then, join us here online every month as recount our top moments, starting with the decades that have defined us.

April 15, 2015

With more than 100,000 employees worldwide, AECOM is a global company with a strong local presence. They’ve done it all; from rebuilding Ground Zero to helping San Diego County preserve water. Not only do they work on projects that positively impact our economy, but also those that impact our social and environmental well-being.

We sat down with Michael Kincaid, associate principal at AECOM in San Diego, to learn more about the company’s relationship with the region, and what’s in store for the future.

1) Tell us about AECOM
AECOM’s purpose — to positively impact lives, transform communities and make the world a better place — captures the essence of what we stand for and is intended to inspire us each day. Our core values support our purpose and are a reflection of AECOM’s culture. They include:

  • People. The expertise, passion and thought leadership of our talented people around the world make our success possible. We respect and encourage our people’s ideas, diversity and cultures.
  • Clients. We are committed to our clients and to setting industry standards for service and delivery. We take ownership for solving our clients’ problems and anticipating new opportunities.
  • Excellence. We believe in delivering unequivocal excellence in everything we do.
  • Integrity. We must always maintain our commitment to acting ethically and with integrity — in all that we do, every day of the year.
  • Safety. We are a company that puts safety first. We are all accountable for keeping ourselves and our colleague’s safe, and for delivering work safely to our clients.
  • Innovation. We differentiate our company by challenging ourselves to look for new and better ways to deliver our expertise through innovative solutions that enable each client to realize its vision.

These values, which reflect the culture of AECOM, guide the future that we forge together.

2) What are some advantages to doing business in San Diego?
Surf and sun meets innovation.” San Diego is uniquely positioned as a healthy and beautiful place to live, but also the West Coast hub of our military, the epicenter of a significant border region, and a dynamic and innovative center for business and research.  World class universities, clusters of biotechnology companies, defense industry, and communications companies attract talent to San Diego.  Unbeatable weather, world class beaches, parks, and countless opportunities for recreational activities keep people here.   But San Diego’s advantages don’t stop there.  Not only does it boast a bustling urban center promoting sustainable approaches to city living, but also preservation and careful stewardship of San Diego’s unique and precious natural resources continue to develop an environmental appreciation.

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.
Under the helm of Debra Reed, Sempra Energy is a global company pushing the envelope with sustainable fuels and renewable energy. It’s leading the way with investment in clean energy. Having recently broken ground on a new headquarters for its operations in the East Village, Sempra is leading the way in its commitment to its local community, for a safer, healthier, and environmentally more sustainable place to call home.

4) What do you anticipate for your company in five years?
Recognized by Fortune magazine as a World's Most Admired Company for the first time in our history, AECOM’s debut on the 2015 list is a significant accomplishment that primarily is a testament to the hard work, dedication and talent of our people around the world, who activate our vision and purpose every day. AECOM will continue to make our company even better in the months and years to come.

We will strive for excellence in nine key performance areas:

  1. Ability to attract and retain talented people
  2. Quality of management
  3. Social responsibility to the community and the environment
  4. Innovativeness
  5. Quality of products or services
  6. Wise use of corporate assets
  7. Financial soundness
  8. Long-term investment value
  9. Effectiveness in doing business globally

5) What do you anticipate for San Diego?
San Diego will continue to balance growth with its needs for improved and sustainable infrastructure and infill development along with preserving its local ecosystem, not only to generate and develop economically, but ensure the quality of life for its future generations. AECOM will be a partner with San Diego to realize its vision.

April 8, 2015
Every quarter, San Diego Regional EDC analyzes key economic metrics that are important to understanding the regional economy and San Diego’s standing relative to other major metropolitan areas in the U.S. This issue covers data from the October 2014 to January 2015 quarter.
In this issue, EDC presents updates on trends in employment, real estate and venture capital, with a special spotlight on wage growth. The spotlight investigates whether job growth occurred in high-wage industries.
Download the full snapshot to view all of the tables, graphs and trends for this quarter. 


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