San Diego Business Journal: Message from EDC President and CEO Mark Cafferty

Originally published on March 29 in the San Diego Business Journal, this is the first of EDC President and CEO Mark Cafferty’s weekly columns:

As I write this, I can only hope for everyone reading that your families and loved ones are both healthy and safe. The impact of COVID-19 in all corners of our community has been devastating and has changed our lives in numerous ways.

Things have certainly changed for our team at San Diego Regional EDC over the last few weeks, so I write today to share our unique perspectives.

As an economic development organization, EDC plays a unique role in serving the business community. We recognize that so much of this is uncharted territory for all of us. But as always, it is important to step back and look at what we know and focus on where we are needed most.

Our regional collaboration is an asset recognized around the world and I am certain it is going to be a key reason why San Diego emerges from this global health crisis stronger than ever. There is no doubt we will be facing challenging weeks and months ahead. Accurate and timely communication will be critical to our business community.

In that vein, our team has spent the last two weeks making outreach calls to our nearly 200 investors–the companies that underwrite our work. These companies range from regional giants such as Qualcomm, Sempra and Illumina, to shipbuilders like NASSCO, to hospitals/healthcare providers like Scripps, Sharp and Kaiser Permanente who are on the front lines of this crisis, to small and family owned business like Brown Law Group, Ace Parking and Jerome’s Furniture. Some of them are busier than ever and some are struggling in unprecedented ways. Yet one resounding thing we have heard from all of them is that they want to know how they can help fellow San Diegans. Some of them have made donations to the San Diego Foundation’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund and others have offered their manufacturing floors to produce critical resources.

Resources for the Business Community

While our team is still trying to get our hands around everything that is happening right now, and we certainly don’t have all the answers, EDC has quickly pivoted to provide companies with a comprehensive list of resources that we feel can best meet their needs right now. And while these continue to change and expand by the day, I wanted to take a moment to point a few out:

City of San Diego – Economic Relief Package

Businesses in the City of San Diego may be eligible for the Economic Relief Package, which provides approximately $4 million in reduced fees. It includes a Small Business Relief Fund, where businesses can apply for grants and/or low-interest loans, as well as an extension of business permits and business tax-deferral options. I know some other cities in the region are working on their own relief packages as well.

Small Business Administration–Economic Injury Disaster Loan

The San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center can provide no-cost guidance through a company’s recovery process. Businesses can apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, which may provide up to $2 million of financial assistance. SBA also has immediate $25,000 bridge loans available (less paperwork) for small businesses with an existing relationship with the SBA. To apply for these programs, visit SDIBDC’s website and click “request counseling.”

South County EDC – South County Restaurant Loan

South County Economic Development Council is offering $5,000 no-interest loans to eating establishments in South County. Apply here.

San Diego Workforce Partnership – Layoff Transition Services

For businesses in the tough spot of dealing with layoffs or furloughs, San Diego Workforce Partnership has unemployment insurance information, tax assistance, a work-sharing program to avoid layoffs, financial planning, remote career services and more. If you are pivoting operations to address COVID-19 solutions, San Diego Workforce Partnership may also be able to provide funds to train workers. Fill out this form to get started.

Advancing San Diego

Thanks to a $3 million grant from JP Morgan Chase & Co, EDC and regional partners have launched Advancing San Diego–a program that drives economic inclusion by addressing talent shortages. Advancing San Diego is offering fully paid software engineering internships for companies with fewer than 100 employees. Over the past week, we have pivoted this program to provide remote internships. Companies can apply to host a fully funded intern here.

According to the Brookings Institution, 73 percent of San Diego’s economic growth is going to come from small businesses. However, we know that businesses of all sizes are struggling to adapt, and are searching for programs that provide support at all levels.

We have refocused our efforts on finding resources to assist businesses through this significant economic change and are working even more closely with our partners at San Diego Workforce Partnership and the United Way of San Diego County who will continue to provide resources and support to impacted workers.

Understanding the Regional Impact

At EDC, we frequently say “everything we do begins and ends with research.” We know we cannot grow and help our economy if we do not have the means to measure and track our efforts. And right now, accurate data and information is more important than ever.

To that end, San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego Regional EDC are working together to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on San Diego’s economy.

We are asking businesses to fill out a short survey so we can better understand how we can help in the days, weeks and months ahead.

The survey has been open nearly a week, and the responses have been eye-opening. Yes, companies are struggling and there have been layoffs, but amidst all the struggle, there have been some bright spots. I will share some of this data and anecdotes with you in the coming weeks.

Good News Ahead

With a research institution named after the inventor of the Polio vaccine and numerous contributions in fighting global health crises such as Ebola and HIV, San Diego has developed a reputation for bringing life-changing treatments to the world.

Right now researchers in San Diego are working 24/7 to find a vaccine and/or cure. We have local companies like Arcturus Therapeutics and Inovio Pharmaceuticals that are focusing on developing life saving vaccines, and others like Mesa Biotech, Epitope Diagnostics and Thermo Fisher Scientific that are developing and distributing test kits to healthcare workers around the globe. These workers have been showing up every day, ready to serve our residents and forge ahead, and I know I stand with the entire business community in expressing my unwavering gratitude to them all.

Back in 2011, as San Diego was climbing out of the recession, our board members were going around the table discussing all the positive things happening in our region. Our current chair – Janice Brown – suggested at that time that we compile all of the highlights into a newsletter, and from there, our publication known as “Good News of the Week” was born. With the rare exception of holidays, we have not missed a week since. Although it will take on a different and appropriate tone with regards to all that is happening now, you can expect to see Good News from EDC in the weeks ahead.

Our local outlets, including the Business Journal, are important work to keep us informed.  We need to be reminded of the numerous wins in our community now more than ever. We need to support them.

Moving Forward

When I started at EDC a little more than 8 years ago, our board challenged our team to reframe how San Diego thinks about economic development…and we have. We have built a team that believes in our mission and lives our core values of collaboration, integrity, accountability and inclusion. In the weeks ahead, as we all strive for some level of economic stability, we will be thinking again of how to reframe our value proposition and how we can best serve San Diego businesses now and in the future.

I know we are all going to get through this. Things will certainly get worse before they get better, but things will get better.

In the meantime, let’s all continue to do our best to stay in touch with each other and take care of each other. I remind myself daily that it is who we are during these moments that will shape who our children are in the future and who we will forever be in the eyes of those who count on us.

Stay safe, stay inside and stay strong.