World Trade Center San Diego’s 2023 Annual Report

World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD), the international affiliate of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the regional leader on trade and investment, cultivates a pipeline of export-ready firms, maximizes foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities, and enhances San Diego’s global identity.

In WTCSD’s 2023 Annual Report, see how we helped San Diego companies participate in a globally connected economy to create quality local jobs, and make the San Diego region more prosperous, competitive and resilient.


  • Exports: Supporting exporters creates quality jobs and builds resiliency in small businesses. WTCSD grows regional exports by facilitating sustainable connections to customers and markets for local firms.
  • Investment: Foreign investment strengthens competitive industry clusters and enables the expansion of local companies. WTCSD assists investing companies and supports international air service expansion.
  • Global Identity: A strong global reputation for innovation makes the region more competitive and connected. WTCSD communicates the impact of global trends on the regional economy and stewards relationships with the markets that matter most for growth.


Priority: As the region’s Export Specialty Small Business Development Center (SBDC), WTCSD cultivates a pipeline of export-ready firms, and supports these companies in their efforts to grow in international markets.


Priority: Maximize foreign investment opportunities for the region by building and institutionalizing linkages with strategic markets abroad, as well as better leveraging local companies, partners, and assets.

  • Following WTCSD’s 2022 Netherlands trade mission, Dutch applied research organization TNO revolutionizing urban development strategy established its first North American office in San Diego.
  • WTCSD refreshed its primary print collateral for foreign investment attraction. The new brochure tracks San Diego’s key industries, FDI data, notable exports, and a regional summary; and soon, top metrics will appear as a digital dashboard on WTCSD’s website. The brochure was printed in English and Korean ahead of WTCSD’s Korea trade mission, and included a Korea-San Diego economic comparison.


Priority: Enhance the San Diego region’s reputation and visibility to underpin investment retention and attraction efforts, as well as global connectivity goals.

  • Mayor Todd Gloria, SANDAG and County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas, and WTCSD led 2023’s trade mission to South Korea. The binational delegation of 30 civic, academic, and corporate leaders promoted San Diego’s key industries, established and strengthened public-private partnerships, and explored best practices in technology, life sciences, and clean energy innovation.

  • In honor of World Trade Month, WTCSD hosted its first World Trade Week San Diego. More than 200 international business professionals, consulates, and service providers from across Southern California attended the expo and MetroConnect VI Grand Prize PitchFest.




2021: World Trade Center San Diego supports 50 businesses as region works toward recovery


companies supported


jobs supported

$10 M

net export increase, 2021

World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD), an affiliate of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), cultivates a pipeline of export-ready firms, maximizes foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities, and enhances San Diego’s global identity. A globally-connected economy creates quality jobs and makes the San Diego region more prosperous, competitive, and resilient – especially crucial amid COVID-19 and its aftershocks.

As we look toward 2022, here are four key ways WTCSD helped make San Diego a more globally competitive, resilient region:

1. MetroConnect V helps companies go global, awards fifth winner

2021 was an exciting year for WTCSD’s MetroConnect export accelerator program as the fifth cohort of incredible small to mid-sized San Diego companies wrapped up participation in the program.

These companies received $5,000 grants to bolster their export initiatives and international expansion efforts. Amid a pandemic, companies needed more digital support services than ever to help navigate growing e-commerce needs during the pandemic. To support, WTCSD held a Digital Trade Series, which assessed each client’s needs and arranged one-on-one counseling sessions with contracted e-commerce experts.

Over the course of the program, one company stood out – with MetroConnect’s support, satellite-based communications and fleet management company Blue Sky Network generated a 36 percent increase in monthly recurring revenue in Brazil, as well as its largest order to date. To support this growth, the company hired seven new full-time employees. Ultimately, WTCSD crowned Blue Sky Network MetroConnect V’s winner and awarded it a $25,000 grant toward its international expansion goals.

Over the past five years of MetroConnect, 80 companies collectively leveraged $890,000 in export grants, resulting in a $95 million net increase in exports from the San Diego region.

2. WTCSD debuts a regional trade and investment strategy for 2025

In 2015, San Diego Regional EDC’s release of “Go Global: San Diego’s Trade and Investment Initiative,” launched the World Trade Center in San Diego, bringing regional companies and stakeholders together with a global vision. Throughout 2020 and early 2021, WTC engaged many of the same partners, and new ones, in an effort to gauge how the region measured up to it, more than five years later. This 2021 update analyzed the state of exports, foreign investment and VC, as well as the extraordinary impact of COVID. Through rigorous data analysis dozens of interviews with public and private-sector leaders, WTC synthesized a set of five key priorities the region should focus on over the next five years. Find out what they are here. Key findings include:

  • 2020 saw $3 billion in foreign investment into San Diego
  • 73 percent of investment into San Diego is in Life Sciences
  • San Diego exports $22 billion in goods each year
  • San Diego is a top 10 services exporter among U.S. metros

Heading into 2022, we expect to see FDI investment portfolios return to the same levels seen in 2019.

3. Export Small Business Development Center (SBDC) supports export and COVID-relief projects

Beyond MetroConnect, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at WTCSD provided 35 export-ready small companies with the support needed to navigate international goals, including exports, manufacturing support, and more.

In addition to expansion support, the Export Specialty Center continued to offer COVID-19 recovery resources at no cost, helping San Diego companies like Funki Adventures apply to Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) 2nd Draw, Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, and City and County small business grants.

Finally, the Global Readiness Program saw a partnership between WTCSD and the University of San Diego help local small to mid-sized businesses secure STEP grants to grow the regional export pipeline.

4. WTCSD serves as a key source of market intelligence

WTCSD conducted a series of business surveys to better inform decision making of regional partners and affiliates. These included:

Corporate Travel Survey:

  • Survey of 12 large businesses and two non-profits in the region to better understand travel and budgets forecasts for the year ahead. This information was critical for the retention of existing service out of SAN and for the attraction of future direct flights. It found:
    • 79 percent of respondents are willing to pay a premium to fly on a San Diego nonstop route versus flying out from Tijuana or Los Angeles
    • 56 percent of respondents expressed a desire for nonstop service to Mexico City and Sao Paulo

EDC Changing Business Landscape Survey:

  • Survey of more than 100 business in the San Diego region, aimed at informing long-term development priorities, across business areas. It found:
    • 14 percent of respondents currently import and/or export out of the Port of San Diego
    • 24 percent of those surveyed would be interested in using the Port of San Diego if they provided service to the types of goods they ship


Interested in growing your business internationally?

World Trade Center San Diego works directly with companies – free of charge – to help them expand internationally and grow in San Diego. Whether your small company is interested in learning about exporting and international growth, or your small or medium-sized company is ready to export and grow internationally, World Trade Center San Diego is here to help.

Ready to export? Apply to MetroConnect VI by December 17.

Want to know more about WTCSD? Click here to receive our monthly Global Brief Newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

Is my company ready to export?

As your company grows, you may one day find yourself receiving an order from a customer in another country—whether that’s from just across the border in Mexico, or across the ocean in Japan. This will probably spark a series of questions: Is my company ready to export? How much does exporting cost? What are the regulations around shipping my product globally? Is exporting even worth it?

Exporting can be tremendously beneficial. It diversifies your customer base and exposes your goods and services to new markets, which may derive more value from your product than here in the U.S. Exporters also tend to be stronger and more resilient companies back home. And while exporting comes with its own set of challenges and complexities, programs like World Trade Center San Diego’s MetroConnect are here to help small and medium-sized businesses access funding and resources to begin selling overseas.

Is your company ready to export? Here are three factors to consider:

1. Do I have the financial resources to break into a new market?

Breaking into a new market isn’t cheap. In the same way introducing your product or service to a domestic market requires thoughtful strategy and investment, expanding internationally means you need to invest in promoting your product, through the right channels and utilizing the right tools.

But unlike domestic channels, you may need to make additional modifications for your product or service to get approval—whether via translation, new market research, or regulatory costs. There will also be additional costs with getting your products to customers that are geographically farther away, as well as tariffs and non-tariff barriers to consider.

Finally, the global marketplace is highly competitive—and competing by offering the lowest price is often not possible for San Diego-based companies. Instead, a deep understanding of your value proposition and a readiness to devote the necessary resources to amplifying your message in the right places can set you up for success.

Bottom line: If you’re ready to devote financial resources toward international expansion, your company may want to explore an export strategy.

2. Do I have people on my team who can devote the time, effort, and expertise exporting requires?

Developing the right relationships with suppliers, distributors, customers, and investors in each market takes time and consistency. This, as well as familiarizing yourself with the unique cultural preferences and market dynamics of the country or region you’re trying to break into, will require time, staffing resources, and often international travel. Hiring people with the right technical knowledge of your industry segment in your target market or having the bandwidth to dedicate your team’s existing expertise will often be critical to your success.

But if your team is already taxed to its limit, you are unable to hire for your team’s unmet expertise needs, or you plan to treat exporting as a side project, you may find sustained volume and exporting success hard to come by.

Bottom line: If you can devote staff time, resources, and expertise toward expansion, you may be ready to export.

3. Has my company had domestic success?

In most cases, the U.S. market will be your first consideration for expansion. You’ll know the language and culture, skip the trade barriers, take advantage of well-established institutions, and generally face less financial and political risk. As a U.S. company, too, you’re probably more familiar with your industry’s specific ecosystem.

So take advantage of the domestic market first, if possible. Domestic success can be a method to estimate your international potential…and whether you should be expanding internationally to begin with. And swimming in the domestic market will help you fully understand what truly differentiates your product or service, with no currency or other major financial risk.

But if you’ve enjoyed domestic success or a specific international market can help take your business to the next level, expanding your customer base overseas can give you a competitive edge in some key ways:

  • You’ll leverage economies of scale, where more order flow can lower your production cost
  • You’ll diversify your revenue streams. COVID-19 taught us that different markets can be impacted by significant global shocks in different ways, at different times.
  • You can learn from international competitors and partners, and apply these new tactics internationally and here at home.
  • You’ll have the chance to fight back against global competitors in their home market, rather than here in yours.

Bottom line: If your company has enjoyed domestic success and you want to take your business to the next level, you’re ready to export.

Keep in mind:

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it’ll help you ask the right questions when exploring whether your company is ready to get out there and meet the other 95% of this planet’s consumers. And remember: Success doesn’t happen overnight. While you may receive sizable, one-off international orders through online channels or following a trade show, generating sustained demand from a new market will generally require you to be intentional about your strategy and devote adequate resources to your export strategy.

Join our MetroConnect export accelerator to supercharge your international sales.

Is your small or medium-sized company ready to export and grow internationally, but needs the funding, guidance, and support to expand?


Not ready yet? ➝ Stay connected with WTCSD opportunities via email.

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Foreign investment and San Diego companies: 3 things you need to know

In September 2021, World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) hosted its quarterly Global Competitiveness Council (GCC) meeting in collaboration with the San Diego Cyber Center of Excellence (CCOE) and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). We were joined by David Rader, Deputy Director in the Office of Foreign Investment Review at the Department of Defense, who presented on the national security implications of foreign investment in the United States.

Here are three things we learned from the session about foreign investment into San Diego:

1. FDI is a positive for the United States, but requires caution

Foreign direct investment (FDI) provides American companies with valuable capital to grow and prosper. However, it is critical to exercise caution and conduct  proper due diligence when considering investment from foreign countries. There is always a chance rogue actors could undermine American companies like yours by way of theft of intellectual property.

2. U.S. companies are losing out on American-made innovative technologies to adversaries 

Foreign countries are increasingly leveraging FDI as a means to gain access to new technologies via control of intellectual property. One way adversaries do this: By raising venture capital and early stage funds to target innovation hubs like San Diego.

Unsurprisingly, the United States and its partners comprise the vast majority of innovation hubs around the world, making them and their homegrown innovation companies high-value targets. The majority of threats have been toward companies in the emerging technology space, including 5G, artificial intelligence, semiconductors, and unmanned systems. But recently, improved due diligence and private capital has allowed CFIUS and its partner organizations to minimize these threats toward American companies and technologies.

3. It pays to proactively reach out to CFIUS 

CFIUS is an interagency committee authorized to review certain transactions involving foreign investment in the United States and certain real estate transactions by foreign persons, in order to determine the effect of such transactions on the national security of the United States. Companies that are considering leveraging foreign investment are encouraged to reach out to the team at CFIUS for no-charge advising to ensure your intellectual property will remain safe. CFIUS will need your company name, technology, and foreign investor information to determine if the transaction necessitates review through its due diligence process.

To get started with no-cost advising from the CFIUS staff, please reach out to David Rader, Deputy Director, Office of Foreign Investment Review at Department of Defense –

Interested in growing your business internationally?

World Trade Center San Diego operates as an affiliate of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. WTC San Diego works to further San Diego’s global competitiveness by building an export pipeline, attracting and retaining foreign investment, and increasing San Diego’s global profile abroad.

Do you want to know more about the work of World Trade Center San Diego? Click here to receive our monthly Global Brief Newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

Interested in more? You may also like:

Export Finance: 3 things your business should know

In June 2021, World Trade Center San Diego (WTC) hosted a series of export finance workshops in partnership with California International Trade Center (CITC).

We joined experts from the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) and Banner Bank to discuss exporting resources, such as the Export Express Loan Program and Export Working Capital Program. We also joined experts from Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM Bank), GBC International Bank, and Provident Traders Inc., to discuss open account payment structures, adding value to capital equipment, and EXIM export loan guarantees.

Here are three things we learned at our export finance workshops:

1. Export financing is a key tool in international expansion.

Export financing and export credit insurance can be important tools in your arsenal. With it, you can find more attractive payment terms and mitigate risk. For instance, export credit insurance can allow your business to offer competitive credit terms to foreign buyers for up to 180 to 360 days. Plus, it can protect you against non-payments by foreign buyers due to commercial and political risks.

2. Certain programs might be better tailored to your business needs.

You might have heard about SBA’s Export Working Capital or Export Express Program. But what’s the difference? And which is better for your business?

Export Working Capital provides vital resources for exporters to fulfill new orders, such as loan advances up to $5 million. You can use these funds to purchase finished products, raw materials, and supplies, or cover labor and overhead costs.

Export Express Program allows small businesses to borrow up to $500,000 from a local partnering bank. It is the simplest export loan program offered by the SBA, and offers flexibility and ease of use for borrowers and lenders.

3. A range of partners are here to help you. 

SBA is an independent agency of the federal government dedicated to providing aid, counseling, and assistance to small businesses in order to preserve free competitive enterprise and strengthen the overall economy. Companies receiving SBA services must meet the SBA small business definition.

EXIM Bank is the official export credit agency of the United States. When private-sector lenders are unable or unwilling to provide financing, EXIM fills the gap by equipping small businesses with financing tools needed to compete in the global economy.

Finally, you can find a wide variety of lenders willing to assist. Lenders can be traditional banks or Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), such as Lendistry or CDC Small Business Finance.

Interested in learning more about export financing through a lender’s perspective? To learn more about export financing and the application process, tune in to these on-demand webinars:

On Demand – SBA Export Finance Tools for Global Expansion

On Demand EXIM Bank – Products to Increase and Finance Your Export Sales


World Trade Center San Diego operates as an affiliate of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. WTC San Diego works to further San Diego’s global competitiveness by building an export pipeline, attracting and retaining foreign investment, and increasing San Diego’s global profile abroad.

Do you want to know more about the work of World Trade Center San Diego? Click here to receive our monthly Global Brief Newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.