Reflections on San Jose: EDC Leadership Trip

As I was sitting on my Southwest Airlines flight back from San Jose, I looked into the rows ahead of me to see a scene that has become synonymous with our EDC Leadership Trips: Our former chair and the National Head of Commercial and Industrial Banking at Western Alliance Bank Julian Parra leaning into the aisle to have a discussion with our current vice chair for inclusion and the CEO of Lifeline Community Services Lisette Islas. Also leaning into the conversation were Neighborhood House Association President and CEO Rudy Johnson, and the COO of Connect Christie Marcella. Meanwhile, a row behind them, ResMed’s Head of Global Inclusion and Diversity Sarah Hassaine was in a deep and enthusiastic conversation with Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Carlsbad David Graham. All smiling and laughing. All heading home after two and a half days of deep thinking, work, and reflection in another California city and region dealing with many of the same challenges and opportunities we have back home. All recommitted to an inclusive economic development agenda they helped to create.

Getting 35 local business, higher education, nonprofit, and civic leaders to set aside time to travel, learn, and grow together is difficult. Finding the kind of leaders who can carry all of their knowledge and expertise into every conversation while checking their egos at the door might even sound impossible. But here we are once again, returning home with even more energy, enthusiasm, and focus than we had when we left.

Our time in San Jose reminded us of just how far we have come since we took our first leadership trip to Nashville almost nine years ago. Hearing the stories of employer engagement and commitment to inclusion, learning about deep and meaningful public-private partnerships, sitting in on an hour-long conversation between San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan and San Diego City Councilmember Raul Campillo, and enjoying our time together at Mexican Heritage Plaza and the Google HQ Campus all made for meaningful and inspirational moments. Sharing it all with such a special and committed group of San Diego leaders and friends makes it almost magical.

But it isn’t magic that that will move the needle to ensure that we train enough skilled workers, support the development of enough quality jobs within our small businesses, and create the conditions that will ensure more resilient and thriving households throughout our region. It is hard, focused, intentional, and purposeful work. It requires an unwavering commitment to the belief that inclusion is a true economic imperative. And it only happens when we continuously find, leverage, and support this group of thoughtful, committed citizens who together can help our region meet our 2030 goals.

For those of you who have been a part of this journey with us over the last several years, thank you for your investment, leadership, and support. And for those of you who would like to be a part of the most meaningful, intentional, and inclusive economic development work in the nation, reach out, lean in, and join us in endorsing and advancing these goals. You will absolutely gain more than you give. I guarantee it.

Returning home with clearer eyes and a fuller heart—Mark

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

President & CEO

Endorse the 2030 goals

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Looking into the 2024 crystal ball

Sticking the ‘soft’ landing

Happy new year from your local, recovering economist!

After another year filled with uncertainty and the seemingly ever long tail of pandemic-related disruptions, we enter 2024 with a whole host of questions—some new, some recurring.

The past year was dominated by the prognostications of a looming recession. Goldman Sachs famously gave it a 100 percent probability and even the Federal Reserve was bracing for an economic downturn as recently as the summer.

However, it is worth stating the obvious here that the United States did not go into a recession. Throughout 2023, measures of economic growth consistently beat expectations. In the fourth quarter of the year, the economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.3 percent fueled by consumer spending as well as business investment. We saw record corporate profitability, a strong labor market that added nearly three million jobs, and even inflation slow significantly and come close to the Fed’s comfort level of two percent.

Locally, we ended the year with 23,400 more jobs. Investment also came into the San Diego region from both public and private sources. Startups raised another $4 billion in venture capital funding and San Diego received $950 million in federal funding for cleantech development.

There are more jobs in San Diego than ever before, however there are fewer people available to do them. Over the last 12 months, the labor force declined and it is expected that our prime-working age population will shrink in the coming years. Part of this is due to accelerated retirements brought about by the pandemic; part is due to the ever-increasing cost of living. The median-priced home is now more than $1 million with a monthly mortgage payment of more than $5,300.

So, 2024…

Looking to the year ahead, we are approaching a unique moment to accelerate large scale transformation around the future of work and the built environment.

Employers are offering remote and flexible work arrangements at higher rates than during the height of the pandemic. The rapid adoption of generative AI tools is changing how work is done and re-defining what skill development means, favoring agility over ability. There are 32,000 employers nationwide competing for workers with AI skills. In San Diego, there have been more than 5,200 unique job postings seeking AI skills since the launch of ChatGPT just over a year ago.

The permanence of remote work offerings has led to a re-imagining of the office with a flight toward quality. Many employers remain unsure of when and who should return to the office (we can help). These decisions will have profound implications for the future use of office space across our region, of which there is more than 10 million square feet currently vacant, with several million more planned, under construction, or with leases coming due in the next year.

While affordability remains abysmally low, housing production has ramped up with permitting activity expected to match levels not seen since 2017. This is still not enough new housing to meet demand, but still very welcome development (pun intended!). Additionally, rent growth seems to have plateaued and returned to pre-pandemic rates giving renters a much-needed pause in increases.

And yet, nothing that our region will face in 2024 is inevitable. What lies ahead is both a familiar challenge and a new opportunity for inclusive growth. A challenge to meet the talent needs of our employers, and an opportunity to remove barriers to entry into the workforce. A challenge to promote quality job growth in small businesses, and an opportunity to shift spending toward local, diverse suppliers. A challenge to address affordability, and an opportunity to re-imagine our urban core to retain high-paying jobs and provide housing for working families.

It’s a tall order, but our region is hungry. Let’s get to work!

Eduardo Velasquez
Eduardo Velasquez

Sr. Director, Research & Economic Development

 

Read 2023’s edition: Looking into the crystal ball…

More FROM EDC’s research bureau

More on inclusive growth

EDC report: 2023 Inclusive Growth Progress

Report: San Diego affordability crisis threatens latest jobs and talent gains

Today, San Diego Regional EDC released its 2023 Inclusive Growth Progress Report. With updated data and bold objectives set around increasing the number of quality jobs, skilled talent, and thriving households critical to the region’s competitiveness, the report measures San Diego’s growth and recovery, and spotlights the greatest threats to prosperity.

2023.inclusivesd.org

Making the business case for inclusion, EDC releases this annual report to track progress toward the region’s 2030 goals: 50,000 new quality jobs* in small businesses; 20,000 skilled workers per year; and 75,000 newly thriving households**. Since its launch in 2017, the initiative has rallied public commitments from County, City, academic, and private sector leaders who are leveraging the Inclusive Growth framework to inform their priorities, tactics, and resource allocation. While much about the economy remains uncertain, intentional and consistent efforts by a diverse set of regional stakeholders will be key to achieving these goals.

“Large and small businesses, nonprofits, and government all play important roles in building a strong local economy and expanding economic inclusion,” said Jennie Brooks, Executive Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton and EDC Board Chair. “Booz Allen is empowering its employees with training in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and is committed to helping prepare local, diverse San Diegans for tech careers of the future. We are proud to partner with local nonprofits and small businesses to make advanced technology broadly accessible to students and create a supportive ecosystem in San Diego to drive inclusive economic growth.”

THE STORY BEHIND THE DATA

Over the past decade, the San Diego region has experienced a notable upswing in general prosperity, standard of living, average wages, and productivity, including a full recovery from the pandemic across virtually every sector. Yet, these gains have not been evenly distributed.

In terms of racial, geographic, and overall inclusion, San Diego has slipped; the pandemic has hit lower-income households and minority communities hardest. The relative poverty rate has increased while median earnings and the household wage gap between white and non-white populations has widened. Record-level inflation has hit struggling San Diego households hard, and high operating costs have degraded the ability of businesses to attract and retain talent.

Despite these obstacles, San Diego is once again making headway on the quality jobs and skilled worker goals; see charts below. 2021 saw an uptick in small business jobs as well as the highest increase in post-secondary education (PSE) completions in more than a decade.

However, decreasing affordability coupled with uneven economic prosperity not only threatens that progress but indeed may mean that San Diego falls even further behind its peer metros on overall prosperity. The region now needs to add 125,000 newly thriving households by the end of the decade to meet the goal.

The region’s expensive and limited housing market has exacerbated inflation across all categories, with fewer than 44 percent of San Diego households considered thriving. The affordability crisis will primarily impact Black and Latino households, of which more than half are low-income, and continue to challenge employers’ ability to attract and retain talent—posing the single greatest threat to the region’s economic growth.

“While EDC’s report demonstrates San Diego’s remarkable resilience in the face of the pandemic, our jobs and talent gains are being diminished by the region’s affordability crisis. Unless we get this right, San Diego will always be catching up,” said Lisette Islas, Executive VP and Chief Impact Officer at MAAC, and EDC Vice Chair of Inclusive Growth.

Join the movement

Using a demand-driven, employer-led, and outcomes-based approach, San Diego private, public, and community leaders must deploy creative solutions to achieve these 2030 goals. EDC invites the community to join us at one of two upcoming webinars to learn more about the data and how to get involved:

“We’re seeing HR departments dissolve degree requirements, big buyers redirecting procurement spend, governments streamlining permitting processes, and developers prioritizing on-site childcare. This is the level of regional adoption required to move the needle on inclusion, and EDC is committed to continuing to tell a data-driven story to make the business imperative clear. San Diego’s future depends on it,” said Teddy Martinez, Senior Manager, Research, San Diego Regional EDC.

Read the full report at 2023.inclusivesd.org, and all previous updates at progress.inclusiveSD.org

The initiative is sponsored by Bank of America, City of San Diego, County of San Diego, JPMorgan Chase & Co., San Diego Gas & Electric, Seaport San Diego, Southwest Airlines, and University of San Diego Knauss School of Business.

more at inclusiveSD.org

*Quality job = $45K wages + healthcare benefits.

**Thriving household = total income covers cost of living for renter- or owner-occupied households, at $79K and $122K respectively.

Seattle Leadership Trip: An exercise in authenticity

Authored by Lisette Islas, Executive VP and Chief Impact Officer at MAAC, and EDC Vice Chair of Inclusive Growth

“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

Most every year, EDC hosts a Leadership Trip to a strategic metro. Guided by our Inclusive Growth strategy, the trips help expose dozens of San Diego’s private sector, nonprofit, academic, and government leaders to other regions engaged in similar work. After all, it sometimes takes stepping outside of our region to get the best look at who we are and who we want to be. This year: Seattle, Washington.

With more than 30 of San Diego’s most committed leaders in tow, we arrived in Seattle this July ready to learn about what makes the Pacific Northwest region so successful and what challenges have stymied it most. EDC’s President and CEO Mark Cafferty kicked off the three-day trip with the above Friday Night Lights quote to help frame the goals of the trip, plus the mindset needed to act once back home.

Clear eyes

Seattle is a true peer metro to San Diego, home to a globally competitive innovation cluster with audacious goals for its growth. While Seattle’s cost of living is lower than San Diego’s, it is the fastest-growing city in the country and rising home prices have led to gentrification and displacement. The state of Washington needs another Seattle’s-worth of housing units to address its housing supply shortage. The clarity of their direction and of their challenges comes from an impeccable degree of detail and data, both on their goals and on where they are falling short in meeting them. For example:

  • Jobs: Eighty of Seattle’s CEOs made commitments to increase supplier diversity, yet only 0.1 percent of procurement can be tracked back to Black-owned businesses. (There was no mention of metrics on Latino-owned businesses.) These companies don’t always have consistent vendor data tracking—and you can’t improve what you can’t measure.
  • Talent: Nationwide, more than 375,000 tech jobs remain unfilled. Given that each year as a country we graduate 75,000 computer science degrees and distribute 65,000 H1B visas in tech, that still leaves 235,000 jobs that must be filled in other ways. As home to some of the largest tech companies in the world including Amazon and Microsoft, Seattle has recognized the imperative for sourcing talent in new ways. Notably, through tech apprenticeship model Apprenti, companies can recruit people from non-tech backgrounds using an anonymized, skills-based application process to remove all the bias you don’t want and focus on all the talent you do. Eighty-six percent of these apprenticeships convert into full-time jobs after one year.
  • Households: Through Challenge Seattle and their partners at Boston Consulting Group, the region has identified the root of a housing shortage challenge that looks very familiar to San Diego’s. Challenge Seattle identified the housing size, price, and place needed to make a dent in the lack of supply facing the region. Additionally, the group put out 15 long-term and four short-term recommendations for policy change ranging from zoning reform to below-market financing, and more.

Full hearts

One inspiring moment was when our group heard from Alesha Washington, CEO of the Seattle Foundation, on the region’s continued struggles, which she says are often masked by its rapid growth and prominent tech companies. The region is majority white, and the economic hardships are most felt by people of color. Simply calling past policies what they were—racist—provides a sense of freedom to manage them directly and without ambiguity.

Another point of encouragement came in the context that while the Seattle metro accounts for more than half of the state’s population, it cannot succeed alone. Many of the challenges it faces are felt across the rest of Washington, so statewide cooperation is needed to solve them. Framing Seattle’s housing crisis as urgent to the state’s overall economic prosperity is one way Challenge Seattle has done just that.

Can’t lose

Perhaps the most galvanizing moment was during our closing session as the group took stock of all they had heard, shared what stood out the most, and reflected on our region’s own inclusive growth journey. What resonated most was the sense that, like our peer, San Diego has come a long way. When the economic case for inclusion was first developed in 2017, the road seemed long and the goals unreachable. However, despite the setbacks brought on by the pandemic, progress is being made – with EDC’s latest progress report launching next month. With an inclusive economic development agenda acting as a compass, many local organizations have shifted their focus or direction—and even small changes can have big impacts. As Halé Richardson of HomeFed Corporation put it, “Fueled by this ongoing dialogue, we’re now prioritizing childcare centers over swimming pools.”

For decades, the inclusion challenge was left only to the social services and philanthropic community to solve. Now, the business case has been made and it is clear inclusive growth is imperative to the region’s competitiveness. Without it, industry too will cease to thrive.

Economic development is an exercise in authenticity.

In San Diego, we know our data story well too. The challenges facing our region require all of us to adapt in order to create more quality jobs, skilled talent, and thriving households. If we are to remain competitive and attractive to both businesses and talent, we must embrace the challenges head-on, with each sector—public, private, non-profit—doing its part to promote a more inclusive San Diego. In the months ahead, EDC will convene select groups to make that clear and build on this momentum.

I remain committed to exploring different avenues for how we broaden and deepen our work across our three goals—through my role at EDC, my work at MAAC, and my engagement with our region at large—as a member of the community that cares deeply about San Diego’s future.

We may not reach all our stated goals by 2030, but the mere fact that we are striving toward them guarantees that we will be better off than than we are today.

Learn more about EDC’s Inclusive Growth work

See the San Diego-Seattle regional comparison

See past leadership trip recaps

Talent Pipeline Management: EDC’s talent framework

As total student debt continues to climb in the United States, and the hope that some would see relief fades, the need for new and more affordable approaches to training and education grows. In San Diego, it is projected that 84 percent of new jobs created by 2030 will require some sort of post-secondary education. However, restricted access to formal higher education means there will not be enough people to meet employer demand. This is compounded by San Diego’s increasing reliance on (and leadership in) intellectual property and technology that changes faster than curriculum can keep pace with.

It’s clear the days of leaning entirely on traditional education systems to prepare the entire economy’s workforce are behind us, and yet the demand for talent with the skills and educational training necessary to perform complex tasks such as research and development still very much exists. Jobs in the innovation economy are high-paying, resilient, and each one supports two jobs elsewhere in the economy. These jobs are critical to San Diego’s story, so companies must be creative about what this new age of recruitment and workforce preparation looks like.

There is a science to knowing how many skills and competencies a new hire should have learned from a training program, and how much training a company should expect to build into onboarding. The equation to find out exactly where that line is being drawn is called Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM).

An employer-led, data-driven approach.

San Diego Regional EDC’s alignment with the TPM framework is rooted in shared values around being authentically employer-led and data-driven. With between 75,000 and 85,000 monthly job postings and an average of just 59,000 unemployed San Diegans each month to fill them, San Diego (along with the rest of the nation) faces a talent shortage. This is the business case for changing the way we develop talent in the region.

“TPM leverages lessons learned from supply chain management, strategies, and tools to help employers and employer associations play the role of an end-customer in a talent supply chain.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

September, 26, 2022 - Washington, DC, USA: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation hosts TPM National Learning Network Summit reception. Photo by Joshua Roberts / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce
From left to right: EDC Sr. Manager Taylor Dunne with other California TPM users Annie Sterling, Loren Kaye, and Lex Carlsson.

How EDC uses the framework.

Since 2019, EDC and its partners have worked together to convene multiple Employer Working Groups (EWG), made up of more than 70 companies from across industries, to lead in the reshaping and development of talent pipelines in our region.

The TPM framework is broken down into the following six strategies. This is how EDC leverages each one to build talent in our region:

  1. Organize for employer leadership and collaboration: Create a collaborative that organizes employers to identify the most promising opportunities for engagement around similar workforce needs.
    Leveraging EDC and partner networks, we convene five to 10 companies to discuss talent needs that persist across industry. Company representatives including hiring managers, recruiters, or talent acquisition specialists are invited to attend meetings focused on occupations in their industries.
  1. Project critical job demand: Develop projections for job openings to determine with accuracy the type of talent and how much of it employers need.
    Using labor market information and existing job postings, EDC builds an outline of predicted needs, then shares those predictions with the EWG to see how it resonates with current industry trends. Predicting labor market trends is a useful tool, however it lacks the day-to-day insight of industry knowledge and growth potential. Labor market information also fails to highlight correlating factors that might be contributing to a weak talent pipeline such as retention challenges in a potential feeder role, or misaligned incentives between training programs and employers. Talent needs are better understood when all of this information comes together. Each EWG member is asked to respond to a survey to quantify hiring expectations in a few key roles over the next three to five years.
  1. Align and communicate job requirements: Create a shared language to better communicate competency, credentialing, and other hiring requirements of critical jobs in ways that allow employers to signal similarities and differences.
    As decisions are made for occupations that are most in need of an improved talent pipeline, EDC use current job postings and existing skill frameworks to start building a list of the necessary skills. Employers help to create a shared definition of skills and determine which should be taught in a classroom and which are best suited to learn on the job. This often serves as an opportunity for companies to better understand their own skill requirements and broaden the pool of talent they recruit from. Using this data, EDC produces a Talent Demand Report outlining critical findings and providing guidance for how training providers can improve curriculum to meet industry needs.
  1. Analyze the talent supply: Identify where employers historically source their most qualified talent and analyze the capacity of those sources—as well as untapped talent sources—to meet projected demand.
    EDC provides a platform for local education partners to showcase how they are training to the skills needed, as well as how they are reaching and serving a diverse student population. This approach allows for a fresh look at all training providers in the region, setting aside rankings and accolades to focus on how students are being prepared for quality jobs. In the past, this exercise has led employers to recognize occupations that don’t need a bachelor’s degree, because more accessible associate’s degree or even certificate programs proved to be adequately teaching the skills needed.
  1. Build talent supply chains: Manage the performance of talent supply chains to create a positive return on investment for all partners.
    EDC and core partners continue to work hard to build a workforce and talent pipeline with a stable network of private companies, educational institutions, and community organizations. Identifying the major barriers that limit growth and how this network is equipped to assist in lessening those hurdles remains key in shaping a San Diego for all.
  1. Apply continuous improvement: Use data from the talent supply chain to identify the most promising improvement opportunities to generate a better return on investment in the future.
    Continuous improvement is applied on multiple levels as the programs that use TPM continue to iterate and scale. Whether uncovering a need to improve student preparation for entry-level certification exams, adjust work-based learning opportunities, or any of the other lessons learned over the last four years, EDC and its partners are committed to continuously improving talent pipelines and moving the region closer to its skilled talent goal.

By assessing training providers based on pre-determined employer-set standards, the reliance on historically inaccessible sources of talent is eliminated, opening the aperture for both companies looking to find more diverse, qualified candidates, and for San Diegans preparing for quality jobs in the region.

A TPM case study

In 2020, EDC and Talent Forward, a U.S. Chamber Foundation initiative, released a case study on how the region had been using TPM to reach its goal of doubling the number of skilled workers each year.

READ THE CASE STUDY HERE

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is grateful to learn alongside partners like San Diego Regional EDC as it implements the TPM framework. For the past several years, EDC has demonstrated that employers can lead change management to build high-performing talent pipelines. These efforts have positively impacted so many in the San Diego region: companies, education and training partners, and most importantly, students and workers. We will continue to tout these tremendous achievements and are excited for all that is in store.”

– Jaimie Francis, Vice President of Policy & Programs for the Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Leading partnerships for the region.

Today, TPM continues to play an important role in San Diego’s talent development strategies. As the original Advancing Cities funding sunsets, public, private, and philanthropic investments allow the work to continue. EDC partnered with the San Diego Workforce Partnership and CCOE to use TPM to guide CyberHire and other future programs.

Thanks to the leadership of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Foundation and the San Diego and Imperial Valley Community College Consortium, TPM is a leading feature of the Border Region K-16 Talent Pipeline Collaborative where the impacts of the framework will continue to expand.

LEARN MORE AT ADVANCINGSD.ORG

If you are an employer, education provider, or convening organization interested in learning more about TPM, contact:

Taylor Dunne
Taylor Dunne

Director, Talent Initiatives

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San Diego Mayor Gloria, EDC lead site visits to key employers

Over the last few months, EDC has collaborated with San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and representatives from the City on several site visits to the region’s leading defense innovators: General Atomics, General Dynamics NASSCO, and Cubic. These listening tours give City leadership the opportunity to hear first-hand the opportunities and challenges employers face in growing in San Diego and foster collaboration between industry and government.

Mayor Todd Gloria at General Atomics

While at General Atomics’ DIII-D National Fusion Facility, the delegation learned more about the company’s advancement in fusion science, research, and technology. Hosting the largest magnetic fusion reactor in the United States, San Diego and General Atomics play an essential role in advancing fusion technology, which has the potential to revolutionize clean energy production.

The national shortage of skilled tradespeople was top of mind when the group visited General Dynamics NASSCO. The company shared its plans for building segments of large off-shore wind turbines that will then be assembled and installed up-coast near Monterey and Eureka. This new project will add around 2,000 jobs in San Diego, where there is already a shortage of these workers critical to the defense industrial base. The need to invest in the talent pipeline and give these jobs a marketable boost remains a major action item.

Mayor Todd Gloria tours Cubic

Conversely, Cubic shared its plans for 700 on-site staff to return to its Kearny Mesa office while offering a hybrid work schedule to support families. As childcare remains a pain point for many workers, the City has identified several City-owned properties that would be a good fit for childcare facilities to support Cubic’s working families.

Visits to and connection with San Diego’s employers is among Mayor Gloria’s top priorities. For these companies to maintain a strong local workforce, the region must prioritize affordable housing, childcare, and the training necessary to access opportunities at these life-changing companies.

EDC previously supported site visits alongside Mayor Gloria to Illumina, BD, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Dexcom.

MetroConnect Spotlight: Solecta

World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) works directly with companies free of charge to help them expand internationally and grow in San Diego, supported by San Diego Regional EDC’s nearly 200 private company and public agency investors. Since 2015, WTCSD’s MetroConnect export accelerator has assisted 95 San Diego companies in turning $890,000 in export grants into $97 million in new international sales, 543 new international contracts, and 32 new offices around the world.

We sat down with Melinda Burn, vice president of strategic marketing for MetroConnect VI finalist Solecta, to discuss the company’s membrane separation technologies and recent international growth through its time in MetroConnect.

Tell us about Solecta and its mission.

Solecta Inc., based in Oceanside, California, is a leader in membrane separation technologies with a unique go-to-market strategy focused on rapid customer-centric innovation, deep domain process expertise, and value delivery. With our proprietary membrane and element design and manufacturing capabilities, we develop and deploy novel and critical separation products and technologies that help our clients optimize yield, improve purification, and reduce water and energy usage.

Why did you apply to be in MetroConnect?

Solecta applied to be in MetroConnect to leverage the program’s resources and expertise in international trade to enable global expansion, tap into new markets, and increase revenue opportunities. Through the program, we hoped to establish valuable networking connections and gain insights into navigating the complexities of international export compliance and regulations.

How did MetroConnect help your company?

MetroConnect helped Solecta by providing grants that assisted with increasing and improving digital marketing activities and advancing our global commercial go-to-market strategy. In addition, through MetroConnect and its partners, we were able to apply for and be awarded a grant from the California State Trade Expansion Program (STEP). Since joining the MetroConnect program, Solecta has grown its international presence, resulting in increased revenue and brand recognition. We have expanded our workforce in Europe, allowing us to better serve our clients in the region.

What is on the horizon for Solecta’s international growth?

Through MetroConnect’s extensive network and resources, such as the STEP grant, we have been able to reach prospective clients in new regions and navigate the complexities of the global regulatory landscapes to enter new geographic markets. Our ultimate goal is to create more connections and grow our strategic partnerships in various regions through the MetroConnect network to enable the expansion of our international business and grow our manufacturing and R&D footprint in the greater San Diego area. The comprehensive resources provided by the MetroConnect program will help us deliver even more value to our clients as a top industry leader.

What advice would you give to companies interested in growing internationally and participating in MetroConnect?

To successfully expand globally, a company must conduct thorough market research to comprehend the target markets, cultural nuances and competitive landscape. Developing a solid market entry strategy that considers local regulations, distribution channels and customer preferences is essential. Moreover, utilizing established networks like MetroConnect can provide valuable resources, connections, and insights to ensure successful expansion efforts.


Your turn: Grow your international sales with MetroConnect, too!

Like Solecta, apply to join MetroConnect VII, and receive an export grant, expert advising, workshops, regional mentors, and more.

APPLY NOW →

The application takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.

PlusLearn how five cohorts of 80 MetroConnect alumni, including Dr. Bronner’s, Blue Sky Network, EDDY Pump, and White Labs, leveraged the program to drive 63 percent average export growth and 40 percent average revenue growth.

A tool for inclusive growth: The San Diego Investment Map

New digital tool to help inform inclusive growth in housing, childcare, industry

Today, EDC launched the San Diego Investment Map, a new digital tool to inform strategic, inclusive growth across the region. As part of EDC’s Inclusive Growth Initiative, the Investment Map provides a first-of-its-kind interactive data tool to support decision making across core facets of the local economy: childcare, middle-income housing, and corporate site selection.

Pulling a variety of datasets into an easy-to-use dashboard, the San Diego Investment Map allows users to explore San Diego County through a different lens. The interactive dashboards include data and analyses, and serve to shine a light on the region’s greatest threats to economic competitiveness: a jobs and housing imbalance, among other affordability challenges.

Key takeaways:

  • CHILDCARE: San Diego has 327 childcare ‘deserts’ spread throughout the region, making up nearly half of all census tracts. The Investment Map can pinpoint gaps in childcare supply and help narrow sites for prioritization.
  • HOUSING: Seventy-four percent of San Diego’s population is middle- to low-income, yet only 2.5 percent of permitted housing development needed in the region accommodates these groups. The Investment Map can identify zones with existing building incentives, community plan updates, as well as new commercial development where workforce housing may be needed.
  • INDUSTRY: There are 15.6 million rentable square feet of commercial space being developed across the region, predominately concentrated in northern San Diego. While this includes enough office space for more than 42,000 employees, most workers live instead in the southern and eastern parts of the region. The Investment Map can assist companies in site selection based on occupation hubs, commute trends, and other infrastructure assets that meet their operational needs.

“The San Diego Investment Map serves as a tool for local policy makers, developers, and employers to make informed and deliberate decisions to prioritize the region’s inclusive growth. Using geographic storytelling, the map makes obvious the gaps in our economy—limited childcare; disjointed development both in terms of location and income-level; rising costs with no end in sight. Data-driven solutions to alleviate these challenges will safeguard San Diego’s competitiveness,” said Teddy Martinez, Sr. Research Manager, San Diego Regional EDC.

Explore the Map

About the Inclusive Growth Initiative

The innovation economy will continue to make San Diego more prosperous than many of its peers, but it is not accessible to the fastest-growing segment of the region’s population. This mismatch between our regional assets and our economy’s future needs will consistently erode the region’s competitiveness.

Launched in 2018, EDC’s Inclusive Growth Initiative serves to communicate these challenges, making the business case for economic inclusion across San Diego. By 2030, County, City, private sector and academic leaders have pledged their commitments to the initiative’s goals: 50,000 new quality jobs in small businesses, 20,000 new skilled workers annually, and 75,000 newly thriving households. See how we’re tracking here.

The San Diego Investment Map marks a new tool for employers and stakeholders to engage in this work, specifically tackling the thriving households goal.

“Inclusion is an economic and business imperative. It’s more than DE&I in the workplace—it’s about ensuring all San Diegans have the resources and infrastructure needed to thrive in this region. The Investment Map highlights all the work we still have to do to make that possible,” said Lisette Islas, EDC vice chair of Inclusive Growth, and EVP and Chief Impact Officer of MAAC.

The San Diego Investment Map was authored by San Diego Regional EDC, with support and counsel provided by Buzz Woolley and Mary Walshok.

Learn more about inclusive growth

Explore the Map

Interested in a demo, or getting involved? Contact EDC:

Teddy Martinez
Teddy Martinez

Sr. Manager, Research

 

MetroConnect Spotlight: Novo Brazil Brewing

World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) works directly with companies free of charge to help them expand internationally and grow in San Diego, supported by San Diego Regional EDC’s nearly 200 private company and public agency investors. Since 2015, WTCSD’s MetroConnect export accelerator has assisted 95 San Diego companies in turning $890,000 in export grants into $97 million in new international sales, 543 new international contracts, and 32 new offices around the world.

We sat down with Tiago Carneiro, owner and founder of MetroConnect VI finalist Novo Brazil Brewing, to discuss the company’s Brazilian-inspired beverages and its recent international growth through its time in MetroConnect.

Tell us about Novo Brazil Brewing and its mission.

Novo Brazil Brewing is an international, award-winning beverage company based in Chula Vista, California. Our company thrives on producing high quality beer, seltzers, spritz and kombuchas with exotic flavors, which are all represented in our brand’s colorful packages. Our main production facility is located in Eastlake, Chula Vista, and includes a taproom to serve the community. In addition to the wholesale part of our business, Novo Brazil Brewing has opened four taprooms and restaurants in San Diego County.

Why did you apply to be in MetroConnect?

We applied to be in the MetroConnect program for a few reasons:

  • To develop our export program: Logistics, international regulations, compliance, networking, etc.
  • To grow our business network in San Diego
  • To grow our brand exposure domestically and internationally

How did MetroConnect help your company?

The main benefit we experienced joining MetroConnect was definitely access to San Diego’s expansive business network through EDC’s staff. A few outcomes of this partnership included sponsorships and events, deeper connections with City of Chula Vista and SDG&E, and introductions to freight forwarder companies, San Diego Airport’s Terminal 1 concessions groups, and the San Diego Convention Center.

Additionally, the program’s executive workshops always provided our team with essential information for doing business internationally, and put us in direct contact with experienced mentors.

Finally, for quite a while, we were not sure how to best utilize the program’s $5,000 export grant—and we ended up using it to lower the high shipping costs for our distributors in Europe.

What is on the horizon for Novo Brazil Brewing’s international growth?

MetroConnect made us realize that exporting is a great source of business and income for our company. We already have an established sales in Europe and Japan, and the goal now is to increase volume. We are positive that our beverages now being shelf stable will open more doors for export expansion, and we want to take advantage of this.

What advice would you give to companies interested in growing internationally and participating in MetroConnect?

It is essential to fully understand your products, your processes, and your business goals before growing internationally. Having a strong presence and an established brand in your local market are key for targeting international markets.


Your turn: Grow your international sales with MetroConnect, too!

Like Novo Brazil Brewing, apply to join MetroConnect VII, and receive an export grant, expert advising, workshops, regional mentors, and more.

APPLY NOW →

The application takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.

PlusLearn how five cohorts of 80 MetroConnect alumni, including Dr. Bronner’s, Blue Sky Network, EDDY Pump, and White Labs, leveraged the program to drive 63 percent average export growth and 40 percent average revenue growth.

A talent update from EDC

March note from our Talent Initiatives lead

While companies continue to cut costs and make layoffs in the wake of a highly anticipated (though not clearly signaled) recession, the nation’s ratio of available workers to open positions remains less than one to one. This means that there are more open positions across the United States than unemployed people available to fill them. Demographic changes can be attributed to a decline in the working age population following baby boomer retirements, as well as decreased immigration.

And San Diego is not immune to these impacts. In fact, the nature of the region’s highly skilled economy adds even greater complexity. From August to December 2022, there was an average of more than 50,000 people unemployed month over month in San Diego (BLS). During that same period, there were more than 238,000 unique job postings in the region (Lightcast). Of those 238,000 jobs, 31 percent required a bachelor’s degree or higher as a minimum requirement. Currently, these ‘must-haves’ serve as a proxy for a list of technical and interpersonal skills employers are looking for in candidates. But a recent publication by The Burning Glass Institute explores how that assumption, even in the tech industry, has been changing for the better since before the pandemic.

According to a 2021 statement, multinational tech leader IBM has “stripped bachelor’s degree requirements for more than half of [its] U.S. job openings, and [is] continuously reevaluating [its] roles to prioritize skills over specific degrees.”

Like IBM, it’s time for San Diego to rethink talent pipeline development.

Highly educated individuals are important to the growth of our innovation economy, but they cannot (and should not be expected to) fill every job. Not to mention, the nature of diversity, equity, and inclusion means not every hire should be the ‘university-educated type.’ Often, years of experience and/or non-traditional training can both substitute a degree and serve a company better.

For three years, a key feature of the Advancing San Diego program has been to help employers define the skills required for critical jobs—looking beyond the degree(s) and instead at the capability. Using the Talent Pipeline Management model, talent acquisition teams are challenged to step away from habits and traditions and gain a real understanding of the jobs of today and tomorrow. Doing so has the potential to open high-growth, high-wage occupations to opportunity populations—moving the needle on our Inclusive Growth goals and further seeding diversity of thought within companies.

As the three-year, $3 million AdvancingCities grant from JPMorgan Chase sunsets, San Diego and Imperial Valley were pursued and granted $18 million to continue this talent work. This new funding, called the Border Region Inclusive Talent Pipeline Collaborative, builds upon the work of Advancing San Diego by expanding into K-12 education, into new industries, and into new partnerships.

While this investment aligns and strengthens publicly available resources, long-term solutions to workforce challenges will require the investment and creativity of employers like you.

If you’re interested in learning more about Advancing San Diego, or you want to work with the EDC team to dream up and pilot creative talent solutions, let’s talk.

Thank you,

Taylor Dunne
Taylor Dunne

Director, Talent Initiatives

See more in our monthly report