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

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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

Leadership trip to Atlanta inspires new approaches to inclusion

As a way to inspire new approaches to inclusive economic development, EDC organizes an annual leadership trip with its partners and stakeholders in a peer region facing similar challenges. This year, EDC led a delegation of more than 40 San Diegans to Atlanta, Georgia – a city with deep cultural and historical significance. After three full days of dialogue with some of Atlanta’s most progressive and impactful leaders, our group came home with three main takeaways.

1. The decisions we make today will have lasting impacts on future generations.
We started off the leadership trip the way EDC approaches everything we do: with research. We learned how Atlanta’s history of racial inequity directly impacted the way the city was developed. It affected where public transportation would run, where good schools were built, who received loans to buy a house or start new businesses, and much more. Rohit Malhotra of Center of Civic Innovation stated, “96% of people born poor in Atlanta will die poor in Atlanta.” The disparities facing Atlantans today are deeply rooted in the region’s history. And because it’s leaders are willing to take a honest look at that history, that they are able to bring about lasting change. This inspired thoughtful discussion on how San Diego’s own history has shaped the way our communities live today, and will hopefully lead to further investigation into our region’s past, so that we can create sustainable solutions for our future.

2. Transportation can either exacerbate or alleviate existing problems.
Perhaps the biggest historic factor inhibiting Atlantan’s economic prosperity is access to transportation.  Because the city was designed to separate black and white populations, many low-income areas of the region simply do not have access to good jobs and affordable housing. In reference to predicting economic and health outcomes for Atlantans, Carol Naughton of Purpose Built Communities shared that “zip code impacts more than genetic code.” To combat this, organizations like Purpose Built Communities, TransFormation Alliance, and Historic District Development Corporation formed and work together to create an infrastructure that will support healthy, sustainable, and affordable communities. Thanks to their support and a transformational vision for redevelopment by Ryan Gravel, the Atlanta BeltLine was created to connect disparate neighborhoods and is drastically changing the way people live. That kind of positive peer pressure is what is bringing about change unlike anything the city of Atlanta has ever seen before. People who were previously displaced from quality jobs and access to transportation can now walk or bike to the grocery store to buy healthy food for their families. They can walk to a quality job that pays enough to support themselves. The thoughtful collaboration between these entities shows us that this level of systems change is, in fact, possible when organizations work together to take action.

3. It’s critical for younger generations to see themselves in leadership roles.
Inside the historic International Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel at Morehouse College, we heard about the importance of talent development investments from members of the Atlanta University Center Consortium. As Spellman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell eloquently said, “when students are affirmed, they do better.” Organizations like Cristo Rey Atlanta High School, a private school for underserved students who don’t pay tuition, help students and their families with hands-on college preparation, like the college application process. Interim President Camille Naughton said, “It’s barriers like filling out a FAFSA application that keeps students out of college – not intellect or lack of desire.” Clearly, the education systems in Atlanta understand that a bright future in Atlanta largely depends on significant investment in its students today. We also heard from Brookings Institution Fellow Rodney Sampson, who co-founded the Opportunity Hub (OHUBS) to eliminate barriers for minority tech founders. Rodney believes that building an inclusive economic ecosystem starts with early exposure to innovation and socialization. He said, “When you’re exposed to innovative ecosystems, the trajectory of your ability to acquire wealth changes.” Through organizations like these, students and young entrepreneurs see that they’re worth investing in. They see themselves as a leader, who can take action and make an impact.

From hearing about innovative talent development strategies and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems at Morehouse College, to walking along the Atlanta BeltLine that is radically changing the connectivity of Atlantas’s neighborhoods, our group gained invaluable insights that spurred thoughtful conversations about creating a better San Diego that works for all. The transformation in Atlanta was palpable. After immersing ourselves in its rich history and hearing first-hand experiences from Atlanta’s civic, education, and business leaders, one thing is clear: our inclusive growth work in San Diego is far from over, but we’re on the right path.

Atlanta Group

This trip was made possible through generous support from Southwest Airlines and Cox Communications.

To learn more about EDC’s Inclusive Growth effort, visit inclusiveSD.org or follow along on social media at #inclusiveSD.

Leadership trip to Indy spotlights best practices in inclusion

Each year, EDC carefully selects a peer metro for our annual Best Practices Leadership Trip – a chance for EDC and a group of key partners and stakeholders to learn from another region facing challenges similar to our own. The decision to go to Indianapolis this year was not a hard one. We were drawn to Indy not just as a fellow participant in the Brookings Inclusive Economic Development Learning Lab last year, but because of its regional approach to inclusive growth that has catalyzed since. We were further intrigued by Indy’s unique talent attraction and retention programs and its many collaborative efforts across government, business, and philanthropy. Over three days, our group of nearly 30 San Diegans was welcomed by Indy’s civic leaders who highlighted local programs, projects, and initiatives. Ultimately, our goal of the Leadership Trip is to inspire fresh approaches to our own challenges and opportunities at home.

A two-sided economy: The Indy Chamber kicked-off our visit with an overview of the economic disparities facing Indianapolis. Similar to EDC, the Indy Chamber led its region through the Brookings Institution Inclusive Growth Learning Lab designed to help economic development organizations (EDOs) build a data-driven platform that articulates the economic case (and imperative) for inclusion. Since the lab, the Indy Chamber has disseminated the Indy narrative throughout town, with many civic leaders referencing its findings throughout our visit. While Indianapolis bodes well on measures affordability, job growth, and entrepreneurship, it is also the 6th most economically segregated region in the U.S., with limited opportunities for upward mobility for individuals born into poverty. The impacts of automation exacerbate economic segregation and poverty in Indianapolis, which lost more than 20 percent of its manufacturing workforce over the last decade. In facing these realities, civic leaders have enacted new measures to increase job preparedness, homeownership, and overall economic security for Indianapolis residents.

The Cook Medical “unicorn”: In a particularly moving presentation, Pete Yonkman, president of Cook Medical, shared an incredible benefit that his company offers employees who wish to advance their educational goals. With more than 12,000 employees worldwide, Cook is a privately-held medical device manufacturer headquartered in Indiana with facilities in six countries, including K-Tube Technologies in Poway. Through a program called “My Cook Pathway,” Cook eliminated its high school diploma requirement for entry-level manufacturing positions in 2017. High-potential individuals without a high school degree are hired to work at Cook in the mornings before spending the afternoon studying for their GED. During the seven weeks it takes to earn their high school equivalency (HSE), Cook pays employees full-time wages and associated fees. Furthermore, Cook has partnered with the local Ivy Tech Community College to expand the program for employees interested in AA degrees or certificate programs, fronting registration fees and associated expenses and providing guidance on the financial aid process. After overwhelming response from its employees, Cook has since expanded the program even further. Now, Cook employees can get an HSE through a Master’s degree leveraging the My Cook Pathway program. Before introducing this program, fewer than 65 employees took advantage of education reimbursement. Two years later, more than 1,000 employees are enrolled. By leveraging various state and federal funding streams that support employee education, Cook offers this benefit to its employees for less than $2,000 per employee. When Cook leadership eliminated its high school diploma requirement, they decided they wouldn’t sit back and wait for highly educated employees to show up at their door. Now, they are active participants in preparing Indiana’s future workforce, with resumes flooding their doors and employee retention rates on the rise.

Connecting Talent: Through its lauded statewide community college system and multiple universities, Indianapolis is well positioned to produce the workforce its economy needs, but the Midwestern city risks losing talent to the “lure of the coasts.” Jason Kloth, CEO of Ascend Indiana, is front and center on a statewide effort to retain talent by increasing employer access to qualified workers while supporting the residents of Indiana in their pursuit of a meaningful career. After serving in many leadership positions for Teach for America, Kloth led the City of Indianapolis Office of Education Innovation (OEI) as the deputy mayor of education under Mayor Greg Ballard. Kloth is the mastermind behind Ascend, a nonprofit focused on creating a stronger alignment between the supply of skilled talent and demand from employers in Central Indiana. Ascend has raised more than $10 million to support its work. The organization provides strategic consulting services to help high-growth companies identify, evaluate, and secure education partners to deliver a custom talent pipeline, usually in less than a year. In a recent project with medical device giant Roche, Ascend partnered with the University of Indianapolis to address the company’s shortage of technicians fueled by increased retirement turnover. The result was a work-ready pipeline of 25 skilled, entry-level professionals in less than 12 months. Ascend has also created a next-level, cloud-based platform called “the Ascend Network” that matches qualified talent from 14 higher education institutions to positions at more than 70 large companies. The platform has helped place more than 400 individuals in Indiana. Through its experienced team of recruiters and matching algorithms, Ascend ensures high quality candidates and speeds up the hiring process for both individuals and companies. Needless to say, our group was astonished.

Before returning home, many members of our San Diego group continued onto Washington D.C. for a day at the Brookings Institution. The group was welcomed by Amy Liu, vice president and director of the Brookings Metropolitan Program, before Brookings fellows facilitated a series of discussions on how and why other metros are approaching inclusive growth to help us think more broadly about strategies for succeeding in a rapidly-changing economy.

San Diego’s Progress

After spending much of 2017 deepening our understanding of regional challenges facing San Diego, EDC has spent 2018 assembling an employer-led steering committee to build an inclusive growth agenda that benefits more people, companies and communities. Guided by the findings of a recent EDC study, EDC’s Inclusive Growth Steering Committee recently endorsed a regional goal to double the number of skilled workers produced in San Diego County to 20,000 per year by 2030. To support this goal, the committee developed recommendations around transparency, engagement, and investment for employers to adopt and implement within their own organizations. EDC continues to work with the steering committee to set goals and recommendations for employer engagement around our other two pillars of inclusive growth; small business competitiveness and addressing affordability.

Before Indy, we traveled to Nashville and Louisville, smaller regions confronting deeply entrenched histories of racial segregation and poverty. Indianapolis is home to one of the largest endowments in the country and would not be where it is today without the investment of the Lilly family. Each metro is unique in its history, resources, and politics, and will inevitably need to craft an inclusive economic development strategy that works for their community based on their particular circumstance. However, inclusive growth as both an economic and moral imperative is a sentiment that permeates among more and more leaders nationwide.

Regardless of how different our circumstance may be from Nashville, Louisville, or Indianapolis, the authenticity that is threaded throughout our visits each year encourages an honest dialogue among our San Diego delegation, leading to a heightened sense of unity in purpose and mission amongst our investors and newer partners. There is much to be done, but EDC and our stakeholders are committed to this work. It will remain driven by collaboration, coordination, and honesty. EDC’s mission is to maximize the region’s economic prosperity and global competitiveness. To live up to that mission, our economic development strategies must promote growth through inclusion.

Learn more at inclusiveSD.org.

The trip was made possible by the generous support of Southwest Airlines.

Lessons from Louisville: Be Bold. Be Authentic.

Last week, members of the EDC team joined 20 board members, investors and partners on a trip to Louisville, Kentucky. The purpose was to learn about that city’s emphasis on inclusion and compassion as focal points for their branding and economic development efforts. We met passionate people—both in the private and public sectors—who are working hard to create a community that is uniquely Louisville.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer set the tone when he welcomed our group Wednesday evening and stayed to talk with us about Louisville’s past, its present challenges and the city’s goals around lifelong learning, health and compassion. Louisville’s challenges are significant, but they do not shy away from talking about them openly. And there is a genuine continuity to how people raise, speak about and confront these issues.

Research and workforce representatives presented hard-hitting data on the region’s existing economic disparities, as well as ambitions to add 55,000 degrees over a ten year span. The city’s economic development team and business leaders explained how the region has to work harder than most to attract and retain talent, and showcase their region as a place that is ripe for investment and growth—despite having 30,000 current job openings and being among the most affordable of large metros.

Many of the challenges that they face today stem from events that happened generations ago. But they embrace their past with the belief that they can’t chart where they are going if they ignore where they have been. Addressing a history of racial segregation, poverty and stagnant population growth are as much a part of their economic development discussion and focus as attraction, retention and expansion. The authenticity that was threaded throughout our visit culminated in an honest dialogue among our delegation.

San Diego’s Story

Back home, San Diego has experienced solid economic growth, led by its innovation industries, which have added jobs three times faster the overall economy1. However, this prosperity has not been shared by all San Diegans. A recent study found that there are more than one million people in our region with incomes too low to afford basic costs of living—the numbers are even more appalling for our black and Latino populations.

In San Diego Latinos represent one-third of the population, and are projected to be the majority by 20302. Yet only 17 percent have completed a bachelor’s degree program or higher3. Meanwhile our region has a deficit of 4,500 STEM graduates4. But talent shortages exist in every metro area—our population is our talent pool.

And while we have large employers in our region that are the vanguard of innovation, 59 percent of our workforce is employed by smaller firms that often pay below average wages5. Layer on the fact that San Diego has the second highest median home price and is the fourth most expensive metro to live in6, and you quickly see the risks to our competitiveness as a region.

We spent the past six months working with key partners to develop our story and better understand our own regional challenges. And in the coming weeks we will reassemble our delegation, as well as business and community leaders, to build an economic development agenda that benefits more people, companies and communities: an agenda that grows our own talent, bolsters small- and medium-sized firm growth, and addresses the cost of living pressures on talent attraction and retention.

There is a lot of work to be done, and it will require great collaboration and coordination. Our mission at EDC is to maximize the region’s economic prosperity and global competitiveness. To live up to that mission our economic development strategies must promote and account for growth and inclusion.

Click here for an EDC-produced research profile on the Louisville and San Diego economies.

Footnotes

  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006-2015.
  2. American Community Survey, 2016; SANDAG population projections.
  3. American Community Survey, 2016.
  4. EMSI, 2017.2.
  5. Firms with fewer than 100 people; CA EDD Business Statistics, 2015.
  6. Among 50 most populous metros; National Association of Realtors, 2017; C2ER, 2017; EMSI, 2017.3.