San Diego’s Changing Business Landscape: Turning the pandemic corner

Welcome to the second edition in EDC’s Changing Business Landscape Series, which will be published bi-monthly in the San Diego Business Journal and here on our blog. If you missed the first edition, read it here.

Surveying the changing business landscape in San Diego

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, including how businesses operate. Companies in every industry are rapidly re-evaluating how they do business, changing the way they interact with customers, manage supply chains and where their employees are physically located. This has massive immediate and long-term implications for San Diego’s workforce and job composition, as well as regional land use decisions and infrastructure investment.

To identify evolving trends in local business needs and operations, ensuring their ability to grow and thrive in the region, EDC is surveying more than 200 companies in the region’s key industries on a rolling basis throughout 2021 to monitor and report shifts in their priorities and strategies. In addition, EDC constructed the San Diego Business Recovery Index (BRI)—a sentiment index to measure companies’ perceptions of current conditions, as well as expectations for the future across several factors such as business development, employment and commercial real estate needs. Review the BRI concept and methodology here.

These insights will help inform long-term economic development priorities around talent recruitment and retention, quality job creation and infrastructure development. Companies are surveyed on several topics, with varying emphases in each wave.

Here are three key findings from the second wave of surveying conducted in April 2021:

  1. The worst of the pandemic is behind us. Companies are very bullish about the next six to 12 months and, as a result, plan to accelerate hiring.
  1. San Diego’s innovation cluster is (mostly) booming. Life Sciences companies lead the way while Cyber and Aerospace firms are still working through pandemic-related challenges.
  1. Companies are seriously reevaluating their space needs. Smaller firms are looking to expand their footprint, while traditional Tech companies may be scaling down.

The worst is behind us

San Diego companies indicated that they think the worst of the pandemic has passed. With a BRI of 58.9 in April, regional firms noted that they plan to hire or rehire workers at a slightly faster pace than they have up to this point, while also expanding remote work capabilities going forward.

Last month’s index reading reflects bullish assessments of, both, present conditions (the present conditions subindex registered a value of 56.1) and expectations for the future (subindex of 65.4). Companies noted some lingering effects from a full year in lockdown, including difficulties with business development and job losses, and neutral to slightly negative feelings on remote work over the past year. Nonetheless, firms reported bright views on the current state of the regional economy and noted that San Diego businesses and key industries have adapted to the pandemic better that those in peer regions.

Regional companies were even more upbeat when it came to expectations for the future. All of the index’s expectations subindex values were north of 50, and companies overwhelmingly believe that the regional economy will have improved significantly in the next six months (subindex of 72.7) and even more so within the next 12 months (subindex of 86.2). This is important because many companies make decisions today based on their assessments of business conditions in the near future.

Most companies shared in the optimism, but to varying degrees. Small companies with fewer than 50 employees that were hardest hit during the pandemic held slightly dimmer, though still generally positive, views than their larger counterparts. In particular, smaller firms cited ongoing difficulties accessing new customers, managing suppliers and vendors, and hiring and retaining workers. Even so, assessments of current earnings trends were only slightly negative, and small firms held a sunny disposition when it comes to the current state of the San Diego economy and business climate.

Interestingly, however, companies with fewer than 50 workers had the highest level of optimism for the future across business size cohorts, which could signal an inflection point for the pace of hiring in the coming months. This bodes especially well for the jobs recovery heading into the second half of 2021, as 96 percent of San Diego’s businesses have fewer than 50 employees and small businesses have historically accounted for roughly half of all job growth.

San Diego’s innovation cluster is (mostly) booming

San Diego’s innovation cluster overwhelming expressed optimism entering 2021, as companies shifted toward meeting the demand for life-saving technologies, treatments and personal protective equipment leading to record venture capital investment and renewed job growth. However, a closer look reveals mixed results within the cluster. Industries like Cleantech, Software and Biomedical Device producers all held especially confident views (BRIs in the mid-60s), while Telecommunications, Cybersecurity and Aerospace each signaled ongoing challenges from the pandemic (BRIs ranging from 43 to 50).

Biotech and Biomedical Device manufactures hold strong expectations for the regional economy, with plans to increase their headcount and real estate footprint during the next year. In addition, they expect to increase their use of remote work over the same time frame. While this may seem contradictory, it reflects the modifications and enhancements that many companies are making to protect workers on the production floor, as well as those necessary to attract workers back into the office. Workers want to feel safe once back on company property and they also want to maintain the flexibility that working remotely has provided. To accommodate these needs, employers are preparing for a flexible or hybrid workplace once reopen. In addition, many companies are reconfiguring and even seeking new space to keep workers spread out, adapting space to be more comfortable in a post-pandemic environment. This includes ‘hoteling’ and ‘neighborhooding’ models to help reduce the flow of people and simultaneously allow teams to collaborate in person. Companies are preparing for a gradual return to the office to give workers adequate time to warm up to pre-pandemic routines. More on that below.

While Telecommunications and Cybersecurity firms all share this optimistic regional economic outlook with their Life Sciences peers, these industries are much more subdued about their own expansion plans for the next year. On net, they see their needs for space as unchanged, with some modest reductions in hiring compared to typical years. This reflects the challenges these industries have faced during the pandemic, namely with respect to increased difficulty with sales, hiring and, somewhat surprisingly, inefficiencies from remote work. Aerospace has not yet recovered from the initial impacts of the pandemic, still reeling from significant hits to both sales and employment, as well as disruptions in their supply chains from lockdowns and restricted international travel and transportation.

Smaller firms are looking to add space

After more than a year of implementing remote work and reduced onsite staffing, companies are beginning to plan for a return to the office. However, how much space awaits those returning to the office will vary by industry as well as firm size.

It is small- and medium-sized firms that are looking to expand their commercial real estate footprint over the next year rather than larger firms. In fact, the proportion of firms surveyed that expect to increase space by 10 percent or more of their current square footage is nearly double that of those planning to reduce their current space by 10 percent or more (16 percent to 8.4 percent, respectively). However, when you factor in the size of each company, those planning significant real estate growth represent only three percent of the jobs compared to 13 percent of jobs for those looking to reduce space significantly (companies surveyed collectively employ nearly 200,000 workers).

When we look at the innovation companies, we see some stark differences between traditional Technology and Biotechnology industries. Eight percent of respondents representing 22 percent of jobs plan to reduce their space by more than 10 percent—mostly in the Telecommunications industry. However, nearly 26 percent of respondents representing 41 percent jobs expect to add modest amounts of space less than 10 percent of their current footprint. Here many respondents are in the Biomedical Device and Biotech industries and likely in need of additional production or lab space.

Understanding these evolving and distinct trends is important because San Diego’s innovation cluster is leading the region out of this pandemic-driven economic downturn, just as it has in each past downturn. Each job added in the innovation cluster supports another two jobs elsewhere in the economy. Yet, these innovation companies do not necessarily need to be physically located in San Diego in order to operate. Making sure these companies have the infrastructure and access to talent that they need to flourish is critical to our region’s prosperity.

Stay tuned for more on San Diego’s changing business landscape. EDC will be back every other month with more trends and insights. For more data and analysis visit: sandiegobusiness.org/research.

Take the next survey here

This research is made possible by:

Employee ownership and why it might be a good fit for your business

On April 20, San Diego Regional EDC hosted the second in our Right Recovery Town Hall series underwritten by San Diego Gas & Electric. With a focus on employee ownership as a means of business resilience, EDC partnered with San Diego Workforce Partnership and invited experts and employee-owned companies to offer their perspectives.

Why employee ownership?

As San Diego recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, EDC is hosting a series of events that highlight employer-driven, market-based strategies for creating a more resilient economy, deeply rooted in the region’s inclusive growth agenda.

Employee ownership is a business model that takes many forms and can support San Diego firms in getting this recovery right. The transition to employee ownership offers an effective and meaningful way for businesses to retain a dedicated workforce, take advantage of a significant tax benefit, and ensure wealth-building that will lead to more thriving households across the region.

Together with partners, we aim to raise awareness about this option for a wide range of businesses (from restaurants to major corporations, and everything in between). This is especially important as baby boomers own about half of all privately-held businesses in the United States; and as this population reaches retirement age, we will see a massive ownership changeover of locally-held businesses, whether through sale, M&A, IPO, family transition or worse, closure.

Employee ownership benefits all who are involved:

  1. Owners receive a competitive sale price and can exit the company knowing that their legacy and values will live on through their employees.
  1. Workers receive better compensation and benefits, and feel the success of the company directly contributes to their own financial success, which oftentimes results in more engaged and harder working employees.
  1. The business sees higher productivity, largely due to the new sense of responsibility held by the employees.
  1. The community sees wealth building, reinvestment, and a sense of dependability as businesses remain anchored to the area.

What we learned from a brewer, a staffing agency, and a music staple

At the virtual event on April 20, audience members heard from Mitch Miller, a Senior Consultant at The Beyster Institute who shared the Beyster story along with a data-driven case for employee ownership. A 2019 Rutgers study showed that Americans with part ownership in their company approaching retirement age had ten times more wealth than those who did not have part ownership. Additionally, a National Center for Employee Ownership 2017 study showed that companies with an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) were associated with 92 percent higher median household net wealth.

Sandie Taylor, director of people operations at Modern Times Beer, spoke on the employee perspective—describing increased employee engagement and a ‘we’re in this together’ culture as the company strategized ways to keep the lights on during the pandemic. An ESOP since July 2017, Modern Times’ management feels like they can speak more openly with their teams. Sandie shared, “this means a kind of trust and transparency” within our staff. Ultimately, the innovation and commitment of team members helped the company remain above water during the worst of the 2020 economic recession.

Seth Stein, CEO of Eastridge Workforce Solutions, explained how his company has developed digital tools to help employees watch their investment grow, so they can better understand and conceptualize the benefits of employee ownership in real-time. He shared that Eastridge’s voluntary turnover rate is down 57 percent, while involuntary turnover is down 40 percent—a striking decline he attributes to the employee ownership model. Seth also shared that the company’s Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization (EBITDA) was up seven percent in 2020, even amid an economic recession. “[Employee ownership] has been a game changer for our company, and I am really excited to see what happens next,” he said.

Our third employee-owned company is a household name that made history with this business model, becoming the first (reported) multi-national company to offer ownership to ALL employees, domestic and international. Taylor Guitars made waves when it transitioned to an ESOP in January 2021 after much deliberation to ensure that the move would maintain the familial culture that founders Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug had spent decades instilling. CFO Barbara Wight was honest with the audience about the legal and financial legwork that went into making this happen, largely accomplished due to the help of Chartwell Financial Advisors, who she highly recommends to large companies hoping to transition to an ESOP. She also shared that the significant tax benefits that come with employee ownership helped Taylor Guitars make the transition as lucrative as possible.

Finally, our audience heard from Project Equity and San Diego Workforce Partnership on resources available to San Diego companies. The two organizations are currently working together with Mission Driven Finance, Alliance Healthcare Foundation, and BFed to offer flexible capital for businesses transitioning to employee ownership. San Diego Workforce Partnership will be hosting a workshop on June 17 at 10 a.m. to help businesses identify specific needs and access these funds. You can register for that event here. Other resources for transitioning to employee ownership are listed below.

Resources and contacts for your business

Chartwell Financial Advisors
Greg Fresh, Managing Director, Head of Corporate Finance
Email: greg.fresh@chartwellfa.com
Phone: 612.230.3125

Project Equity
Alison Lingane, Co-founder
Email: alison@project-equity.org

Evan Edwards, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Business Engagement
Email: evan@project-equity.org

San Diego Workforce Partnership
Email: business@workforce.org
Phone: 619.28.2900 (press 4)

You can watch the full event here:

San Diego’s Data Bites: April 2021

Each month the California Employment Development Department (EDD) releases employment data for the prior month. This edition of San Diego’s Data Bites (formerly the Economic Pulse) covers March 2021 and reflects the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the region’s labor market. Check out EDC’s Research Bureau for more data and stats about San Diego’s economy.

Key Takeaways

  1. San Diego establishments added 9,900 new payroll positions in March, but gains were uneven across industries.
  1. The unemployment rate edged lower to 6.9 percent from February’s 7.2 percent. However, this was due primarily to the loss of 10,300 workers from the labor force.
  1. Consumer spending has improved significantly as households spend stimulus checks and unwind the savings accrued over the past year or so; this could mean tens of thousands of jobs in Leisure and Hospitality and Retail in the coming two to three months.

First glance

The March jobs report for San Diego was a mixed bag. Employers added 9,900 new payroll positions, and the unemployment rate edged lower to 6.9 percent from 7.2 percent in February. However, job growth was uneven across industries, with gains in Leisure and Hospitality, Professional and Business Services, and Government partially offset by declines in Construction, Manufacturing, and Retail. Moreover, 10,300 workers left the job market in March—or roughly a third of the 29,800 people who either joined or rejoined the labor force in February. In fact, it was the loss of these workers that pushed the unemployment rate lower more than employment gains.

Industry view

Job gains were apparent in just nine of the 16 supersectors tracked by the EDD. This is somewhat surprising, given March’s blowout employment report for the U.S., which showed nearly a million new jobs were created.

Leisure and Hospitality establishments added 5,000 jobs in March, building on the 13,200 positions recovered in February. Also encouraging, more than half of these jobs came from restaurants. Meanwhile, Professional and Business Services logged an additional 3,300 positions thanks to a big push from the crucial Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services segment, which notched 2,900 more jobs in March than the month prior.

Builders let go of 1,500 workers in March, reversing most of the 2,100-worker gain from February. And, while losses in Construction aren’t completely unheard of in March, they’re certainly the exception rather than the rule. Builders have let go of workers in March in only seven of the past 31 years.

Manufacturing, Retail, Finance, and Real Estate companies let go of a combined 1,100 workers in March. These figures may reflect some statistical noise and potentially even some buyback after February’s strong report. Nonetheless, the loss of 400 Retail positions is a surprise, especially following the March U.S. retail sales report, which showed a huge rebound in consumer spending last month.

Relief for Hospitality and Retail is (finally) on the way

U.S. retail sales, which include sales at restaurants and bars, jumped by 9.8 percent in March, blowing past analysts’ expectations. The meteoric rise was in large part the result of stimulus payments that were distributed to millions of households last month as part of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package.

In addition to stimulus-related spending, consumers may have also begun unwinding some of their savings now that a sustained recovery appears to be in the offing. To be sure, households began hoarding cash at the onset of the downturn last year. The U.S. personal saving rate peaked at 33.7 percent last April, decimating the previous record of 17.3 percent that was set in May 1975, and remained perched at an elevated 13.6 percent in February 2021, which is nearly double the pre-pandemic average of 7.3 percent observed between 2010 and the end of 2019.

As long as the news around COVID cases continues to be positive and residents continue to be vaccinated at current rates, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that consumers will continue to spend freely into the summer and fall months.

This is particularly good news for San Diego’s restaurant and bar scene. Given the region’s status as a premier tourist destination, changes in national spending at eating and drinking establishments correlate strongly with job growth here at home. If sustained, March’s leap in U.S. retail sales could mean as many as 50,000 to 60,000 payroll positions at San Diego’s bars and restaurants, in addition to March’s jobs build as employers continue to meet rising demand.

Retailers can also expect a big boost. If historical relationships hold, 15,000 to 20,000 positions could appear in April and May if consumers continue to loosen their purse strings. The correlation between local Retail employment and national consumer spending is quite a bit looser than the relationship for eating and drinking places. However, as a point of comparison, local consumer spending data from Affinity also reveal a rebound, which reinforces the notion that job gains will continue for at least the next several months barring any unexpected hiccups.

Bottom line

Even though it wasn’t quite as strong as expected, March’s employment report is further evidence that the job market has finally turned the corner after a temporary slump in December and January. Nonetheless, it will still take some time before the damage wrought by the COVID downturn is undone. Payroll employment is still 7.2 percent below year-ago levels and 8.1 percent lower than the pre-pandemic level reached in February 2020. Moreover, the unemployment rate remains elevated, and 57,140 workers are still missing from the labor force.

All of this is to say, we should be cautiously optimistic. On balance, odds favor a strong rebound this year and into 2022, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Now, more than ever, it is necessary that we get this recovery right.

Training and upskilling will be vital for the thousands of workers whose jobs may never return. EDC’s Advancing San Diego program is facilitating this by connecting employers, educators, and students to the training and education they will need to thrive in the coming expansion. Just this week, Advancing San Diego announced its Preferred Providers of Manufacturing talent, and opened applications for small businesses seeking interns.

It will also be imperative that San Diego small businesses are connected to large buyers in order to keep remaining businesses in the region healthy and to help spur a new wave of entrepreneurship to meet the needs of San Diego’s largest institutions and employers. EDC’s Anchor Collaborative is working with large local businesses to help ensure big companies “shop local” for their procurement needs. Our research estimates that a one percent shift in procurement spending by large companies to local businesses could create thousands of new jobs in the region.

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Announcement: Preferred Providers of Manufacturing

Need talent? We’ve got options

Advancing San Diego partners remain committed to better connecting San Diego students to opportunities at local companies. We’re excited to announce our Preferred Providers of manufacturing talent, and to open applications for small companies in need of manufacturing interns.

Meet the Preferred Providers

EDC, San Diego Workforce Partnership, and other Advancing San Diego partners are excited to announce the following schools as Preferred Providers of manufacturing talent. These Preferred Providers are local programs recognized by industry, through a competitive application process, for training the next generation of machinists and engineering technicians.

Preferred Providers of Manufacturing talent:

The Preferred Provider network serves as a resource to better connect employers to locally-serving education programs. Previously, we have announced cohorts of Preferred Providers in software, engineering, and business talent.

View the Full Network of Programs

Need Manufacturing Talent?

If you are a small company (<200 employees) interested in hosting manufacturing interns specializing as engineering technicians or machinists this Summer, and you meet the eligibility criteria, please apply now! Twelve companies will be selected to host interns sourced from Preferred Provider programs starting July 2021. Interns will be paid $22/hour fully subsidized by the Advancing San Diego Internship ProgramApplications will close Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Read first-hand testimonials from some of the small companies who have already hosted interns in our blog series here.

Apply to Host Interns

San Diego’s Changing Business Landscape: The next normal is here

San Diego Regional EDC is excited to kick-off our Changing Business Landscape Series, which will be published bi-monthly in the San Diego Business Journal and on our blog.

Surveying the changing business landscape in San Diego

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of life, including how businesses operate. The San Diego region began the year with near-record high unemployment and widespread small business closures. Meanwhile, large companies across the globe have extended remote work well into 2021 and are even abandoning their corporate campuses. Companies in every industry are rapidly re-evaluating how they do business and changing the way they interact with customers, manage supply chains, and where their employees are physically located. This has massive immediate and long-term implications for San Diego’s workforce and job composition, as well as regional land use decisions and infrastructure investment.

To identify evolving trends in local business needs and operations, ensuring their ability to grow and thrive in the region, EDC began surveying more than 200 employers in the region’s key industries in January. Given the uncertainty of this moment in history, EDC will continue to survey these companies on a rolling basis throughout 2021 to monitor and report out shifts in their priorities and strategies. These insights will help inform long-term economic development priorities around talent recruitment and retention, quality job creation, and infrastructure development. Businesses are surveyed on several topics, with varying emphases in each wave.

Here are three key findings:

  1. Everything is different, yet the future is bright. The pandemic has fundamentally altered how businesses operate across key industries. However, most companies are optimistic about their ability to pivot and emerge even stronger.
  1. Remote working is no longer a perk or competitive advantage—it’s the standard. Most companies view remote working as here to stay. This is viewed as both a benefit and as a threat to employee retention.
  1. Long commutes have been replaced by a blurring of work-life boundaries. Companies are struggling in maintaining employee morale and engagement. While many are seeing signs of employee burnout and isolation, few report significant concerns with retention.

San Diego’s innovation cluster rises to meet the challenge

One year into a global pandemic, San Diego’s most innovative companies and industries are well on their way to economic recovery. In fact, high-wage jobs—many of which are concentrated in aerospace, life science, and technology industries—have more than recovered from the pandemic-driven recession. This is welcome news as these are key drivers of economic growth in the region. In fact, every “innovation” job supports another two jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Even though growth has returned to the innovation cluster, the pandemic has disrupted the way these companies operate. The overwhelming majority (83 percent) of companies surveyed agree that the pandemic has fundamentally altered their industry. Yet, nearly as many (81 percent) feel that their industry has been able to adjust and remain healthy. Even more encouraging, 87 percent believe their industry will emerge even stronger once the pandemic has ended after adopting new ideas and implementing new strategies. However, those in the aerospace industry express somewhat lower levels of optimism, as the industry faces continued uncertainty around travel safety and demand.

Confidence is somewhat lower among smaller firms. Only 77 percent of those with fewer than 50 employees agree that their industry would emerge stronger and 10 percent strongly disagree. This likely reflects the disproportionate impact that the pandemic has had on small businesses, regardless of industry. While those in leisure and hospitality have certainly been the hardest hit, even small firms in professional and business services, including scientific and technical services, are currently experiencing lower revenues compared to before the pandemic.

Yet, the strongest signal for optimism comes from the direct response in combatting the novel coronavirus. San Diego companies have been among those leading the fight in everything from personal protective equipment and diagnostics to therapeutics and vaccine development. The life-changing and life-saving companies have pivoted and innovated yet again, drawing in record levels of venture capital investment. In the fourth quarter of 2020 alone, the region received nearly $2.7 billion in venture funding—with almost three-quarters going to life sciences and healthcare companies—which is more than three previous quarters combined, and $2 billion more than Q4 2019. The surge in investment and jobs recovery has the majority of innovation companies confident in the region’s ability to grow in prominence, or remain steadfast as a global leader in tech and life sciences.

The war for talent has no bounds

Talent has always been San Diego’s competitive advantage. People come from all over the world to get educated and build meaningful careers in everything from software engineering and autonomous vehicles to genomics sequencing and cybersecurity. San Diego’s innovation industries are among the highest-paying and fastest-growing in the region. Despite a global pandemic, many of these industries are accelerating hiring. The information sector, including telecommunications and information technology services, posted 20 percent more unique job ads in December 2020 than the year prior.

However, top talent remains hard to find. And while many of the jobs in these industries have shifted to either partially or fully remote, there are mixed feelings about whether it is a benefit or a detriment to talent recruitment and retention. Perceptions are tied to a company’s approach to attracting remote talent (see below). On one hand, a majority of respondents think that their ability to hire and retain skilled talent will not be impacted by the pandemic because of remote work capabilities. Many have expanded their recruitment beyond San Diego’s borders and are willing to accommodate working from outside the region to retain the very best talent. These San Diego-based companies that view the world as their pool for talent are embracing a global workforce that can get the job done from anywhere.

Yet, there is also a large minority of companies that view the pandemic as impacting the way they hire and retain talent. Again, the shift to remote work is cited as the top reason, with an even larger proportion (35 percent) identifying it as the cause for their pessimism. In fact, 45 percent of survey respondents rate hiring new employees during the pandemic as either “difficult” or “more difficult” than before, compared to 18 percent who view it as “easier” or “much easier.” Furthermore, nearly half of respondents cite talent recruitment as an area needing assistance and 20 percent identify it as an “urgent need.”

The pandemic has leveled the playing field for markets aiming to attract the best and brightest knowledge. San Diego’s competition with companies and regions across the country has increased. The region’s high cost of living is by far the biggest impediment to talent attraction, with 44 percent of respondents identifying high home prices as the most negative attribute of the San Diego market. This is due in large part to housing production not keeping pace with employment growth. As a result, San Diego has the second highest median home price among the 25 largest metros in the U.S., behind only San Francisco, and home prices jumped another 11 percent in 2020. Ensuring San Diego is an attractive and affordable place for talent and business is critical to maintaining its regional competitiveness.

Responding to workers’ needs is top of mind for companies

Transitioning to a remote work environment has been challenging. Business leaders are acutely aware of the need to balance conducting business as usual and responding to the changing needs of a newly remote workforce. Survey respondents report signs of ‘zoom fatigue,’ blurred work-life boundaries, and isolation among employees. While it has not yet significantly impacted retention, a full 60 percent of respondents rated “maintaining employee morale” as more challenging during the pandemic.

Furthermore, respondents expressed concerns about returning to an in-person work environment, recognizing that not all employees will want to return to the office immediately or full-time. This next phase of work will bring about a new set of challenges and a need for new policies, systems, and support for San Diego workers. Many questions remain around how much space will be needed and how it might need to be reconfigured to accommodate a flexible work environment that is also responsive to new health and safety requirements.

Survey respondents rated individualistic factors related to professional growth and work-life balance as the most important attributes to a competitive market for talent attraction and retention. This differs greatly from perceptions from just four years ago, when top universities and an entrepreneurial spirit were more top of mind. The desire to adapt and respond to the most pressing needs of its workforce, reinforces the notion that San Diego businesses value talent above all else.

Stay tuned for more on San Diego’s changing business landscape. EDC will be back every other month with more trends and insights. For more data and analysis visit: sandiegobusiness.org/research.

This research is made possible by:

Study release: North County’s manufacturing industry poised for recovery, growth

A marketing initiative of EDC and the five cities along the 78 Corridor, Innovate78 serves to spotlight the businesses and innovators that make our region competitive.

Today, Innovate78 released a new report, The Future of Manufacturing in North County, which finds the industry will continue to prove its resiliency and positive economic impact in the region—even amid trends in automation, globalization and COVID-19 ramifications. According to the study, manufacturing accounts for $18 billion annually (or seven percent) of the area’s economy, and while many of the 813 local manufacturing firms were impacted by coronavirus, 58 percent of survey respondents are looking to increase their space.  

The study analyzes trends in employment, which is concentrated in high-value goods like computer and electronic product manufacturing. This sub-industry specifically accounts for nearly one-third of all manufacturing jobs in North County, with 12,746 employees of the total 40,151 jobs reported in the study. This number is expected to grow nearly six percent in the next five years—continuing to position manufacturing as a key driver of North County’s economy.  

Flux Power, a company represented in the study that manufactures advanced lithium-ion battery for industrial and commercial equipment, increased both their staff and revenue in 2020 amid the pandemic. With more than 100 employees, the Vista-based company is now looking to increase both its production and nonproduction space within the region.  

“The need to be efficient, safe and environmentally-conscious is high, especially now, as businesses plan for post-COVID-19 recovery,” said Chuck Scheiwe, chief financial officer of Flux Power. “Manufacturing products that empower others to improve their day-to-day efficiencies will be critical in our industry and region’s future growth, and we’re proud to be part of it.”  

The study reports that during COVID-19, North County manufacturing companies were undoubtedly impacted by the pandemic, with 43 percent of respondents reporting a loss of revenue in 2020. Looking at net growth, however, there was a reported one percent increase in manufacturing jobs, with 186 manufacturing jobs lost and 956 gained as noted by respondents. Most job losses were in medical manufacturing, while most job gains were in machinery manufacturing.  

One company that reported job gains is Quik-Pak, an Escondido based computer and electronic manufacturing company. In addition to anticipating upscaling facilities in the future, during COVID-19 Quik-Pak hired staff and reported increased revenue.  

“The strength of the manufacturing industry in North County San Diego is one of the reasons we wanted to expand here,” said Rosie Medina, vice president sales and marketing of Quik-Pak. “The talent pool is rich, and there is space to grow. We appreciate that not every region has both of these critical components that are needed for our industry to thrive.”    

Automation, globalization and COVID-19 are obvious pressures affecting North County’s manufacturing industry. However, as Quik-Pak and Flux Power note, the need for innovation and talent remain strong. There are 9,804 manufacturing jobs with a higher-than-average risk of automation—that’s nearly 24 percent of all North County manufacturing jobs. Investment in upskilling and re-training will be needed to help move these workers into other quality jobs over time.  

From craft beer to surfboards, to life-changing medical devices and technology services, manufacturing has long been a pillar of the region’s economy, with impacts spanning beyond our community,” said Jordan Latchford, research manager of San Diego Regional EDC, the study author and managing entity of Innovate78. “This study confirms the manufacturing industry in North County is poised for a strong recovery, and will remain a significant economic driver for the San Diego region.”  

read the full report

LEARN MORE ABOUT SAN DIEGO’S MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY

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Release: EDC study finds one in four local firms engaged in AI

EDC study quantifies impact of artificial intelligence, machine learning

San Diego industries that are embracing artificial intelligence (AI) support an estimated 175,680 jobs and $33.3 billion in annual gross regional product, according to a study released today by San Diego Regional EDC. Underwritten by Booz Allen Hamilton, “Measuring the Future: AI and San Diego’s Economy” is the first in a series of reports that will identify key industries and clusters where AI and machine learning (ML) have been implemented, and ultimately quantify the impacts of these technologies on San Diego’s regional economy.

The study—available at SanDiegoAI.org—includes a historic timeline, cluster map, and cross-references AI patent language with job postings to anticipate the future impacts of AI and ML on the job market.

AI and ML technologies have swiftly infiltrated most every facet of our lives as computing power and speed increase. Self-driving cars, algorithmic trading, customer experience bots and AI assistants like Siri and Alexa have become commonplace tools used by people at home and at work.

“The proliferation of AI and ML technologies promises to be a transformative force for businesses worldwide—and like in many innovative industries—San Diego is at the forefront. With this report, the EDC Research Bureau helps paint a picture of the impact of AI, proving its potential to grow jobs and even help narrow gender and racial wage gaps,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO, San Diego Regional EDC.

Contrary to popular belief and despite current economic conditions, three in five AI developers (62 percent) expect to see the number of employees specifically engaged in AI-related work grow over the next 12 months. This means locally based AI talent could help meet growing demand across the U.S. as employers try to hire workers in earnest that possess skills readily available from San Diego AI. Notably, job postings data in Sun Belt metros like San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Tampa and Miami show that employers are struggling to fill positions requiring facial and speech recognition skills—key specializations of AI developers in San Diego. Meanwhile, predictive and forecasting AI could help alleviate hiring difficulties among firms in major economic and financial centers, including New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. More than eight in 10 AI developers in San Diego specialize in machine or deep learning technologies, a fundamental building block for predictive AI.

Large local companies in San Diego like Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Grumman Corporation, ResMed and growing startups and small businesses like Lytx, Lockton, Traits AI and Semantic AI are helping to lead the charge in AI—enabling people and firms to operate more quickly and efficiently. Specifically, the use of AI or ML technologies largely supports four areas of firm activity: the development of new products and services, improved efficiency and productivity, reduced costs and an increase in business revenues.

“Booz Allen Hamilton is at the forefront of AI adoption, development and implementation, and we believe that San Diego’s companies can leverage this technology to meet their missions, attract talent and fuel economic activity,” said Joe Rohner, a Booz Allen director and leader in the firm’s analytics practice and AI services business. “We are energized that EDC’s report findings show local respondents see AI as truly helping the San Diego economy by creating more jobs—not eliminating them. People are essential to the ethical application of AI, and this technology will enable organizations and their workforce to increase productivity, quality and efficiency—in San Diego and globally.”

Despite AI’s productivity-boosting, job-creating power, a number of challenges remain. Top of mind for most local employers is the inability to source qualified talent. However, COVID-19 and the subsequent increase in remote work has expanded the talent pool for San Diego County’s AI and ML employers.

“Rapidly developing machine learning/artificial intelligence technology that enhances the work our men and women in uniform do every day is critical to the future of defense. Northrop Grumman is well positioned to continue to grow the local talent pipeline through our San Diego-based education programs so businesses in our community have the right skill sets available to support this important and rapidly evolving field,” said Alfredo Ramirez, Vice President of Northrop Grumman’s San Diego Autonomous Design Center of Excellence.

OTHER KEY FINDINGS

  • Average salary in AI/ML-concentrated industries is $127,960—3.9 percent above the national average for these industries and more than 70 percent above San Diego’s average worker salary.
  • For every 1,000 jobs gained in this cluster, another 1,400 jobs are created in other industries.
  • Survey proves AI adoption is creating job opportunities in the region:
    • 66 percent of firms agreed that the use of AI and ML has created new job opportunities
    • 54 percent of firms agree that AI and ML are increasing the need for more workers at their business
  • 31 percent of jobs in AI-concentrated fields require only a high school diploma and pay an average of $22.42 per hour
  • The boost to productivity and efficiency from AI and ML should lift wages in traditional or population-serving industries, which employ a larger share of women and non-white workers than other sectors, and could therefore potentially reduce gender and racial wage gaps as these technologies are adopted.

The report was produced by San Diego Regional EDC, underwritten by Booz Allen Hamilton, and sponsored by Northrop Grumman Corporation, ResMed, Lytx and Lockton.

Read the full study at SanDiegoAI.org

For more research from EDC, click here.

EDC’s Virtual Manufacturing Day 2020 Round Up

Happy Manufacturing MONTH, San Diego!

We hope you were able to tune into our October 1 event featuring speakers from McKinsey & Co. discussing global supply chain risks and how supply chain professionals can ensure their businesses are resilient. Thank you to CMTC, Solar Turbines, and Walmart for sponsoring this event.

The following federally funded opportunities are available through CMTC to manufacturers in California. To learn more about how you can take advantage of these opportunities, contact San Diego regional manager, David Moates.

The following are resources from the event:

Other posts you may like:

Together with CMTC, EDC assists CA manufacturers impacted by COVID-19

CARES Act funding solidifies partnership with EDC, CMTC

EDC is pleased to announce a partnership with CMTC’s California’s Manufacturing Network to provide direct support to San Diego’s small and mid-size manufacturers negatively impacted by COVID-19.

“Through our partnership with CMTC, EDC is proactively supporting San Diego’s manufacturing industry. From defense and aerospace to craft beer and surfboards, regional manufacturers provide more than 108,000 jobs across more than 3,100 companies. Our team is making sure those impacted by COVID-19 access local and state resources to help them stabilize, and improve productivity and profitability when and where they can,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO, EDC.

With the pandemic dramatically redefining the landscape for California manufacturers, EDC will work with California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC) and other members of the Network to help businesses survive, recover, and thrive as they navigate through the challenges brought on by the crisis.

EDC is providing resources and services at no cost to businesses such as: assistance with supply chain optimization, sourcing and logistics, talent recruitment and development, market diversification and exporting, and more. The goal is to meet with small- and mid-size manufacturers throughout the region to identify and understand their specific needs, challenges, and opportunities, and provide them with assistance for recovery and growth.

Funding from the CARES Act Stimulus Package 2020 is supporting this effort to reach manufacturing companies who are facing challenges in the current economic climate.

“Through our partnership with EDC, we’re reaching out to manufacturers in central and northern San Diego offering assistance to address their critical business challenges. Our partnership is focused on preserving the strong manufacturing base in the region during this unprecedented economic crisis,” said Jim Watson, president and CEO, CMTC.

EDC is offering a manufacturers a free webinar on October 1, kicking off National Manufacturing Month. Details and registration here.

Click here for more resources for manufacturers

About CMTC and California’s Manufacturing Network (CMN)

Established in 1992, CMTC is a private non-profit corporation that provides consulting services to small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) throughout the state of California. CMTC operates as part of a National Network through a cooperative agreement between the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the Department of Commerce for the State of California. In 2016, CMTC formed California’s Manufacturing Network (CMN) to expand capabilities and capacity to efficiently serve more manufacturers in California. This Network delivers services that address the regional challenges driven by a diverse manufacturing community. The Network is a collaboration of more than 25 partners focused on serving SMMs in rural and urban areas statewide. CMN has increased the number of SMMs served to more than 1,300 companies annually, which adds significant economic impact for manufacturers and the public good of the State of California.

This Outreach Program is funded by the CARES Act Stimulus Package 2020 – and is managed by CMTC – California’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Center.  For more information visit cmtc.com

About the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Funding

COVID-19 recovery and resilience services funding is made possible by the NIST MEP National Emergency Assistance Program through funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (Pub.L. 116–136).

Join us: Manufacturing Day 2020

Do you work for a manufacturer, or just want to know more about San Diego’s thriving manufacturing scene?

Click here to register for EDC’s October 1 virtual manufacturing event.

Plus, register to attend other regional manufacturing events: