Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Tourmaline Wireless

The Advancing San Diego (ASD) Internship Program launched this Spring in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic and aims to provide up to 100 San Diego-based companies with fully subsidized interns. This program targets companies with 100 employees or less, which comprise 98% of all businesses in San Diego, employ nearly two thirds of San Diegans, and account for 70 percent of job growth. A key issue for these companies has been a lack of time and resources to recruit the skilled talent necessary to continue their growth.

As students are closing out their Summer internship experiences, EDC is rolling out this blog series to highlight the innovative local companies that comprise the first cohort of the program, and the interns they hosted.

In this feature, we sat down with Paul Victorine, CTO and Co-Founder at Tourmaline Wireless, who hosted two ASD interns. A part of the inaugural cohort of host companies, Tourmaline Wireless is building the future of decentralized wireless telecommunications. The Oceanside-based company provides resilient, off-grid solutions based on mesh networks, 4G LTE, and Iridium satellite.

Why was your company founded, and what are your current points of focus? 

I started the company at the beginning of 2019, after having worked for a Tier-1 wireless operator for nearly 20 years. I jumped at the opportunity to start my own consulting business, leveraging an extensive background in deploying and optimizing cellular networks. Tourmaline is currently developing a new gateway product that will allow localized mesh networks to connect to geographically separated networks across the globe. This gateway will allow neighborhoods and communities affected by natural disasters to continue communicating with their loved ones. This allows for the sharing of hyper-local information and will support offline payment remittances in far-off corners of the world. It might even provide hikers along the Pacific Crest Trail a means of “checking-in” with friends and family at various mile markers. There are many use-cases we envision for the mesh gateway, and we are excited to see how our customers anticipate using the device too!

Tell us about your experience building a small business in San Diego. What resources, services and/or organizations were most valuable in supporting Tourmaline’s growth?

Building a startup in San Diego has been a great experience overall! Valuable resources include following San Diego Regional EDC, Innovate78, and the City of Oceanside. There is a ton of talent here in San Diego – largely coming out of the many colleges and universities spread throughout the county. There is also a surprising amount of resources available here that help support small business. I’ve been really impressed with all the grants, loans, and positive encouragement broadcast daily from San Diego Regional EDC.

How has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?

As a result of COVID-19, we decided to go all-in and focus exclusively on new product development as our day-to-day consulting jobs (designing, installing, and optimizing cellular in-building equipment) were mostly sidelined due to COVID-19.

Tell us a little bit about your interns and the value they bring.

We are currently hosting two college interns through the ASD program, who you’ll hear from in another blog post. One intern is soon graduating from UC San Diego, with a BS in Computer Science. Our second intern will be starting her Junior year at NYU, as a transfer from Mesa College, also studying Computer Science. The internship experience was definitely a challenge given its fully remote format. Plus, it was our first time hosting interns, but it turned out to be a rewarding experience for all of us. They helped troubleshoot and improve our existing software codebase, adding new features and functionality. We were able to meet up in-person (socially distanced, of course) for a field day of wireless range testing at Balboa Park. It was a fun experience and I think it helped the interns better understand the capability of wireless mesh communications.

In your opinion, what is special about San Diego’s science and technology community, and the talent that drives it?

San Diego has historically been a technology-driven community, from the early days with the focus on military and defense (companies like General Dynamics) to the early 2000’s being a wireless hotbed (including Qualcomm, Nokia, etc). Now we are starting to see software really taking hold here, with companies like Apple opening offices and building out their local workforce. San Diego really is the perfect choice for STEAM students to select for college and then stay to launch their careers.

Visit Tourmaline Wireless on web and Instagram.

Learn more about Advancing San Diego and our internship program.

Advancing San Diego: What we’ve done in one year

EDC’s inclusive growth strategy is fueled by three key economic ingredients: skilled workers, quality jobs (particularly in small companies) and thriving households. Launched in 2019 with funding from JP Morgan Chase, Advancing San Diego is helping the region meet its inclusive growth goals by addressing skilled talent shortages and expanding access to quality job opportunities. Advancing San Diego partners, in lockstep with industry and education partners, recognize that each group has a role to play in developing and strengthening our local talent pool.

The challenge & the opportunity

Employers cite access to diverse, qualified talent as a top challenge within their business, relying on high-cost recruitment strategies to fill job openings. Meanwhile, San Diego is a diverse community with an education system that serves hundreds of thousands of San Diegans (10 community colleges, 5 universities, numerous non-traditional training programs). Black and Hispanic San Diegans make up more than half of our population, but are glaringly underrepresented in high-demand jobs.

Advancing San Diego introduces a collaborative, region-wide strategy to prepare San Diegans for high-demand jobs via our locally-serving education intuitions. While labor market data is improving, there is not a consistent approach for adapting education to meet industry expectations. With clear and consistent communication about skills, we collectively create an environment where San Diegans are trained for, and can access quality job opportunities, and employers can look to our local talent pool for their hiring needs.

Talent development amid a global pandemic

We felt the initial impacts of the pandemic across our entire economy. Unemployment in San Diego rose from 4.2% to 15% in a matter of months, with some industries experiencing a 50% decline in their workforce. Of the jobs impacted the most, many were already at risk of decline due to factors including automation and digitization. Further, the highest-risk jobs are disproportionately held by Black and Hispanic San Diegans.

Other industries, particularity innovation industries, took less of a hit as business held steady and employees had the option to work remotely. Jobs most insulated from the impacts of the pandemic are disproportionately held by white and Asian San Diegans.

Pre- and post-COVID-19, software developers continue to rank among the highest demand occupations in San Diego. In May, software developers were the second most advertised job in San Diego, with 3,000 postings. With numerous training options beyond a 4-year degree, software engineers can be trained relatively quickly at a much lower cost to the individual, and both training and jobs can be done from essentially anywhere with an internet connection. As such, Advancing San Diego started its work by informing education providers on skills requirements for software engineers, and is actively working with employers do the same for engineering and business professionals. 

The Advancing San Diego approach

Advancing San Diego is a demand-driven, outcomes based strategy for strengthening lines of communication between industry and education, and expanding access to talent for small companies.

  1. COMMUNICATION: employer working groups communicate hiring requirements for entry-level jobs, offer feedback to education providers on how to update & improve curriculum, and recognize “Preferred Providers” as delivering top-quality training for quality jobs. It’s through this process that employers also gain a better understanding of which local institutions they should be recruiting from.
    YEAR 1 PROGRESS: 30+ employers have actively engaged in working groups to communicate skills criteria, offer feedback on curricula, and grow the network of Preferred Provider programs. Following their participation in the working group, many employers express interest in hiring from a community college, university, or non-traditional training program where they had not previously recruited from.
    >> Skills Reports for Software Talent & Engineering Talent
  1. ADAPTATION: with better communication from industry, education programs can more effectively train talent that employers want to hire. Education programs are also recognized by employers for their ability to reach and serve a diverse student body.
    YEAR 1 PROGRESS: Employers have offered feedback to 21 education programs; 7 have been selected as Preferred Providers of software talent, and Preferred Providers of engineering talent will be announced in coming weeks. Multiple programs who were not selected are actively adapting programs for reconsideration as a Preferred Providers, which are evaluated annually.
    >> More information on Preferred Providers
  1. ACCESS: Small companies (<100 employees) often do not have the time or resources to effectively recruit top talent. At no cost to them, small companies can host paid interns from Preferred Provider programs as part of Advancing San Diego. These companies receive training for building successful remote teams, access to a software platform for managing remote interns, and interns are eligible for $500 in products or services that support their internship success. The internship program prioritizes students who are first generation college students, community college students, or residents of San Diego’s low income communities.
    YEAR 1 PROGRESS: 22 small companies from a variety of industries are hosting ASD interns remotely this summer. A second cohort of companies is currently being recruited to meet interest in this program from students, many of whom are experiencing heightened anxiety due to job-market uncertainty.
    >> The average size of companies in this cohort is 12 employees, and 54% of host companies identify as either minority, woman, disabled, veteran, or immigrant-owned.
    >> ASD has placed +40 software engineering interns from community college, university, and non-traditional education backgrounds. 100% of interns are either first-gen college students, community college students, veterans, or residents of San Diego’s low income communities.

What’s next?

Advancing San Diego was designed as a cyclical process that is responsive to the ever-changing needs of the economy. Our priority remains to better prepare the local talent pool for the jobs our economy needs, and provide better access to talent for small companies. Even once shelter-in-place guidelines are lifted, we will continue to offer paid remote work experiences as one way to remove geographic and scheduling barriers for students and companies.

However, we realize that not all jobs can be done remotely. While we will continue to focus on high-demand job areas such as software, we will lean into jobs that are economically resilient, good-paying jobs that are accessible via shorter-term training and have cross-cutting industry need. We believe this approach will increase our ability to support those most impacted by the pandemic on a path to economic stability.

For more updates on Advancing San Diego, visit the program page.

Advancing San Diego Company Spotlight: Welfie

The Advancing San Diego Internship Program launched this spring and students are now beginning their summer internship experiences in a remote-capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While students’ experiences are in their early stages, we’re launching this blog series to highlight the exciting local companies that are hosting interns in the program’s first round of internships.

We sat down with Steve Moyo, CEO at Welfie. Part of the inaugural cohort of host companies, Welfie, which stands for a ‘wellness selfie’, provides a snapshot of one’s health and delivers personalized content, products and services to meet individuals’ health needs – all while connecting users with people and professionals who care.

Tell us about you and your story.

I am a Zulu. I was born in Zambia and grew up in Canada. I moved to the US for medical school where I met a wonderful woman from Michigan. After I finished my Internal Medicine residency at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore I moved here to San Diego, for said woman. I founded Welfie as an extension of what I am most passionate about: promoting heart health and using content to tell stories. Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S., and much like COVID-19, it has profoundly impacted the various communities that I am connected to, from healthcare workers to communities of color. Welfie is excited to be helping communities, universities, colleges and businesses, solve the immediate problem of how to “Get Back To Campus, Safely” with our symptom screening app and high quality PPE. But our long term focus is much bigger than just COVID-19, we sit primed to address important issues of our time, which include heart health, mental health and racial health disparities. We are starting here, in San Diego, focusing on local schools, businesses and communities and we call on any San Diego community leaders to contact us to collaborate.

How was your experience building a small business/startup in San Diego?

San Diego has been a great place to start a company. There are countless individuals, consultants, companies and organizations that have been essential to getting us where we are today. We are proud members of The Brink, San Diego Venture Group (now Connect), and part of the third cohort at Connect All Jacobs Center. The San Diego Angels Conference has been immensely influential as well as San Diego Startup Week. These are just a few of the organizations that have helped us grow rapidly and find our way in the entrepreneurial start up world.

How has your company pivoted as a result of COVID-19?

Welfie offers a one-stop-shop for universities, colleges and businesses to “Get Back To Campus, Safely.” We developed a simple 3-point plan:

  • Prepare – Welfie has launched a COVID-19 symptom screening app to help community leaders prepare to return. Screen employees and students daily for symptoms and fever. And create a culture of trust, care and accountability.
  • Prevent – We have a high quality PPE store backed by an FDA/NIOSH certified supply chain where you can get PPE in bulk and subscribe to the Welfie Care Package – PPE delivered to your door monthly.
  • Protect – we are developing real time data analytics and insights that will allow community leaders and individuals to assess their risk, and make the right decisions for their communities, families and themselves.The decision to pivot was easy. We had to do something. Identifying the right thing to do and where we felt we could have the greatest impact, quickly was the key. We ultimately decided to stick to our wheelhouse, education, engagement and empowering people to make the right decisions. So while I used to say ‘pivot’, I now prefer to say expanded. Welfie is a community health platform that has been focused on prevention. We started our journey focused on heart health, and have expanded to COVID-19.

How did you find out about Advancing San Diego and how has your experience been so far?

Credit goes to the local San Diego network. It was one of those weeks where mentors and advisors were all pointing me in the right direction and Advancing San Diego came up in numerous conversations. One key part of the community health platform we are building centers around health influencers, doctors, fitness coaches, perhaps even your mom. Our current software development interns are focused on building the essential features that a health influencer would need, from chat to a social health feed and including video hosting capabilities.

What is special about San Diego’s science and technology community, and the talent that drives it?

I think honesty and humility are two keywords that define the community here. People honestly want to see each other succeed. There is a great energy that San Diego is on the cusp of becoming an even stronger science and tech hub. And, that instead of exporting talent we are importing, cultivating and nurturing people and companies right here. The humility of San Diego’s leaders in science and technology to remain open to connection, mentorship and collaboration with local startups has been unique.

What words of advice would you give to the San Diego community to more effectively support entrepreneurs?

Perhaps it is the musician in me speaking but I would love to continue to see more collaboration. I think, specifically, in the area where Welfie is focused, digital health. There is a ‘stronger together’ narrative for startups to be able to succeed in the current environment. So intra-industry collaboration plus collaborating across industry as well I think can only enhance opportunity, success and is just fun.

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Innovate78 hosts first-ever virtual Innovators Dinner

As the world was forced to pivot to full-time remote and online in Q2, the Innovate78 quarterly in-person Innovators Dinners successfully transitioned to a virtual event.

Innovate78 brought together a group of local business leaders to share advice and best practices on running their companies and cities virtually. As this event took place in mid-May, there was much discussion on how we can safely and quickly reopen the economy. Utilizing Zoom breakout sessions, we were able to curate intimate conversations with local businesses and the cities along the 78 Corridor.

The consensus from the attendees was overall positive and appreciative for continuing to hold these meaningful events. Attendee feedback echoed sentiments like, “Thank you for keeping this going and keeping the spirit alive!” The businesses along the 78 Corridor may have experienced initial setbacks with the shutdown, but they are bouncing back stronger than ever.

Innovate78 supports the business ecosystem of the 78 Corridor by further elevating the region’s reputation and assisting businesses as they evolve. The partnership between Carlsbad, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista helps businesses prosper in place for the betterment of all who work and reside here. The multi-city partnership furthers innovation with a shared vision to boost economic prosperity.

8+ Black-owned SD businesses you should know

While we are proud to work toward larger changes that make San Diego a more inclusive place to work, live, and build, intentionally purchasing from or supporting Black-owned small businesses is something tangible everyone can do to make San Diego more equitable and sustainable.

To get your list started, here are 8 Black-owned San Diego small businesses, startups, restaurants, & groups you should know. There’s something for everyone:

We Tha Plug

We Tha Plug was launched in February 2019 as a meetup group to connect and empower Black, Latino, other minorities & underrepresented founders as well as Minority Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors in the Startup, Tech & Innovation space. One of their goals is to create an ecosystem that advocates tech and innovation entrepreneurship in Black & Latino communities across the United States and across the world by giving founders access to startup fundamental education, advice, mentorship, programming, and funding.

Spoiled Vegans Cafe

If you’re not hungry right now, you will be – just check out their Instagram. With a focus on plant-based breakfast and brunch in the East Village, Spoiled Vegans serves up all kinds of decadent waffles, breakfast sandwiches, and omelettes. They recently reopened for curbside pick-up, but have been selling out quickly – sometimes in less than 15 minutes. Find more information on their Instagram page – and be sure to set your alarm.

MOTU Innovation

Oceanside-based MOTU Innovation is a leader in ship repair & engineering support services. The team provides a broad background in ship repair trade knowledge, as well as shipboard system design and engineering. Learn more.

StreetCar Merchants

Launched in North Park in 2014, owners Ron Suel and RaVae Smith serve up Southern classics like Southern style fried chicken, waffles, fried green tomatoes, grit fritters, and indulgent cakes. Its name an homage to the historical local streetcar system that once connected North Park to the rest of San Diego, StreetCar’s interior also features vintage photos and reclaimed wood. If you’re downtown, you can try sister restaurants SuckerFree, or Shotcaller Street Soul Food, which opened in late 2019.

Brown Law Group

Founded by Janice Brown, who was recognized as trial lawyer of the year by the Department of Justice & a California Black Lawyer of the Year, Brown Law Group is a leading Southern California litigation law firm specializing in all aspects of employment and business litigation. With major clients including Allstate Insurance Company, CenturyLink, Conduent, Liberty Mutual, NBC, Toyota, and United Parcel Service, the group has built a reputation as a small firm that attracts big clients. Brown Law Group attributes much of its success to the confidence of these major employers. Additionally, Brown Law Group has provided pro bono services to I Love A Clean San Diego (ILACSD) to further promote regional awareness of environmental issues.

Cafe X: By Any Beans Necessary

El Cajon-based Café X is a worker-owned coffee shop and co-op based in San Diego that aims to enrich its member-owners, pass on communal wealth and knowledge, and provide welcoming space to organize and learn. Café X is part venue for delicious coffee and baked goods, part local art gallery, part event space – and all equitable and cooperative community relationship-building. The cafe hosts community events and local educational support for community members, run by those who are committed to equalizing knowledge.

Dirt Don’t Hurt

In 2017, with children on the way and their health in mind, San Diego sisters Martiza, Sativa, and Kaya started making their own products with using plant-based ingredients, like activated charcoal, earth clays, essential oils, and herbs. From there, Dirt Don’t Hurt began. The company takes a natural approach to personal care and cleaning products, which are 100% vegan and cruelty free, and can be found at markets, boutiques, and grocery stores throughout Southern California.


Launched by Dr. Steven Moyo, Welfie is an app that makes health accessible and affordable. Dr. Moyo, who works at UC San Diego Health, wanted to do more to help people engage, connect, learn, and access preventative help. Due to COVID-19, he has pivoted the company to incorporate an all-encompassing COVID-19 reopening portal – which offers employers no-contact health screenings and an eCommerce store to order PPE.

This is just a sampling of San Diego’s many Black-owned businesses. To find more, we encourage you to visit:

If you are a Black entrepreneur or business owner in San Diego and we can help connect you to resources, programs, or other assistance, please contact us here.

Join us in continuing this conversation.

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Black lives matter and our commitment to San Diego

In light of the pain that the US has been facing, we must do better as a region and as a nation. At EDC, we’ve been thinking about what role – as an economic development organization – we should play in all of this.

We’ve put together some thoughts in a twitter thread, which you can view in full below:

For the past few years, our team has worked with local business and community leaders – during a time of profound economic growth – to create more inclusive economic development strategies and programs. You can learn more about our inclusive growth work here. The current and historical racial realities, compounded with the impacts of COVID-19 disproportionately affecting lower-income San Diegans, means we must do everything in our power to make sure we get this post-pandemic recovery right. We cannot do that without elevating Black and other marginalized voices.

As an organization, we’re the first to admit that we’re newer to inclusive work. We’ve spent nearly three years radically shifting our strategy so that inclusion and equity are the guiding principles behind our programming. It’s a work in progress. In the meantime, we vow to do better with the type of content we create, the people we profile, and the (digital) events we produce.

If you are a Black entrepreneur or business owner in San Diego and we can help connect you to resources, programs, or other assistance, please contact us here.

Today, on June 2, aside from this piece, we’re pausing content today to observe #BlackoutTuesday & make space for Black voices in San Diego.

Black lives matter. They matter in this country, they matter in San Diego, and they matter to us.

Join us in continuing this conversation.

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4 resources for San Diego small businesses – May 21, 2020

With so many relief and recovery programs launching every day, it can be difficult to figure out which ones your business should prioritize. In addition to financial resources for San Diego businesses and residents that we’ve compiled here, here are four recovery resources you should know about. 

1. Connect with your customers online via GoSite

Local digital software suite provider GoSite is helping small businesses connect with their customers online with a free website and payment method. Click here to learn more.

2. Reopening guides for San Diego’s restaurants, retailers, & small businesses

San Diego Regional EDC convened a broad coalition to develop step-by-step guides to help local businesses reopen. These guides have been tested in focus groups, and align with local, state and national guidance. EDC recognizes that in order to get to a point where reopening guides such as these are useful, other issues, like childcare, must be addressed first. Download your guide here.

3. SDGE late payment fee waivers

SDG&E will waive late payment fees for business customers whose finances have been hit hard. The company also urges customers who are struggling to pay their utility bill due to financial hardships stemming from the coronavirus to call its Customer Contact Center at 1-800-411-7343 to make payment arrangements. Click here to learn more.

4. Rady School business recovery coalition

The Rady School of Management at the University of California San Diego will help businesses in the San Diego region navigate the unprecedented challenges faced by COVID-19. Drawing on expertise from the UC San Diego community, Rady will provide immediate pro bono assistance to businesses, including PPP loan forgiveness application templates, risk evaluation, and other guidance. Apply here.

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

Regardless of how this all plays out, EDC is here to help. You can use the button below to request our assistance with finding information, applying to relief programs, and more.

Request EDC assistance

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Reopening San Diego’s small businesses [free guides]

San Diego Regional EDC, in partnerships with San Diego and Imperial SBDC, have commissioned a broad team to develop detailed guides to help small businesses reopen – in advance of San Diego’s announced phase 2 reopenings. The guides align with current local (San Diego County), state, and national guidance, were developed in collaboration with various regional task forces, and have been tested in focus groups by local businesses.

Small businesses are the backbone of our region’s economy, and employ the majority of San Diegans. In order to meet our regional goal of creating 50,000 quality jobs in small businesses by 2030, we all need to invest in ensuring small businesses have the tools they need to recover, adapt, and thrive over the coming months. Funding, technical assistance, and childcare for working parents are also important to the long term recovery and resiliency of San Diego’s small businesses.

For more tools to help distribute the guides, contact Heather Dewis at Let’s get San Diego back to work. 

Download the free Small Business guides

Additional Small Business resources

For more business resources, including information about relief programs, visit our COVID-19 resource page.

If you’re a small business that is looking for direct counseling, please request EDC’s support here.

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Mark Cafferty: Recovery through an inclusive lens

This column originally ran in the San Diego Business Journal on May 17, 2020:

I hope this message continues to find you and your families healthy and safe. Our team at EDC continues to work from home and we are focusing all of our time and energy on helping local small businesses get connected to the resources and services they need during these confusing and challenging times.

Over the last several weeks, I had the opportunity to serve on the RECOVER economic recovery advisory group formed by County Supervisor Greg Cox and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The group was brought together to form a regional plan for reopening businesses and setting up appropriate communication channels with the business community. The group was comprised of several chambers of commerce, business and trade associations, economic development organizations, and education and labor groups. The hope going forward is that our collective reach will continue to provide our local government officials with quick and accurate feedback from a broad section of our business community as we navigate the various stages of economic recovery.  The guidelines that the group developed are posted here and can also be found on the City and County’s websites.

In a closing memo that I wrote to Mayor Faulconer and Supervisor Cox, I urged the City and the County—and all advisory group members—to continue to host and maintain similar discussions for regional businesses focused on childcare and the reopening of schools.

Clearly, a large segment of our workforce will not be able to return to employment with any level of normalcy while their children are still home with no prospect of school, summer school/camps, and childcare. Our partners at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego Workforce Partnership have already been focused heavily on childcare over the last few years. They are continuing the difficult job of working with childcare providers and businesses to ensure that we are not having these conversations or planning in vacuums.

Our team at EDC and more than 30 community partners have spent the last two years trying to create inclusive economic development strategies to ensure that more of our community members can thrive within our local economy. One of our three pillars has been addressing the growing educational achievement gap. We have been working to ensure that businesses are more engaged with this issue. Now more than ever, we feel that getting business and education leaders together to think through how we effectively reopen our schools and support each other through the difficult months ahead is one of the most critical issues we face. Our team at EDC will do everything we possibly can to continue to facilitate these discussions, push for solutions and set up communication systems to help maintain ongoing progress and success to ensure that we phase back into work-based and school-based activities in a coordinated fashion.

And finally, the impacts of this horrific healthcare and economic crisis have not hit our community (or our nation) evenly. African American, Asian, and Latino communities have been disproportionately impacted by the virus, and they have also been disproportionately impacted by the layoffs, business closures, school closures, and economic challenges our advisory group focused on. The locally-owned hospitality, retail, and restaurants have clearly been hit the hardest. Small and minority-owned businesses are in the most need of financial support and will continue to need our attention, our resources, and our services as we work our way through recovery. I urged the Mayor, City Council, and County Board of Supervisors—regardless of political party affiliation and the various segments of our community that they represent—to be visibly united in ensuring that our economic recovery remains focused on the individuals, businesses, communities, and sectors of our economy that have been hardest hit.

I closed my memo by indicating that San Diego Regional EDC remains fully committed to ensuring that all of our resources, energy, and programs are focused on the unique challenges and opportunities of the economic recovery that lie ahead of us. I want to restate that commitment to all of you as well. We have to get this right.

A Record-Setting Jobs Report

Incoming data confirmed what most of us already knew: The U.S. economy lost a record number of jobs in April. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the economy shed 20.5 million payroll jobs, lifting the unemployment rate to 14.7%, a rate unseen since the Great Depression. Job losses were spread across every industry, but cuts were especially severe in leisure & hospitality, which gave up some 7.7 million positions.

The BLS data are roughly consistent with payroll processor ADP’s employment report that shows 20.2 million job losses at private companies last month. Similar to the BLS, ADP reported that cuts were heavily concentrated in leisure & hospitality. ADP also measured employment changes across different firm sizes, and showed that companies employing fewer than 50 workers let go of 6 million workers in April.

What The U.S. Numbers Could Mean Locally

The crater in small business employment across the U.S. last month could portend an especially bad jobs report locally. Businesses with fewer than 50 workers employ 45% of San Diegans, compared with just 29% nationally. Job losses on the scale of the national figure would imply roughly 120,000 fewer payrolls at San Diego small businesses in April alone, roughly the same number of jobs lost across businesses of all sizes between December 2007 and January 2010 during the last recession.

Cutting the data across industries is equally disarming. Accommodation & food service companies employ about one in every 10 local workers. Both the BLS and ADP reports show that hospitality businesses essentially halved their staffs last month; a similar contraction in San Diego would translate to about 85,000 to 90,000 lost jobs. However, San Diego hospitality employment has historically been more sensitive to downturns than nationally, meaning as many as 120,000, or nearly two in three, hospitality workers may have potentially been put out of work.

Retail employment is also touchier to fluctuations in the local economy than it is nationally. San Diego retailers may have eliminated more than 25,000 payrolls based on the 2.1 million jobs cut across the U.S. last month.

The damage doesn’t end with hospitality and retail, although losses in other industries are not nearly on the same scale. The BLS reported 980,000 public sector job cuts, and local government, which employs public school teachers, accounted for 801,000 of those. Another industry with a large local footprint—professional and technical services—gave up 520,700 positions nationally. Together, an additional loss of around 15,000 local payrolls from these two sectors could be reasonably estimated based on historical relationships between local and national employment changes.

All in, San Diego is looking at a potential loss of about 230,000 jobs in April if history serves. This would be nearly double the losses suffered during the 2008-2009 crisis and could potentially bring the unemployment rate up to a range as high as 18% to 20%. The official April jobs numbers for San Diego will be reported on Friday, May 22.

Several points bear mentioning: First, the above discussion is only meant to provide a sense of scale around local job market impacts if similar dynamics seen in the national employment report were to play out here. Second, no sector or cluster is immune to downturns. So, while government and professional services haven’t yet experienced losses on the scale of accommodation & food services, there’s always a chance that the effects of COVID-19 could ripple out into these industries. Finally, while it may be encouraging that higher-paying professional and government positions haven’t given as much ground as lower-paying ones, the disproportionate pain experienced by the most vulnerable workers should give us pause.

The coming recovery presents an opportunity to establish career development programs designed to connect lower-paid workers with jobs in industries that are struggling to attract talent. EDC’s Advancing San Diego program – which is currently recruiting local educational providers that develop skilled engineering talent – is helping San Diego inch closer to its goal of producing 20k additional skilled workers per year.  Programs like this are a win-win situation that promises a brighter future for thousands of San Diegans and a more resilient economy that could better weather future downturns.


As a partner of the local San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center, EDC is working directly with small businesses  – free of charge – to counsel them on accessing COVID-19 recovery resources.

Request EDC assistance

For general COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please view this page.

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3 resources for San Diego businesses  – May 7, 2020

Our team has compiled COVID-19 resources to provide guidance and support for San Diego businesses and residents. Here are three financing programs you should know about. 

1. Main St. Matters Grant

Better Business Bureau Serving the Pacific Southwest is offering grants to businesses that have not received any other emergency funding. Businesses must be in good standing with BBB, upholding their standards for trust, and be located in the Pacific Southwest Region. Watch this short video for more information.

2. Women’s Empowerment Loan Fund (WELF)

San Diego Grantmakers and the International Rescue Committee have created a loan that provides low cost financing to women-owned businesses in San Diego. In addition to the loans, which will range from $5,000 – $25,000, the program includes resources such as expert coaching and assistance from the International Rescue Committee.

3. Salesforce Care Small Business Grants

Salesforce and Ureeka are offering $10,000 grants to 300 small businesses. Businesses must be for-profit companies, have between 2 and 50 employees, have been in business for 2 full years, have an annual revenue of between $250K and $2 million, and have experience challenges as a result of COVID-19.

For more COVID-19 recovery resources and information, please visit this page.

Regardless of how this all plays out, EDC is here to help. You can use the button below to request our assistance with finding information, applying to relief programs, and more.

Request EDC assistance

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