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The Big Picture San Diego Blog

Economic Impact Study

October 1, 2015

The San Diego Community College District’s (SDCCD) economic impact in San Diego County hit $5.7 billion last year, up from $5.2 billion in 2013-14.  In total, the district’s economic impact is equal to 3.1 percent of the county’s gross regional product, according to a new analysis.

The analysis by Idaho-based Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) looked at spending by the district on everything from payroll to construction, in addition to the higher wages and spending from current and former students that is attributed to the education they received at the district.

“In addition to educating over 100,000 students to enter the workforce or to transfer to universities, the San Diego Community College District has and immense impact on the regional economy,” said SDCCD Chancellor Constance M. Carroll.  “Our colleges, our adult education campuses, and our multifaceted operations combine to provide an impressive return-on-investment.  We are proud of this and believe that this is important information for our community to have.”

The SDCCD employed 4,760 full-time and part-time faculty and staff last year, 95 percent of whom lived in San Diego County.  Total payroll was $237.2 million, much of which was spent in the region for food, clothing, housing, and entertainment, while the overall impact of operations spending reaching more than $445 million.  Construction spending attributed to voter-approved Propositions S and N added an additional $64.8 million and created 875 new jobs.

The accumulated impact of former students currently employed in the San Diego County workforce amounted to $5 billion in the Gross Regional Product, which is equivalent to creating 71,223 new jobs. In fact, the district is the region’s largest provider of workforce training.

“From manufacturing to software to life sciences, the district trains and guides the talent in industries that matter most to San Diego’s innovation economy,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of San Diego Regional EDC. “This report reconfirms something we say time and time again: Investing in our community colleges means investing in our economy.”

The EMSI report used a wide array of data that included district academic and financial reports, along with industry and employment analysis from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau. Among the findings:

  • Taxpayers provided $334.5 million of state and local funding to the district, and will receive an estimated present-day value of $1.6 billion in added tax revenue stemming from students’ higher lifetime incomes and the increased output of businesses at which they work.  Reduced demand for government-funded social services yields a savings of $100.5 million.  All told, for every tax dollar spent on educating students attending the district, taxpayers will receive an average of $4.90 in return over the course of the students’ working lives – an annual rate of return of 16.2 percent.
  • In terms of societal benefits, the SDCCD and its students invested $1.3 billion in students’ educations during the analysis year.  For every dollar of this investment, society as a whole in California will receive a cumulative value of $14.80 in benefits, equal to the $19.9 billion in benefits divided by the $1.3 billion in costs.
  • Students will earn a present-day value of $3.4 billion in increased earnings over their working lives, thanks to the greater marketability due to the education they are receiving. This translates to a return of $4.20 in higher future income for every $1 that students pay for their education at the SDCCD – an annual rate of return of 17.7 percent.

Content provided by San Diego Community College District.

September 25, 2015


As one of the foundations of San Diego’s economy, the military plays an integral role in San Diego’s economic vitality. Between the release of San Diego Military Advisory Council’s (SDMAC) 7th annual Military Economic Impact Report, the Governors Military Council (GMC) quarterly board meeting and the upcoming  airshow at MCAS Miramar, the military has been on the radar for many San Diegans this month.  

At the release of the SDMAC economic impact study this past Wednesday, updated data confirmed just how important the military is to San Diego’s economy:

·         The military sector is responsible for about 328,000 -  22 percent - of the region’s total jobs in 2015 after accounting for all of the ripple effects of defense spending – an increase from last year’s 317,000 jobs. 

·         An estimated total of $24.8 billion in direct spending related to defense was sent to San Diego County during fiscal year 2015, an amount equal to about $7,700 for each of the county’s residents.

·         In fiscal year 2015, the 49 U.S. Navy ships home-ported in San Diego will see direct spending of about $2.6 billion, which will equate to a total economic impact of $5.7 billion in GRP.

·         The two aircraft carriers based here will bring a combined $1.5 billion to the economy based on updated inputs, multipliers, and models.  San Diego’s home-ported ship count is projected to climb to a total of 84 by calendar year 2023.

Although these are impressive numbers in themselves, they do not capture the depth of the defense sector. Case in point: in the early ‘70s, two engineers – Irwin Jacobs and Andrew Viterbi -- received a SPAWAR* contract to  advance communications technologies (CMDA). Years later, Jacobs would go on to form Qualcomm, San Diego’s largest private-sector employer, and the home of the modern day cell phone.  That is just one example - San Diego’s military drives billions of dollars of research to the region, attracts talent from around the country, and has proven to be instrumental in inspiring major technological innovations impacting both the defense and commercial markets.

 In addition to the numerous elected officials on hand for the study release, the Governor’s Military Council (GMC) simultaneously held its quarterly board meeting in San Diego. Started as an advisory council to protect California’s assets, the GMC became a standing committee with the passage of AB 442, which was signed into law on September 21. While in town, the GMC toured several military staples, including NASSCO, SPAWAR and Naval Base Point Loma. Building on the announcement and the momentum of the GMC’s statewide strategy release, EDC is working in close partnership with SDMAC to ensure San Diego’s key military interests are represented in the GMC's actions. We are pleased to confirm that RADM (ret.) Ken Slaght, a former commander of SPAWAR and the co-chair of the Cyber Center of Excellence (CCOE), will join the GMC as its newest member.    
 Our military drives innovation, attracts a diverse set of talent and remains the single most critical industry in terms of impact on our GRP.  The looming threat of sequestration coupled with leadership uncertainties in D.C. confirm that we need to stay diligent and focused as a region to provide the concerted effort required to adequately support our key military installations and our defense industrial base. Our economy depends on it.

*In June 2019, SPAWAR changed its name to Naval Information Warfare Systems Command