Skip to Content
The Big Picture San Diego Blog


Morgan Family Foundation

April 10, 2013

What Makes San Diego an Ideal Home for Your Business?

Moderator Randy Frisch addresses a packed room at the Forum

Six private sector executives told 300 forum participants about their experiences doing business in San Diego. The panel was part of the 2013 Regional Economic Development Forum sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric, Wells Fargo and the Morgan Family Foundation. San Diego’s regional forum is the first of 15 forums gathering input that will culminate in the California Economic Summit in Los Angeles in November 2013.  Broad questions touching on successes, challenges and the ubiquitous Why San Diego? brought mostly positives from the panelists. Bottom line: we need more of what we’ve got – more talent, more capital, more support for entrepreneurship. The only thing we need less of is regulation – actually the panelists’ companies are willing to comply with regulations – but they uniformly called for better coordination among regulators.

 

Craig Bartels, vice president of technology for Hydranautics, described how his company has to keep changing and reinventing, citing that 30 – 40 percent of their sales are from products introduced within the last three years. San Diego has the talent and the know-how to innovate so Hydranautics can stay on the leading edge of their industry, which is providing technology for reverse osmosis water treatment.

Joseph Mahler is CFO of Synthetic Genomics, a company using genomics to create sustainability for food and fuel. The company is currently focused on algae biofuels. Mahler calls it “intellectual capital,” and says San Diego has what it takes to anchor a core in genomics and that we should focus on leveraging the talent here to build capacity in the industry.

Panelist from a diverse range of businesses discuss why they chose San Diego

Brick Nelson is the corporate lead executive for Northrop Grumman Corporation in San Diego.  As someone who was transferred to San Diego, with peers around the country in similar positions, he said that San Diego has no equal in the country in terms of partnerships and the spirit of collaboration. Nelson reiterated the need for “smart, young folks,” and mentioned STEM education as very important in an industry where many employees will soon be aging out of the workforce.

Matt Raine, executive vice president of business development at Evolution Hospitality, brought the perspective of the tourism industry to the panel. His company provides hotel management services to a range of hotel properties, including 10 in San Diego. Raine described the three pillars of San Diego’s tourism industry as groups, leisure and government business. However, one area where San Diego trails other major cities is the number of individual business travelers. He stressed the importance of marketing the destination.

Don Rockwell is the CEO of Aqua Lung International, a company that develops, manufactures and distributes sports and defense equipment. Rockwell described San Diego as a hub for dive companies – even the industry association is located in San Diego. When asked what San Diego can do for his business, he mentioned water quality as a concern.

Tom Tullie, president and CEO of ecoATM, talked candidly about the challenges of raising capital from local sources. While he thinks San Diego has a good angel community, entrepreneurs must still look outside San Diego to raise significant venture money. His company, which provides automated, self-serve kiosks for recycling electronics, has benefited from the support network provided by CommNexus and their incubator EvoNexus, and CONNECT.

Check out the complete briefing book from the forum that gives an overview of regional priorities and continue to join the conversation on twitter #Caeconomy