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January 15, 2016

32nd Economic Roundtable panelists

Supervisor Ron Roberts

On January 14, approximately 400 people attended the 32nd Annual San Diego County Economic Roundtable at the University of San Diego (USD) Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice. Attendees heard a panel of experts from workforce development, real estate, innovation economy, and the craft beer/specialty beverage industry discuss the future of the economy in San Diego County.

The event, organized by the the County of San Diego, The San Diego Union-Tribune, the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) and the USD School of Business, opened with remarks by Chairman Ron Roberts, County of San Diego Board of Supervisors, District 4; Christina de Vaca, director of recruiting and admissions at USD School of Business; Jeff Light, editor at The San Diego Union Tribune; and Peter Callstrom, president and CEO of SDWP.

32nd Economic Roundtable

The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Diana McCabe, business editor, and Roger Showley, reporter on business growth and development, moderated the panel.

Marney Cox, chief economist for San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), observed that while San Diego is doing better than the nation in job growth and payroll with a net increase of 81,900 jobs in 2015 not all industries have recovered. Marney said roughly six low-paying jobs were created for each high-paying one from 1990 to 2011. These are the jobs where wages grow slowly and it has had an impact on the regional outlook. It was also a “disappointing year” for housing permits, with single-family units stalling, leading to a lack of supply in housing.

Ryan Ratcliff, associate professor of economics at USD School of Business, added that after the recession the country has been experiencing growth, but it is not a recovery, in contrast with the past, which had seen faster than average growth after a recession. He suggested that perhaps a two to three percent growth is the new normal.

Tina Ngo Bartel, director of business programs and research at SDWP, shed light on the true unemployment rate and what is being done to help the unemployed and underemployed. She explained that the U-6 unemployment rate is a better indicator of the economy, and while exact numbers are not available, prior years has shown the U-6 to be close to double the reported unemployment rate. In June 2015, the reported unemployment rate was 5%, while SDWP’s research team estimates that the actual rate was closer to 12%.

Ngo Bartel also explained the trend for “earn and learn” models such as internships, externships, apprenticeships, customized training and on-the-job training programs, some of which include a guaranteed paid position upon completion, as effective tools for training the detached workforce for in-demand jobs.

Cory Shepard, president of GREATER San Diego Association of Realtors, said that median home prices went up 6.5% in the past year and that the single digit increase is sustainable. He also said the low interest rates will make it favorable for millennials and new home buyers to buy property this year.

Navrina Singh, director of product management at Qualcomm, bemoaned the relatively low amount of venture capital funding for high tech sectors compared to biotech and life sciences sectors, which she predicted will affect economic growth for the region.

Marc M. Martin, vice president of beer at Karl Strauss Brewing Company, said that despite the slightly more mature craft beer market in California compared to the rest of the country, there is still a lot of “runway” for growth, pointing out that on average about one and a half breweries open every day in the county. With over 115 craft brewers in San Diego, the craft brew industry created 6,203 jobs in the region in 2015. Martin credited the craft beer growth to a simple consumer behavior – people drink beer in good times and in bad.

The conclusion?

“Invest in beer,” he advised.

See additional coverage by Philip Molnar for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Michelle Nash-Hoff.

Download materials from the panelists’ presentations here.

Click here to view the video of the Economic Roundtable on the County News Center website.

Photo of Supervisor Ron Roberts by Salvatore Giametta. All other photos by Wilda Wong.

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