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January 16, 2015

On Jan. 16, more than 300 people attended the 31st-annual San Diego County Economic Roundtable, hosted by the San Diego Workforce Partnership, the County of San Diego, the University of San Diego School of Business Administration, and U-T San Diego.

Held at the University of San Diego Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, the event focused on the San Diego County economic outlook in 2015 and beyond. A panel of experts covered the real estate market, startup environment and transportation projects, offering predictions and their perspective on what may be in store for San Diego County.

In the first session, Ryan Ratcliff, Associate Professor of Economics, USD School of Business Administration; Marney Cox, Chief Economist, SANDAG; and Mark Cafferty, President and CEO, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation discussed a look back at 2014 and overall outlook for the San Diego economy.

Ratcliff said it took San Diego’s GDP longer to recover from the Great Recession compared to the nation and we haven’t quite climbed out of the hole entirely. He pointed out that while our region outperformed the national picture in job growth, the labor force participation rate is the same as it was in 1983. “One of the great tragedies of the Great Recession is the dramatic non-participation of recent college graduates,” he said. Young adults graduating from our higher education system are not finding job opportunities.

Cox shared what he called “Unexpected Surprises in 2014,” which included volatile GDP and job growth yet stagnant wages, falling oil prices and falling interest rates. He predicted that 2015 would bring continued acceleration of the GDP growth except for wages, and in San Diego we will see an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent, the addition of 35,000 jobs and a median home price of $462,000.

Cafferty explained the connection between our vibrant tourism industry and the overall talent recruitment efforts that are important to all business sectors. He said that when people visit San Diego and see everything our region has to offer, they start to think about living and working here. We become more than a destination; we become a relocation possibility.

The second session highlighted three growing sectors in San Diego: real estate, transportation and startups.

Alex P. Beaton, Principal at Alex Beaton: Real Estate, emphasized the need for cities to encourage large and small developments in key areas of town and think beyond fixing streets. He called for cities to address public assets including the complete infrastructure. He forecasted that density will be key to regional growth, creating walkable communities that include both businesses and residences.

Jim Miller, Senior Regional Economist at SANDAG, said that the agency has $160 billion worth of transportation projects to build throughout the county. SANDAG held focus group meetings, which included priority sector representatives, to gain feedback and help shape the project plan. He said the message was clear—the current transportation system does not meet employers’ needs and the future projects will help address those concerns.

Gabriela Dow, a Partner at NV5/Plug and Play, said the startup community in San Diego is thriving despite a drop in venture capital dollars coming into the region. Back in 2012, the biggest complaint she heard from entrepreneurs centered on the lack of access to capital. Since then, many organizations, including Plug and Play, San Diego Venture Group, CONNECT, CyberHive and others, have ramped up working together to support and showcase the innovations coming out of our own backyard. In fact, Forbes ranked San Diego the #1 place in the nation to launch a business, a ranking that Dow said many have questioned but she fully believes is true.

Materials from the panelists’ presentations are available for download here.

Video of the Economic Roundtable is posted on the County News Center website. Click here to view.

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