The Next Big Industries in San Diego
Where will the big bucks be? We asked local experts to forecast San Diego’s future.
Thanks to the passing of Prop 64 in 2016, the cannabis industry is growing at breakneck speed with huge job opportunities—but not in the way most people think. “There’s a strong demand for standard corporate positions, many that never touch cannabis—HR personnel, bookkeepers, marketing directors, software technicians,” says Alex Scherer, president of San Ysidro’s Southwest Patient Group dispensary. “I’m especially excited about the developments in the medicine and science of cannabis.” San Diego is the first—and so far, only—city in the county to permit all steps of a local cannabis supply chain, from cultivation to testing to retail.
The employment rate in cybersecurity is expected to grow by 13 percent in the next year, compared to just 2 percent overall regional job growth. New positions are being created, like chief information security officer, which takes cybersecurity risks into account when making business decisions. Both Illumina and Qualcomm have one. USD offers a Master of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership. “There is so much concern these days about hacking, whether it’s the electoral process, state secrets, or financial information,” says Alan Gin, Associate Professor of Economics at USD. “The threats will be around for a long time.”
A major sector of a blue (read: ocean) economy is blue tech—think maritime robotics, desalination facilities, and wave energy. “We’re a city born in and around the bay with a large influence from the US Navy and traditional maritime, like fishing and shipbuilding—that’s what makes the ecosystem in San Diego so strong for blue tech,” says Greg Murphy, executive director of The Maritime Alliance. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the global value of blue economies was $1.5 trillion in 2010 and will grow to $3 trillion in 2030. Look for jobs in offshore renewable energy and in aquaculture, the farming of seafood in natural waters.
Health Care & Genomics
The county demographic expected to grow the most between now and 2050 is the over-65 set, and our median age will increase from 35.7 to 38.9. So it’s no surprise health care is booming. The industry is moving toward precision medicine, in which docs make decisions based on a patient’s genetic makeup. San Diego may be a leader in genomic research, but “we have a huge undersupply of genetic counselors,” says Kirby Brady, research director at the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. With sequenced genomes come data sets that need to be interpreted. Brady says those looking to join the field should focus on hard sciences like biology.
Clean technology companies—like Primo Wind or Sullivan Solar Power—hone in on sustainable innovations that help preserve resources like energy and water while saving money, stimulating the economy, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There are more than 3,000 clean tech businesses in the region, up from just 125 in 2007, comprising 38,000 jobs and an economic output of $6.8 billion. The solar market alone accounts for 8,400 jobs in everything from IT and engineering to construction. “We’re seeing a lot of growth and interest in the energy storage and smart cities industries,” says Shannon Casey, vice president of Cleantech San Diego, a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable initiatives.
In 2017, the United States Chamber of Commerce lobbying group ranked San Diego the fourth-best city in the nation for launching startups, after Boston, San Francisco (the Bay Area), and Philly—up from fifth in 2016. The report explains that San Diego saw overall growth in access to capital and connectivity, the latter defined as support, engagement, and collaboration with the community, civic leaders, businesses, etc. Investment in next-wave startups totaled $4.4 billion. “San Diego has the benefit of being located very close to the Bay Area, so there’s a lot of venture capital that flows down here,” says Brady. Amazon, when should we expect you?