Downtown at night
The rise of the innovation economy in San Diego has created wealth and opportunity across the region while contributing to a widening of economic inequality. Photo by Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons

Access to higher education for the city’s fastest-growing ethnic group, lower average wages paid by small business and a major lack of affordable housing are among the issues negatively affecting the region’s economic growth potential identified in a report released Thursday by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation.

The rise of the innovation economy in San Diego has created wealth and opportunity across the region while contributing to a widening of economic inequality. If the region does not act to address these concerns, it will lose employees and employers to other areas, according to the report on economic inclusion commissioned by the EDC.

Among the report’s findings are that one million residents are struggling to afford to live in the area; that small businesses, which make up 98 percent of San Diego firms, pay up to 20 percent lower average wages than larger companies; and that 85 percent of Hispanics do not hold a bachelors degree. Hispanics are set to become the region’s largest demographic by 2030.

From those findings come three goals: close the minority achievement gap, equip small businesses to compete and address the affordability crisis. A committee of 40 local employers will now meet to create an action plan to meet those goals.

Among those represented are  Northrop Grumman, Solar Turbines, Sempra, Thermo Fisher Scientific and the San Diego Padres.

“Despite record-low unemployment and a renowned innovation ecosystem, San Diego has an inclusion problem that cannot be ignored,” said Mark Cafferty, president and chief executive of the EDC. “Small businesses cannot compete with larger corporations, while one million people cannot afford to live here. This initiative is a call to action for San Diego’s employers — we must come together to bridge the gaps in our economy.”

The report was issued after San Diego’s participation in the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program learning lab last year.

–City News Service