Scientists at work at San Diego life sciences company. Courtesy CONNECT.org

By Barbara Bry

A recent study by the University of Southern California seriously questioned San Diego’s future potential for growth. Among the reasons given were “economic and racial disparity.”

Additional reports have also questioned San Diego’s educational progress and cite the city’s low math, science and graduation statistics.

To avoid a “Tale of Two Cities” scenario, we need a plan to develop better-paying high-tech jobs accessible to those currently shut out of our innovation economy.

That plan should involve introducing our youth to the high-tech world and start cultivating their talent.

Barbara Bry

This December, there is a global movement called the Hour of Code that offers anyone, anywhere, one-hour coding tutorials (available in over 30 languages) with no experience necessary and no age limits. Anyone can organize that “Hour” in their community.

We can expand existing partnerships with UC San Diego and local tech companies and seek donations or loans of computers for any student wishing to participate. This is a fun, crowd-sourced global learning experience.

More young San Diegans should be joining the tens of millions of students around the world spending an hour writing code during Computer Science Education Week  so that they start preparing for those high-paying science and engineering jobs of our “smart” future.

Some estimates of average annual salaries for these jobs are near $115,000—more than double the non-innovation, non-tech average of $48,650, according to data from CONNECT.

Next, I propose the establishment of a “Coding Academy” in San Diego’s underserved neighborhoods—complete with a robust loan and scholarship program open to everyone eager to learn.

In addition, given our city’s reputation as an innovation leader, we should focus on recruiting a top tech company like Google or Facebook to open a major facility south of Interstate 8, where land and rental space are more affordable. This company could anchor an entrepreneurship ecosystem, fostering development of retail, housing, and other commerce. We need to herald San Diego as the “smart city” it is, and secure our future as a destination for innovation.

Lastly, we should encourage CONNECT to establish a downtown (or south of downtown) for-profit accelerator that provides seed capital to start-ups using the YCombinator or TechStars model. CONNECT has been helping to launch high-tech and life science companies for 30 years by linking entrepreneurs with the resources they need for success.

Over the last 30 years, I have seen the innovation economy grow exponentially. However, as the USC study finds, some of our residents have been left behind in this boom. To ensure that all of our companies continue to thrive, we need to increase access to training, resources, and jobs throughout the city, to create a world-class, diverse workforce.


Barbara Bry was co-founder of one of the first software companies to locate in downtown San Diego, Atcom/Info, which developed early versions of the software that provides Internet access in public places. She was also on the founding team of ProFlowers.com, a pioneering ecommerce company based in San Diego. Additionally, she served as the first associate director of CONNECT, and she is the founder of Athena San Diego, the leading organization for women in the San Diego tech and life science community. Currently she is a candidate for San Diego City Council District 1.