San Diego Business Journal

Assisting businesses during the challenges of COVID-19 and working to help build a stronger economy as the San Diego region begins its recovery has become the core mission of area economic development organizations.

These organizations have been and continue to be in high gear to make sure businesses understand just what the stakes are and what each can do for them.

Partnerships

“Our EDC’s work has always relied on strong regional partnerships with businesses, organizations and public entities, and this collaboration has only become more crucial during COVID-19,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. “With investment from nearly 200 companies, public agencies and private organizations, the San Diego Regional EDC works to maximize San Diego’s economic competitiveness and regional prosperity.”

The San Diego North Economic Development Council sees its organization as a “connector” between leaders and a repository of resources to help solve challenges and help businesses thrive.

“Early on during COVID-19 we pivoted to ensure that small businesses throughout North County kept up on various programs and grants available to them and helped them navigate through the confusing maze of programs. We thought it was important to create resources to enable others to pass on information because we knew that we couldn’t reach everyone nor have the bandwidth to monopolize relationships,” said Erik Bruvold, San Diego North EDC CEO.

The South County Economic Development Council has also worked to meet area business needs and is refocusing its resources to ensure the organization provides the best possible information through the most digestible mediums.

“The pandemic made us look at the technology we had at our disposal and how it could best be utilized to impact businesses and residents in South County. In the last six months we have invested in bringing on a new website, automating the delivery of information, created digital gathering places, and enhanced communications platforms,” said James O’Callaghan, president and CEO of the South County EDC. “These investments, while tremendous for businesses today, will serve as the basis for enhanced tools moving forward.”

Resilient and Inclusive

Each of the area’s EDCs sees a strong recovery as key in growing the region’s economy to be more resilient and inclusive.

“From the years following the Great Depression to those following the Great Recession, every recovery that the American economy has experienced has increased systemic poverty and widened inequalities in Black and Latino communities. An economy where opportunity reaches more people is a more competitive one, so the stakes could not be higher that we get this recovery right,” said Cafferty.

Optimism is strong among the EDC leadership. COVID-19 forced many organizations to step back, refocusing on their core principles, leveraging expertise and providing vital information.

“Economic development is at its heart, the promotion of a region to outside audiences, creative problem solving to help existing businesses grow and connecting educators and employers all with the purpose of creating greater prosperity to be enjoyed by all a region’s residents. It is these three pillars that drive our mission and keep us focused,” said Bruvold.

As the region recovers, communities are going to be challenged to create a more equitable solution to a forward path and the San Diego region needs dynamic resources that all can use. The EDCs see this as essential to move forward.

“Economic development will be at the core of what brings us back to normalcy. There will be people who left jobs last year unable to return to the career path they were on. Businesses will have to shift their focus from what they had been doing to what they will be doing. Communities are going to be challenged,” said O’Callaghan. “And we will be engaged every step of the way.”