This is third part of a series of questions about San Diego’s economy we’re asking economic leaders who will be a part of the 2010 Workforce Summit.

Part one asked the question, “What have we been doing wrong?

Part two asked the question, “How does San Diego’s economy differ?

The third question:

What are we incubating right now that might come to fruition later? What’s already underway that shows promise? Or what’s just around the corner that might put us in a strong position?

Mark Cafferty, president and chief executive officer, San Diego Workforce Partnership:

We hope to find out at the 2010 Workforce Summit. Despite the significant challenges in front of us, new businesses, new technologies, new innovation and new occupations are beginning to set the guideposts for economic recovery.

Emerging careers and occupations at the nexus of healthcare and information technology could drive the growth of a critical new sector of the American economy, and once again, San Diego is poised to be at the forefront of this movement. The promise of green jobs and the development of a Clean Tech cluster within our region could create significant new employment opportunities at virtually all skill levels.

Creative ideas for fostering job creation and economic growth are out there. The summit will call attention to these solutions. Dr. Robert Reich will be giving the opening keynote address to jumpstart this critical debate within the San Diego region.

Cecilia Estolano, chief strategist of Green for All:

San Diego’s algal biofuel technology shows immense promise. In contrast to conventional biofuels, algae produces an oil-like product, requires less land, water, and agricultural input, and stores more CO2. It’s the kind of technological breakthrough that can change transportation worldwide, and it is being developed right here.

There are over thirty algae startups in the San Diego area, providing more than 400 jobs and $55 million in direct economic activity. Companies like Sapphire Energy and Synthetic Genomics are attracting capital, creating jobs, and providing environmental benefits for the region, while academic institutions such as Scripps Institute of Oceanography are producing numerous technological breakthroughs in algae diversity, cultivation, and processing.

The development of this technology will not just affect San Diego, but the Imperial Valley. This is a region with strong agricultural roots, that can take part in the growth of the algae industry to obtain well paying, career pathway jobs that directly contribute to environmental remediation. It’s the kind of win-win-win that the San Diego region’s ingenuity can make feasible within the next decade.

Len Hering, vice president for business services and administration, University of San Diego:

There is so much potential here in San Diego. We have a tremendous city, unquestionable weather, world class attractions, fabulous people, incredible diversity, and expanding economic prowess. But what we also have is a tremendously undervalued port, misguided urban development strategy, failing infrastructure, decreasing service levels, budget shortfalls, water and energy issues and shortsighted success options.

The question is do we have the will to pull it all together? Can we considerably streamline services and save taxpayers real money? Can we formulate a comprehensive plan that pulls together all of those above stated attributes? Can we put aside past practices that focus more on greed and ultimately force developers and industry to go elsewhere?

Mohit Kaushal, executive vice president, West Wireless Health Institute:

What WWHI proposes to move forward is helping San Diego become known as the global center of health care innovation by advocating, declaring and discussing San Diego’s leading role in developing health care innovations like wireless health. It is not enough to have San Diego be “America’s Finest City.” It is time we catalyze the talent in the community to solve the one of the biggest problems facing our country (unsustainable health care costs).

Mary Walshok, associate vice chancellor of extended studies and public programs, University of California, San Diego:

The future is bright for the San Diego region.

We are making enormous gains in at least three areas that have promise for business startups and job creation:

  • wireless applications in the health field and everything related to health information technology
  • clean, renewable energy, particularly the exciting developments happening in biofuels
  • stem cell technologies and other cutting-edge research areas that affect the future of pharmaceuticals and health care intervention.

In addition to an extraordinary R&D infrastructure, San Diego has programs that are working to assure we grow successful companies. Plus, San Diego has a very nimble Workforce Partnership, which is interested in learning about future directions and not just immediate community job needs, and a higher education system that is responsive to regional needs in terms of the needed degree programs and lifelong learning opportunities. This combination, in my opinion, is a recipe for success moving forward.


The San Diego Workforce Partnership Workforce Summit takes place at the Irwin M. Jacobs Qualcomm Hall on Thursday, November 18, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. A breakfast will be followed by a keynote address by Robert Reich, former United States Secretary of Labor and current professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

Edited by Grant Barrett, engagement editor for Drop him a line at, call him at (619) 550-5666, and follow him on Twitter @grantbarrett.

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