San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix swap more than tourists.

From 2007 to 2011, the metro areas exchanged about 350 businesses and more than half landed in San Diego, according to a Voice of San Diego analysis of a database tracking millions of business moves in and out of California.

The San Diego region gained a net 185 new companies from across the country from 2007 to 2011, the most recent five years of available data collected by Denver-based economic development consultant Donald Walls.

Here’s a map that shows the top five sources of those new businesses.


San Diego’s clearly drawing companies from regions on the other side of the country but exchanges with Phoenix are more frequent – and it’s been that way for more than 20 years.

I’m continuing to crunch numbers to reveal which kinds of firms from all metropolitan areas were most likely to move here, but I’m particularly interested in unpacking what’s driving the Phoenix and Las Vegas transfers to San Diego.

OK, you might ask, what about all those companies moving elsewhere?


This map shows Phoenix, Las Vegas and Seattle were more frequent destinations for San Diego businesses from 2007 to 2011.

Fewer San Diego companies headed to Dallas or Austin, two places that have made headlines for luring several Southern California companies in more recent years.

Phoenicians’ efforts to attract California companies have gotten less attention than Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s media blitzes but they’ve continued. In late 2012, for example, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council launched a campaign to appeal to California companies.

Still, San Diego has experienced a net gain in businesses from that region when you compare the number of companies that have moved here with those that have headed to Arizona’s biggest metro area.

Here’s a review of how San Diego fared in business gains and losses from 2007 to 2011 compared to other metro areas where business frequently come and go.

These recent numbers seem encouraging, though we don’t know what happened in 2012 or 2013. But over the more than 20 years the database tracks, San Diego actually lost more businesses than it gained. So even with all of the hullabaloo over the region losing business now, another period was much worse. I plan to look into when that happened and why.

I also hope to get a better handle on more recent moves and whether Texas cities are now luring more San Diego companies in coming weeks. I’m interested in your observations too. Do you know of any business owners who moved their companies to Phoenix, or who decided to take their Las Vegas business to the San Diego region? Please leave a comment below or email me at

This is part of our quest digging into the difficulties – real or perceived – of doing business in San Diego. Check out the previous story in our series, What San Diego CEOs Say as They Leave Town – or Threaten to, and the next, The State That Lands the Most Departing SD Businesses? That’d Be California.

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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