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North County Economic Development Council Holds First Summit

The North County Economic Development Council convened its first economic summit Wednesday in Carlsbad.

The North County Economic Development Council held its first Economic Summit to focus on attracting more jobs to the region.

Speaking to a packed hall of about 300 North County leaders, Josh Williams of BW Research described the region as stronger economically than some states.

Photo by Alison St John

About 300 people attended the first North County Economic Development Council Summit in Carlsbad on March 5, 2014.

“If we took North County and made it its own state,” he said, “it would have a higher gross domestic product or gross regional product than Vermont, Wyoming, Montana, more than Maine, at about $54 billion a year.“

But, Williams said, the region has its challenges.

“North County was hit harder and has recovered slower than either San Diego County, California or the United States as a whole, from the great recession.“

In 2010, Williams said, North County lost almost 8 percent of its jobs and the region is still almost 3 percent below 2007 employment levels. That is partly due to the steep drop off in construction and manufacturing.

High housing costs mean many homeowners and renters pay 40 percent of their income on housing. Plus, high tech companies can’t find enough people with the education to take their high paying jobs.

Simon Kuo of ViaSat said his company is looking for people who can adapt to rapid change. He said Cal State University San Marcos has a key role in training the North County workforce of the future.

Mark Vitner, a Wells Fargo Securities senior economist, responded to a question about why banks are not supporting small businesses more. He described how, after the housing bubble burst, investors moved in and bought up property, but the income levels of people living in the areas never rose high enough to be able to afford those homes.

“That short circuited the housing recovery,” Vitner said.

On the bright side, North County produced 40 percent of all the patents produced in the San Diego region. A strong group of industry clusters include biotech, biomed and clean tech companies, as well as sporting goods and tourism.

More than half the businesses surveyed said they find North County a good place to do business, compared to just one third of businesses who say California has a good business climate.

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