A Tale of Two Local Economies
Speaker 1: 00:00 As we mentioned earlier in the show, San Diego's restaurants and hotels are now allowed a partial reopening because the state stay at home order has been lifted. But the outlook for San Diego's huge hospitality industry this year is still uncertain. Meanwhile, the number of high tech hubs and developments are increasing across the County. Some see the rise in tech and the slump in hospitality as a trend that could shift the economy of San Diego. Joining me is reporter Rameen Scubba, he's writing for voice of San Diego, and Rameen welcome to the program. Thank you for having me on, can you remind us about the impact of the pandemic on the tourism and hospitality industry in San Diego? I believe you call it a collapse. Speaker 2: 00:46 Yeah, it's, it's been rough. I mean, it's one of the biggest sectors of our economy and there are a lot of jobs associated with it, you know, with, uh, hotels with the convention center. I mean, you know, with Comicon going virtual, uh, and just like every other event over the past year, you know, it's, it's been tough for a lot of people. Speaker 1: 01:03 The same time plans have been moving forward to create a number of high tech hubs in San Diego. And they're, they're not just in the North County anymore. Speaker 2: 01:12 That's right. They're moving downtown and it's a bigger trend than I even realized. There's a Horton Plaza downtown. There's the new big waterfront site. Uh, UC San Diego extension is going to be nearby downtown and there. And there's a possibility for even a, another, another place near Petco park. Speaker 1: 01:30 I think San Diegans are very familiar with the old Horton Plaza. What's the new Horton Plaza. Speaker 2: 01:35 It looks like it'll be a pretty large complex. And, uh, it may be, it looks like you're potentially even bigger than what was there before. And they're saying that there could be as many as 4,000 employees there and which, which is a lot. And at the waterfront, they're saying it's going to be an eight acre site and a along Harbor drive. And that also could be 4,000 permit jobs too. So, so this, this could be a large number of jobs coming with these sites. Speaker 1: 02:00 Now, are these startups or are they established tech companies moving here? Speaker 2: 02:05 Well, from what we can tell it's, it's both, but there's definitely been a lot of money going into startups as well, even during the pandemic. So it's not like it's slowed down during the pandemic. So just as these, uh, new hubs that are popping up, there's also a bunch of startups getting money or, or, or even, you know, popping up on their own as well. And so it's, it's not clear exactly which firms are going to be at, which site is too early to know that. But, um, from what we can tell, you know, there'll be a lot of, a lot of these San Diego companies, as well as even some from LA and the Bay area coming here too. Speaker 1: 02:35 Okay. So why is San Diego becoming attractive to the high tech industry? Speaker 2: 02:40 That's a good question. I think it's partly because, you know, there's a lot of, you know, there's a lot of potential workers in these places. Um, also the cost of living is, I mean, it seems high here, but it's actually slightly less high. Uh, it's not as high compared to San Francisco. And so that's part of it Speaker 1: 02:55 Moving again, back to the tourism and hospitality sector that has been, as you mentioned, I've been a mainstay of the San Diego economy. What are the prospects for like big conventions and tourism to bounce back this year? Speaker 2: 03:10 The reporting I've done, it seems like there's a good chance that it will get eventually get back close to normal. But the question is, you know, how long that will take. And so if the pandemic lasts, you know, if we're able to get, get people back to work and reopen more in the next few months, then things could get back to normal, you know, fairly quickly, you know, Comicon could video a live event this year and, you know, there's a bunch of other conferences that people would love to have live again. But if it lasts all year and we can't be meeting with a large number of people in person until next year, then it will be a lot tougher. So, and, and it's, it's possible, you know, it, it might not get back to normal if, if this lasts, you know, another year, but it's, it's, it's hard to tell. Speaker 1: 03:49 Yeah, you spoke to the head of Comicon and it sounded like from that conversation, if you can tell us about it, that he was really concerned that if it's a virtual event, if it has to be a virtual event again, this year, it might be hard to, to make it a normal event in, in the followup. Speaker 2: 04:06 I did speak with them and Comic-Con like with other big conventions, you know, that they get income from one event and they can use that as a, for their budget for the next event. But, you know, you can't get much income from a virtual event, comparatively, even, even for something as popular as comic con. And so I'd imagine that it will be tough for next year, if they have to go virtual again, Speaker 1: 04:25 Was the switch from a tourism based economy to a high-tech economy. Something that seems likely to continue here. Speaker 2: 04:32 I'm not sure if we'll see a switch, but I do think we'll see, you know, there's definitely a rise in tech. And so that is definitely a trend that's happening. Uh, the question is, you know, whether it might supplant the hospitality and tourism sectors as, you know, top industries in the area and, and that remains to be seen. So I think we, we could just have sort of two really huge economies in the area and hospitality, uh, will just not be as dominant as before Speaker 1: 04:56 If high-tech does continue to surge though, there's a big difference in the type of skills required by high tech and life sciences, and then in most hospitality work. So is there any idea how San Diego's workforce might transition? Speaker 2: 05:10 That's difficult because you know, only a limited number of people have those skills needed for a tech jobs, as well as, you know, biotech and life sciences, because there's a wide range of firms that are growing here, but that's part of where I think UC San Diego extension is trying to position itself is to help train, train, or retrain workers and provide more education. And so I I'd imagined there may even be potentially people who used to work in the hospitality industry, maybe saying, you know, I don't want to be a manager at this hotel anymore. I want to try, you know, working at this other place and they might get the training that they need and make the transition. So if, if the shift is as big as it could be, then there could be a lot of, lot of workers who are looking to, you know, pivot into new jobs. Speaker 1: 05:54 I've been speaking with a reporter Rameen, Scubba, his can be found in voice of San Diego and Rameen. Thank you. Thank you. Speaker 3: 06:08 [inaudible].