By Glen Van Peski
Community & Economic Development Director
City of Carlsbad
Many of us who live and work in the City of Carlsbad know our community as a vibrant place populated by inventive people who convert original ideas into thriving businesses. And now the rest of the world is catching on to our secret, as national media and others are recognizing the city and business community for our entrepreneurial spirit.
The City of Carlsbad Economic Development staff has, over the past several years, emphasized helping our local industries to attract and retain talent, and in 2014 launched the Carlsbad Life In Action® brand and website, which stresses the benefits of living and working in Carlsbad.
It’s little wonder that this promotion has taken root, as demonstrated by a recent article in the nationally distributed Men’s Journal, which named Carlsbad as one of its “Best Places to Live” in 2016. The article cited several Carlsbad companies, pointing out that local firms take advantage of an ideal climate and oceanfront location to encourage their employees to interweave work and play.
“At ViaSat, a telecom outfit with 2,000 local employees, you’ll find basketball and volleyball courts — and wetsuits hanging out to dry,” the Men’s Journal article said, adding that ViaSat is one of many businesses where employees customize their work hours around recreational pursuits.
“‘I usually ride my bike to work,’” the article quoted Andy Parr, a manufacturing manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific. “‘If I have enough time, I’ll take the long way, which makes it a 10-mile route that goes past Batiquitos Lagoon, up a few good hills, and then to our campus, where we have a gym and showers.’”
Carlsbad is home to several industry clusters that rely on innovation and technical aptitude to remain competitive, including life sciences, information and communication technology, action sports, and high-tech/clean-tech. Employees in these industries also command high salaries, making them attractive to young, upcoming talent.
The city has undertaken two recent ventures to stimulate local business and attract and retain talent. The city launched a life sciences incubator in a city-owned building in 2013, to provide laboratory space for scientists to conduct research, with the aim of launching new businesses. And in 2015, the city partnered with MiraCosta College to open an expanded Technology Career Institute in a city-owned building, where the college trains workers as industrial technicians, a much needed skill in North San Diego County.
These factors combine to foster creativity, as reflected in the most recent CONNECT Innovation Report, which evaluates the San Diego region’s innovation economy. Carlsbad ranks high among California cities for innovation based on several metrics, according to the report.
In 2014 and 2015, for example, Carlsbad hosted 63 startups, the most of any city in the county outside San Diego city. And according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data, Carlsbad firms netted more than 650 patents in 2015 — 10 percent of the total issued countywide.
Coincidentally, San Diego County’s 6,500 patents ranked second only to Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, making San Diego the second-most innovative county in the state, and Carlsbad a significant contributor to that innovative spirit. Based on the number of patents issued per worker, Carlsbad averaged 12 patents for every 1,000 workers, compared with 3.6 patents per 1,000 workers in San Diego city, and 8 per 1,000 workers in San Francisco.
And while Carlsbad scores high in creativity, it doesn’t do so at the expense of livability, said the Huffington Post, which called Carlsbad “the anti-Silicon Valley, … a livable, workable city with world-class leading companies in multiple disciplines.” The HuffPost article singled out local companies for their retention rates, which “are so amazing as to be almost unbelievable.” The article also commended the City of Carlsbad’s efforts in helping local firms retain and recruit talent.
Those efforts were recognized by the League of California Cities magazine, Western City, which featured Carlsbad for its June 2016 cover story, “Carlsbad Focuses on Economic Opportunities in High-Tech Sectors.”
And recently the California Association of Local Economic Developers presented the city with two awards of merit, the first for the Bio, Tech and Beyond Startup Showcase, which promoted businesses in the city’s life sciences incubator; and the second for the city’s partnership with MiraCosta Community College to house the Technology Career Institute.
And Transforming Local Government’s Alliance for Innovation, which recognizes local governments that improve day-to-day government operations and implement creative business processes, honored the Technology Career Institute with an “Outstanding Achievement in Local Government Innovation Award.”
It’s now fair to say your city, our city, has made its mark as a center for innovation.