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Market Assessment Developed by UC San Diego Students Positions Region to Boost Exports

350 area companies participate to help form Brookings-backed plan


  • Christine Clark

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  • Christine Clark

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A recently released analysis, conducted and designed by students at the University of California, San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS), reveals San Diego’s competitive strengths and opportunities to increase global competitiveness through exports of goods and services. The analysis will serve as the foundation for a regional export plan to drive economic growth and job creation, part of a Brookings Institution initiative. San Diego is part of a select group of cities nationwide to lead this effort.

The Washington-based public policy organization, the Brookings Institution selected San Diego as one of only eight U.S. cities to participate in a national initiative to pioneer new strategies that boost exports and global economic competitiveness.

More than 350 regional companies — the highest number of companies to participate of all cities selected by Brookings — completed the in-depth survey designed by IR/PS graduate students Ross Bixler and Michael Buesa. The survey gauged current export activity, export-related challenges, and the infrastructure and policy measures needed to support growing the region’s international business interests.

“I am pleased graduate students at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies have played a crucial role in this market assessment research for our region,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Their work exemplifies the myriad ways our university has a positive impact on our region and demonstrates our dedication to providing practical field experience beyond the classroom.”

According to IR/PS dean Peter Cowhey, exports are an expanding share of the American economy and it is a sector potential for growth and good jobs. “It is alarming that San Diego punches below its weight in exporting. San Diego is the 17th largest metropolitan economy in the U.S., but we rank 55th when examining exports as a share of our regional economic output,” said Cowhey. “While other metropolitan regions have stepped up their export game, San Diego’s economy has become less export oriented since 2001. Now we have an opportunity to reverse that trend.”

Marek Gootman, director of strategic partnerships at Brookings, said “San Diego’s economy is driven by innovative businesses and industry sectors with enormous untapped potential in the global marketplace. We chose to work with San Diego because of our confidence in its economic development approach and strong leadership.”

Gootman added that the analysis that UC San Diego students did is a national model for how to undertake export self-assessments, and clearly defines where regional partners need to take action.

Regional infrastructure is one area that needs to be improved, according to the analysis. The survey found the three areas that need the most improvement are the airport, port and cyber infrastructure.

Small and Mid-Size Enterprises (SMEs) — which included 85 percent of respondents — served as a cornerstone of the report. Analysis revealed that they offer enormous untapped growth potential for the regional economy, which is on par with national data received from Brookings.

The analysis also found there is a need for San Diego to establish more of a presence in countries around the world. According to the companies involved, Asia represented the largest future market for San Diego (41 percent of respondents indicated the region as a priority), with Latin America (22 percent), and Europe (20 percent) trailing as the second and third priority regions, respectively.

“A world class region needs a world class export plan,” said Mark Cafferty, president and chief executive officer of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC). “With the collaboration of many groups, we are synthesizing the strengths of our Port, border and innovation economy to build a solid foundation to create more jobs.”

For more information on the San Diego Metropolitan Export Initiative, go to:

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