San Diego Business Journal

Think Tank Sees Room for Improvement in San Diego’s Exports

Thursday, May 16, 2013

San Diego should be doing much better in exporting goods and services, according to a recently released assessment of the region by the Brookings Institution.

The Washington, D.C- based liberal think tank conducted the assessment with the help of some 350 local businesses that were surveyed on export activity, infrastructure and other issues connected to international trade.

While San Diego is the nation’s 17th largest metropolitan economy, it ranks 55th in terms of the amount of exports as a share of total regional economic output, said Peter Cowhey, dean of UCSD’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.

“It’s alarming that San Diego punches so far below its weight in exports,” Cowhey said. “While other metropolitan regions have stepped up their export game, San Diego’s economy has become less export oriented since 2001. Now we have a real opportunity to reverse that trend.”

Among the findings of the assessment is that San Diego needs to improve its existing infrastructure to help expand its export trade. That includes its airport, port facilities and cyber infrastructure, the report said.

Speaking at a presentation of the assessment’s findings, Mayor Bob Filner said the city’s natural assets of a deep water harbor should support and grow an “aqua economy,” a combination of the blue maritime economy and green environmental economy.

“Exports mean jobs, good jobs and livable-wage jobs,” Filner said.

The report also found the region’s businesses need to establish a presence in other countries. Most surveyed said that Asia represented the largest future market followed by Latin America and Europe.

San Diego was one of eight U.S. cities selected by Brookings to conduct the assessment and strengthen the role that exports play in the national job growth strategy.

Using the assessment, regional agencies and organizations will complete a final plan to be released later that will include specific performance measures and resource commitments, according to a news statement.

— SDBJ Staff Report