San Diego’s telecom industry is on the upswing once again, reflecting an overall growth in high-tech jobs both here and across the nation, according to two recent reports.
On the local level, the number of jobs involving telecommunications, including those connected to wireless gaming, software and computers, was estimated at 40,000 by the San Diego Telecom Council.
This figure was well above the 2004 employment figure of 29,400 jobs provided by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, but there are good reasons for the discrepancy.
Julia Wilson, the Telecom Council’s chief executive, said based on a survey of local executives last year, the impact of communications is much larger than what official numbers show.
“If you include numbers from industry segments that are now contributing to communications technology in the broader sense, such as semiconductors and software applications for wireless devices, we estimate the local communications industry represents more than 40,000 employees,” she said.
Many companies, including some of the world’s largest wireless companies such as Motorola, Nokia and LG Infocomm, are all seeking experienced engineers and managers, she said.
“All our top sponsors are looking for seasoned engineers with 10 to 15 years’ experience,” Wilson said. “If you’re a seasoned engineer, you have your choice of jobs in San Diego.”
In a related report by AeA, formerly called the American Electronics Association and the nation’s largest trade association for the high-tech industry, stated for an 18-month span between January 2004 and June 2005, the industry created 190,000 new jobs, bringing the total to 5.72 million. The increase represented a 3.4 percent rise over the comparable time, the report said.
“While industry growth is by no means explosive, the rise in high-tech jobs has been steady and we find it encouraging that even tech manufacturing experienced a small increase,” said William Archey, the chief executive for the AeA.
San Diego AeA President Kevin Carroll said job growth in local high-tech has been slowly gaining momentum for much of this year.
“Things are heating up and we’re finally seeing job demand catching up with the growth of the technology sector,” he said.
Other local high-tech sources could not verify the Telecom Council’s estimated employment figure, but said anecdotal evidence underscores an apparent surge in firms increasing their payrolls.
“I was at a recent meeting where a Qualcomm representative said that they would hire 2,000 people this year. That’s a lot of people,” said Andrea Moser, vice president of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit that aims to attract and retain businesses here.
Although many tech firms are boosting payrolls, the surge is nothing like what took place in the late 1990s, Moser said.
“It’s an overall positive outlook,” she said. “This means we have reversed declines that we had from about 2001 to 2003.”
Another piece of evidence that local tech firms are expanding is a rise in leased office space.
“Since the beginning of this year, the real estate market activity among high-tech users has increased significantly,” said Bill Bacon, senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis, a Los Angeles-based real estate service firm with local offices.
Most of this activity is occurring north of state Route 52 up to Carlsbad, and includes firms that are relocating to larger offices, those that are expanding their space, and those that are moving into better appointed offices, said Bacon.