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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Outlook Cautiously Upbeat at SDBJ’s 2022 Economic Trends Summit

More than 200 people attended the 2022 Economic Trends Summit, presented by the San Diego Business Journal and held Jan. 27 in La Jolla at the Hyatt Regency.

SDBJ Publisher Barb Chodos hosted the gathering and Mark Cafferty, CEO at the San Diego Regional EDC, moderated the two-hour event, which also included a panel discussion and presentations by key national and local business leaders.

This year’s keynote speaker, Michael Pugliese, VP and economist at Wells Fargo, addressed the gathering via big-screen video after being forced to cancel his trip from the East Coat to San Diego because of the Omicron surge.

“Just like the rest of the United States, San Diego is grappling with the Omicron wave,” Pugliese said at the onset of the event, which also included a breakfast.


Pugliese said the Omicron surge “disrupted the normalization process” that had begun after vaccines became widely available in 2021. Yet his overall outlook for 2022 was cautiously optimistic, colored in part by the fact that the Omicron surge appeared to be waning in late January.

After forecasting a “slower” Q1 because of Omicron, the Wells economist turned his attention to interest rates and predicted a total of seven rate hikes by the Federal Reserve over the next two years – four in 2022 and three in 2023.

Pugliese called the ongoing workforce shortage – the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ – the “No. 1” issue impacting both the U.S. and local San Diego economies. But Pugliese also pointed out “the labor market is recovering significantly faster in this recovery compared to the 2010s.”

Higher Inflation into 2023

“We expect inflation in the near term to steadily fade over the next year,” Pugliese added. Nonetheless, Pugliese forecast inflation will remain “above” the Fed’s target of 2% well into 2023.


Panelists at this year’s event included Joe Mishriki, regional banking director for the San Diego area for Wells Fargo; Juli Moran, San Diego Marketplace leader at Deloitte; Tracey Best, benefits practice group leader at C3 Risk & Insurance Services; Rebecca Rosen, director of field marketing at Cox Business; Alessandra Lezama, CEO at TOOTRiS; and DeLInda Forsythe, CEO at ICE and one of the area’s leading proponent’s of “conscious capitalism” movement.

During his short presentation, Joe Mishriki of Wells Fargo said the motto for 2022 is “be ready to pivot.” Mishriki encouraged the assembled business leaders to “leverage your resources” in 2022.

Juli Moran from Deloitte kicked off the panel discussion by reporting that inflation is “challenging” the San Diego business community.

“Business continuity planning is critical,” Moran said. “We really don’t know what going to happen” with ongoing supply chain issues and wages – as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alessandra Lezama of TOOTRiS, which offers an on-demand app for arranging childcare and just rolled out its services nationwide, said the importance of employers offering childcare as an employee benefit is increasingly important in today’s tight labor market.


COVID Fueled ‘She-cession’

Lezama said the U.S. was in the midst of what she called a “she-cession” – due to the number of female workers who’ve had to leave the workforce because of childcare issues caused by COVID.

“Without childcare, our economy is not going to be safe,” Lezama said. “Businesses are reinventing the way the attract and retain talent. The new normal is here.”

Rebecca Rosen from Cox noted that employee “wellness” is becoming an increasingly crucial issue in the age of COVID. As hybrid and work-at-home schedules become the new normal, Rosen added: “We’re getting more done but we’re also burning out more quickly.”


Noting that San Diego’s Housing Affordability index has been trending lower since the onset of COVID – with the median home price rising to $850,000 – Cafferty questioned whether “remote work and a continually rising cost of living” in San Diego might be driving talent away.

More than $5B in VC Funding in 2021

But in his concluding remarks, the CEO of the San Diego Regional EDC sounded upbeat about San Diego’s economic prospects and health going forward, using as one example the recent boom – more than $5 billion in 2021 – in VC funding coming into San Diego-based life sciences companies, a historic expansion that is also driving demand for new and refurbished lab space across San Diego.

Like other panelists at the summit, Cafferty acknowledged the tight labor market – “every industry is facing hiring difficulties” – but he also speculated that the “new normal” created by COVID may lead to an unanticipated surge in local startups and more individuals embracing entrepreneurial careers.

This year’s Economic Trends event was sponsored by C3, Cox, Conscious Capitalism, Deloitte, and San Diego Regional EDC, Kaiser Permanente, TOOTRiS and Wells Fargo.


All attendees also received a complimentary copy of the new Amazon bestseller “Inspiring Generational Leadership” by panelist DeLinda Forsythe.


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