Sports and active lifestyle businesses driving San Diego economy

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

(photo credit: The City Project)

With year-round sunshine and picture-perfect beaches readily available, many San Diegans enjoy an active lifestyle. In fact, it’s the reason major golf manufacturers like TaylorMade and Callaway call the southern California city home.

Economic developers from that region had an inkling that the sports and active lifestyle (SAL) cluster contributed significantly to the economy, but it wasn’t until a recent study was finished that they had hard evidence of that impact.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership, with the help of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and San Diego Sport Innovators conducted the first ever report of the SAL cluster (PDF).

The results are mind-blowing. The study says the economic impact of the SAL cluster is just like hosting four Super Bowls a year! The impact, looking at direct and indirect suppliers, adds up to $2.24 billion each year.

“With the release of this study, we have concrete data to talk about a growing industry that is an important part of San Diego’s story,” said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of San Diego Regional Economic Corporation. “As home to the second highest concentration of sports and active lifestyle workers in the U.S., this economic driver has an important place in the region’s innovation economy.”

“San Diego is every sports and active lifestyle company’s ideal location,” said Lisa Freedman, executive director of SD Sport Innovators. “While there are other important and larger verticals in San Diego, the sports and active lifestyle cluster is a very strong community where authenticity goes hand-in-hand with innovation. As a result, people around the globe not only purchase and use, but they also rely on products developed and manufactured right here in Southern California.”

There are more than 1,200 businesses with about 23,000 employees in the SAL cluster. From 2012-2013, the employment in this cluster outpaced the entire region.

“There were some projections that the County employment will grow around two percent for a little while, but sports and active lifestyle businesses are expected to grow three to five percent,” said Michael Combs, research manager for the SD Regional EDC. “A lot of these are companies have started within the last five years and it seems like a very entrepreneurial and very successful cluster going on right now. Businesses are growing and you have to assume with that comes jobs.”

As part of the workforce assessment, the study surveyed numerous local companies to find out their needs. Surprisingly, most businesses said having a four-year college degree wasn’t that important.

“Sixty percent, when businesses in the industry were surveyed, said a four-year degree or higher wasn’t that important. Only about five percent said it was very important. Most people wanted technical training, which is something the San Diego Workforce Partnership is very good with,” said Combs.

“As a unified region, our goal is to forge partnerships with businesses, universities and government to ensure that companies continue to find the talent they need so the region can retain its share of the sports innovation industry,” said Peter Callstrom, president and CEO of San Diego Workforce Partnership.

This industry cluster doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon. The SAL cluster report goes through several recommendations for helping the already strong sector thrive, including partnering with workforce developers and educators to keep a worker pipeline filled and supporting entrepreneurs with programs like business incubators.

“We need to make sure we have a talented and ready workforce for the industry, as it grows,” said Combs. “The SAL cluster is an industry that we have to continue to pay attention to. At the EDC, we have to make sure we are working with the industry to make sure we are addressing their business challenges and to make sure there are no obstacles in the way that would could help them with.”


Cheryl Getuiza

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