Carlsbad City Hall. Photo by Steve Puterski
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City report shows business satisfaction high

CARLSBAD — The city’s largest industry clusters are doing well, even with some declines in specific areas.

Josh Williams of Carlsbad-based BW Research reported to the City Council July 9 about his firm’s findings. BW Research was awarded a contract as part of the city’s biennial survey to determine the health of its top clusters.

Of the 394 respondents, 81% said Carlsbad is an “excellent” or “good” place to conduct business.

“We have done the survey every two to three years,” Williams said. “

The clusters include information communication technology (ICT), life sciences, clean tech, action sports and manufacturing and hospitality and tourism.

Those industries also account for 38% of the city’s workforce with numerous major companies’ headquarters, such as Viasat and Taylor Made, along with other large-scale operations such as hotels adding to the total.

Christie Marcella, the city’s economic development manager, said the variety of industries is a positive sign.

“For a city our size to have such strong presences in five industry clusters shows the breadth of diversity we have here,” she added. “It’s about making sure that those five industry cluster are continued to be bolstered. Another exciting thing in our business community is where those business industries meet and interconnect.”

Williams said talent, however, is a competitive advantage and a challenge. The proximity to skilled workers increased by 33% between surveys from 2017-19 for proximity to skilled workforce as the reason why the firm is located in Carlsbad, according to Carlsbad Management Analyst Joe Stewart.

However, for hospitality, it was more of a challenge, especially for entry and mid-level employees. One factor was the average annual salary, as those in life sciences earn about $130,000 per year compared to $35,000 for hospitality and tourism, Williams.

“They were dissatisfied in finding a quality workforce,” he said of the hospitality and tourism industry.

Newer businesses under three years old, meanwhile, were more optimistic about the business climate getting better. Those firms older than 10 years were not as confident.

Reasons for the overall business climate satisfaction reported include access to clients (78%), quality of streets (77.2%) and ability to move product (76.4%), to name a few.

As for the declines, action sports and manufacturing has dropped by 19.5% since 2008, although their concentration in the city is about 38 times higher than the national average.

One reason for the decline, even nationally, Williams said, is due to a loss of jobs in assembly.

Clean tech has also seen a decline (16.1%), but it’s a more nuanced issue. Williams said it’s problematic because the industry has matured and it’s harder to differentiate between what firms are actually clean tech.

For example, bigger solar companies don’t fall into the category. Still, there are 20 firms with 650 jobs in the city.

“We want to identify the number of firms and how they are changing in these industry clusters,” Williams said. “Clean tech is problematic because what’s happened is the industry has matured and things like the solar industry don’t fall into these mixed definitions.”

Life sciences, meanwhile, has grown by 16.6% and represents 6,400 jobs, with more than 100 firms and a concentration 13 to 14 times higher than the national average, Williams said.

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