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Report: 13 traded industry clusters support 27% of local employment

A report released Wednesday by the San Diego Association of Governments indicated that 13 local specialized industry clusters are powering the regional economy.

According to the report, titled “Traded Industry Clusters in the San Diego Region,” the San Diego area has 13 traded industry clusters, defined as groups of interrelated, export-oriented industries that bring new money into the region, with a total of 331,410 local jobs. Figures in the report reflected data from 2008-2010, drawn from local, state and private sources. But the results of the study provided insight into many industries noticeably evolving in San Diego today.

“Industry clusters continue to evolve in the San Diego region,” said SANDAG Chief Economist Marney Cox in a news release. “Over time, some have grown, some have shrunk, and some have merged with others.

Cox said SANDAG is keeping tabs on the clusters because companies within them tend to be leaders in technology, research and development funding, patent awards and other indicators of progress.

The clusters, he said, are “crucial to helping the region attain and sustain a high standard of living.”

While the numbers don’t reflect 2011 and 2012, the report showed the smallest industry cluster in the region by employment to be Specialty Foods and Microbreweries, with 1,717 jobs. However, during the last couple of years, the craft beer segment has seen growth both locally and nationally, the report noted.

According to the National Brewers Association, in 2010 the industry grew 11 percent by volume and 12 percent by revenue even while the overall volume of U.S. beer sales dropped by an estimated 1 percent. The San Diego region’s award-winning microbreweries produced more than 85,300 barrels of beer in 2010.

The region’s largest industry cluster was Entertainment and Hospitality, with 149,352 jobs. Despite being the largest in terms of employment, the Entertainment and Hospitality cluster was shown to have the lowest annual average wage, at $21,800. The highest paying cluster was Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals, with an annual average wage of about $107,000.

As a whole, the study showed that jobs in the region’s 13 clusters pay an average of $56,000 per year, or $5,300 higher than the regional average. Within the regional economy, the clusters — which are involved in producing everything from wireless technology and unmanned drones to craft beer and tortilla chips — provide 27 percent of local employment.

Expanding to a point where it now warrants recognition as a cluster, the report added, is Advanced Precision Manufacturing, which it said acts as an innovation hub between other industry clusters by integrating technologies with customized product development.

With the report’s release, SANDAG said it and its partners continue to study the clusters after two decades of watching them, looking for signs of how they raise productivity and are able to innovate more rapidly by bringing together technology, resources, information, and talent.

The region’s other clusters included Information and Communications Technology; Aerospace, Navigation and Maritime Technology; Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals; Biomedical Devices and Products; Publishing and Marketing; Clean Technology; Horticulture; Fruits and Vegetables; Action Sports Manufacturing; and Apparel Manufacturing.

Four of the clusters experienced growth during the two-year study period, which happened to cover the worst of the recent recession. Those clusters were Biomedical Devices and Products, with 21 percent growth; Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals, with 20 percent growth; Cleantech, with 9 percent growth and Aerospace, Navigation, and Maritime Technology, with growth of 4 percent.

Each of the other clusters, save Entertainment and Hospitality, saw decline.

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