Is San Diego capable of being a big-league player in the global economy?
Many prominent leaders in business, economics and academics think so.
But to pull that off, it could mean putting aside politics and working together -- according to a noted think tank and investment firm that staged a pro-business summit here Thursday.
It made San Diego the second stop on a five-year, $10 million "Global Cities Initiative" tour launched by the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase, to ramp up production and employment in America.
This metro area ranks 17th in the U.S. in export values, and in export-related jobs.
"You have both business, high-tech business, you have manufacturing, you have agriculture," Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, a senior adviser to JPMorgan Chase," said in an interview before the summit.
"So you have to put it all together and work as a team. You can't be divided by politics, or one county to another, one city to another."
Daley was one of dozens of leading executives, both locally and nationally, who gathered at the downtown offices of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to crunch numbers and outline challenges to maintaining American strength and ingenuity in the world's exports market.
Brookings experts say the U.S. is now third in that arena, behind China and Germany.
And, that Asia and Latin America are bigger players than other continents.
But the industrialists like San Diego's economic profile and nexus of high-tech, bio-tech, university and military/industrial complex resources.
They note that there's an unusual degree of co-operation in this competitive environment, which -- if broadened on a nationwide scale -- would better position the U.S. to seize an optimum share of the worldwide manufacturing trade.
"The main business development entities are coming together in a way they've never done before," says Jim Waring, president and CEO of CleanTECH San Diego. "
We're minimizing the duplicative efforts. We're speaking with a more concise, precise voice. So all that is going to give us a stronger platform to compete."
One point of consensus is that a well-educated, skilled workforce is paramount.
The U.S. ranks 45th out of 93 countries surveyed in the number of college graduates with science and engineering degrees.
Among questions to ask, says Jim Wening, JPMorgan Chase's middle-market banking president in San Diego: "How do we pair our universities with, perhaps, business leaders? Or even students from countries around the world with business leaders? That can then help make the connections into the global economies."
San Diego's boosters believe this region is uniquely poised to make those connections.
"A lot of communities take it for granted that they're going to be the ones that dictate the game," says Mayor Jerry Sanders. "The fact that Brookings and Chase picked San Diego as one of the cities it want to focus on, I think, shows that we have the potential to do it."