The Coast News Group
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Innovate 78 growing North County businesses, startups

CARLSBAD — Business is booming in North County and this year is lining up to be one of the best for Innovate 78.

Innovate 78 consists of five North County cities — Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, San Marco and Escondido — uniting to boost businesses along with Highway 78 corridor. It was created by the five cities, while the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation manages the contract, to foster various industries and startups.

Jennifer Schoeneck, economic development manager for the corporation, and Christie Marcella, economic development manager for the city, gave an update to the Carlsbad City Council on Sept. 11 about the program’s success.

Most notably, Innovate 78’s social media engagement has experienced an explosion, especially over Twitter, as more startups and other smaller business are engaging with content.

“It’s definitely a function of our engagement with the startup community and the Innovate 78 initiative,” Schoeneck said.

Keeping with the startups, she said a focus this year has been on those budding entrepreneurs and how to connect them with investors, resources and spaces to build their businesses. In addition, she established quarterly meetups, with a goal to spur discussion and share experiences with a modest expectation of 20 to 30 people per event.

But the response has been greater with at least 80 or more people in attendance at the first three events. Another is scheduled for Oct. 17 in Oceanside on life sciences and will feature Padres Peddle the Cause, which focuses on funding gaps for the sciences.

“We haven’t had that kind of unified effort in North County before,” Schoeneck said of the social media and meetup efforts. “From that first event, we’ve just seen an increase the number of registrants and attendees. It allows attendees to hear an honest and open perspective to build a business.”

Also, Innovate 78 is bringing more established companies into the fold with the startups to share experiences, advice and navigating the business landscape.

The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation has also conducted a small business survey, with 100 businesses responding throughout the county. Once compiled, the study will also show the needs of North County businesses.

“We wanted to do a deep dive for Innovate 78 on the five cities and what the business needs are in North County,” Schoeneck explained. “By having information on businesses throughout the county and a deep dive in North County, we will be able to compare what the businesses want with the rest of the county.”

During her presentation to the city, Schoeneck she spoke of the financial impact businesses are enjoying. In the tech industry, for example, there is a total impact of $6.1 billion with 24,685 jobs at 850 firms.

Additionally, Innovate 78 also assists companies with receiving California Competes Tax Credits, which is an income credit for businesses expanding in the state. Schoeneck reported 19 companies have been awarded $6.2 million and will be adding 800 more jobs over the next five years.

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