Member Spotlight: Building a Future Startup Empire in San Bernardino County

Startup Genome
on February 05, 2019
San Bernardino County and its neighbor, Riverside County—together form the Inland Empire—one of the fastest-growing areas in the country. Located at the heart of Southern California, it has historically attracted migrants both domestic and international, and helped put a middle-class living within reach of millions of people priced out of more expensive coastal areas. And, the county incubated successful fast-growing businesses such as Esri, a pioneer of GIS software.

Employment growth in San Bernardino County since 2010 has outpaced the nearby Southern California counties of Orange, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

In our recent Surge Cities report with Inc. magazine, the Inland Empire ranked 2nd among the largest 50 MSAs in net business creation and was number one in overall job creation. (The MSA in that report was inaccurately listed as solely “Riverside,” but the data applied to the entire Inland Empire. San Bernardino County accounts for about half of the metro population.)

The rapid entry pace of new businesses (at a time when overall new business creation in the United States has been more or less stalled) is important. The creation of new businesses—and the rapid growth of a fraction of those into scaleups—will be critical to the economic future of San Bernardino County.

The region has already proven to encourage entrepreneurship as evidenced by the founding and international growth of Esri, along with strong growth in high-value manufacturing industries and professional business services.

However, similar to many regions in the US, the County is working to close the skills gap and ensure a vibrant and well-skilled workforce is nurtured to meet the needs of businesses today and for the future. County leaders are taking action. Three efforts in particular stand out.

  • The county’s Workforce Development Board (WDB) and Economic Development Agency (EDA) are jointly putting together a Workforce Roadmap for the county that incorporates real-time economic data into public and private decision making. The Roadmap includes a labor market report along with an asset map of county resources and economic development study. The data tells leaders where the county stands in relation to its own development and other regions. Information in the Roadmap guides investment decisions by businesses and the offerings that educational institutions provide for residents. Among new and emerging industries, the recently released Labor Market Intelligence study suggests that green technology offers “opportunity for skills building from a variety of vantage points and across sectors.” It goes on to recommend a variety of steps to improve the quality of jobs in the county, including engaging business leaders, workforce trainers and educational institutions as equal partners in the career development ecosystem.

  • The WDB, together with the school district and community colleges as well as businesses, stewards the San Bernardino County Career Pathways Compact. This is an innovative framework for formal pathways of career learning and orientation for county students. Nearly every city, county, and metro in the country is trying to figure out how to prepare more students for the workforce sooner while also endowing them with the fundamental skills they need to navigate life, work, and citizenship. San Bernardino County has established partnerships to guide the process.

  • At Cal State San Bernardino (CSUSB), the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) runs a variety of programs, including the Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards. For 16 years, the Awards program has helped elevate the visibility of entrepreneurship within the county. This is a crucial part of the culture in any startup ecosystem: residents from all walks of life need to be able to see that business creation and growth is encouraged, supported and celebrated.

Look for more highlights about San Bernardino County in the 2019 Global Startup Ecosystem Report!

06-03-13 SMSU Aerials
Photos by Robert Whitehead CSUSB

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