50 Voices of the Future: Kirby Brady on analyzing regional economic trends


In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

Fantastic weather and world class beaches aren’t the only things that make San Diego attractive. The region is also a leading center for innovation and entrepreneurship and provides a range of economic opportunities for global business as well as a diverse makeup of residents who help offer a uniquely rich cultural experience. “It’s truly a world class city,” said Kirby Brady, director of research at the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC). In this role, Brady analyzes regional economic trends to help shape her organization’s efforts to expand a wide variety of industry sectors while supporting the talent pool that drives their success.

Why is the work you do important?

As a native San Diegan, I take pride in educating people on the tremendous economic assets and opportunities unique to this region. It is my hope that in conducting quality research and getting it into the hands of leaders and decision makers, we can help to shape the future of the region in a sustainable way that enhances our global competitiveness and economic prosperity.

What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

I believe the most influential developments are population growth and our changing demographics. The San Diego region is projected to increase by about one million people by the year 2050. Most people are surprised to learn that the majority of this growth is natural or “homegrown,” meaning existing residents having children, and so on. Not only that, but we’re also in the midst of a major demographic shift due to the substantial aging population. This growth, coupled with the rapidly changing demographic dynamics, is ushering in a whole new set of challenges for regional decision makers. Where can we build new housing? How do we enhance our transportation system to meet the mobility needs of a growing and diverse population? How do we ensure we are able to retain the talent we are graduating each year from our educational institutions? How do we attract and retain firms to grow our economy?

What’s the next big thing?

Big Data. It's already a big thing, but I believe every aspect of life as we know it will be influenced by Big Data in the future – from healthcare and medicine to transportation and decision-making in government and businesses. For example, the use of predictive analytics in the field of medicine will allow doctors to tailor medication and treatment plans to any person on the planet based on their unique DNA. In the transportation field, Big Data will allow for a better understanding of how people travel – whether it is by bus, train, bike or car – and allow us to better understand travel patterns and the demand for different routes to alleviate congestion on the roads. These types of technologies are widely prevalent and in use today, but it's going to play an even larger role in the future.

How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

Every day we work with businesses to make sure they have the resources they need to thrive in the region. We're actively promoting San Diego as a place to work, live and do business. At the end of the day, we're focused on growing the regional economy and bringing good jobs here. So in a sense, our economy is like a garden; we're planting the seeds and tending to it tirelessly to make sure it flourishes and remains healthy in the future. I believe the work we do, including telling San Diego's story and conducting valuable research, is absolutely influential in shaping the region's future, but our success and influence ultimately depend on working collaboratively with local government, community leaders and empowering citizens in the decision-making process.

Hop in to your time machine… what does the future look like for this field in 50 years? How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

The speed at which the world around us is changing is astonishing. At the very least, in 50 years we're going to have a lot more people on this planet. These changes will undoubtedly bring challenges, but I also believe we have a tremendous opportunity to shape the future. The difference in whether or not we are successful as a society depends largely on how well we plan ahead. In San Diego, we’re still writing our story – and I would say the best way to prepare for the future is to embrace change. Get involved with the planning process in your community. Stay engaged, and let's educate the next generation about the importance of public participation.

The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation's mission is to maximize the region’s economic prosperity and global competitiveness. The often work with other non-profits like UC San Diego Extension to encourage and support the local workforce in pursuing their educational and professional goals.


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