San Diego’s effort to attract out-of-state millennials strikes at a vulnerable time: Winter

Seventh Avenue in New York City in January is a world apart from sunny San Diego.
(Kevin Hagen / AP)
San Diego Union-Tribune

A group trying to build up San Diego’s workforce is singling out young workers in cold-weather cities, beckoning millennials who are in the middle of tough winters.

The target group: workers 27 to 37 years old who are trained in science, technology or other hot sectors and live in New York, Boston or Chicago.

The campaign, called Just Say No to Winter, is the brainchild of the San Diego Economic Development Corp., which has put effort into branding the city as a promised land for tech and science talent.


Why are they targeting millennials? The EDC’s research has shown that San Diego has a lot of jobs open for individuals with mid-level experience who often fall in this age range.

“When we surveyed companies — from an economic standpoint — the largest job opportunities were in that age group,” said Bernadine Locsin, the marketing manager for the EDC. “We have plenty of entry-level talent and senior talent, but a lot of those midrange-career jobs need to be filled.”

The EDC is running targeted ad campaigns through social media, focusing on millennials on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. The ad is a nearly two-minute video that juxtaposes images of San Diego’s beautiful sunsets and beaches with clips of harsh winter weather and traffic jams in other cities. Mixed in are clips of San Diego’s biggest employers, including Qualcomm, Illumina, Intuit and Viasat.

The organization also posted ads on the walls of Boston subways reading, “Just Say No to Winter.” Locsin said the EDC focused on subway lines that went through neighborhoods with large concentrations of life-science companies.

The campaign is reminiscent of a San Diego effort to poach talented engineers from Silicon Valley. That campaign, rolled out by Mike Krenn of the San Diego Venture Group in 2016, included a digital billboard on one of Silicon Valley’s busiest and most traffic-prone freeways. The sign baited technology workers with such one-liners as “Today’s surf report: San Diego is better.” There’s no way to measure exactly how effective that campaign was. A group of young venture capitalists, however, recently cited Krenn’s efforts as influential in their decision to locate a new $50-million tech fund in San Diego.

The EDC’s Just Say No to Winter campaign is under the umbrella of a larger effort called San Diego Life Changing, whose mission is to attract people and companies to the region in this target age demographic. It has some online tools to help bring in new transplants, including an interactive map of employers and an overview of neighborhoods. Locsin said the EDC was tracking census data to see how effective the campaign was and hadn’t seen much movement yet. But it’s early, and she hopes to see the results in a year or two.

“It’s hard to connect one campaign to someone’s decision to move,” Locsin said. “But this could plant the seed or start the conversation.”

San Diego is already home to a lot of millennials, as Cushman & Wakefield noted in a 2018 report. Millennials made up 24.3% of the San Diego metropolitan area’s population in mid-2018, compared with 22.7% in the Los Angeles area and 21.9% in Silicon Valley, according to the report.