Housing, transportation top concerns for North County workforce

Housing shortages and transportation difficulties emerged as the top concerns at Wednesday morning’s annual North County Business Breakfast at Cal State San Marcos.

Many people, especially those who work low-paying jobs such as hotel maids and landscape laborers in North County, have to drive long distances to reach homes they can afford.

“The lower down the income level that people are, the farther away they live,” said Legoland General Manager Peter Ronchetti, one of six panelists who discussed how industry and technology are changing the North County workforce.

“We have a housing challenge,” said panelist Eric Bruvold, principal of the San Diego Institute for Economic Research.

Greater density, the planning term for more homes on less land, is one widely accepted solution, Bruvold said. Better public transportation is another factor.

Yet often there’s a backlash to higher density from long-time residents who prefer more space, less traffic, smaller buildings and a less urban atmosphere. It’s a dilemma North County has faced for decades.

Education will help people resolve those issues and find the right balance between work, shopping and recreation in the areas where they live, the panelists said

Cal State San Marcos plays an important role in that effort.

Founded in 1989, the campus now has 17,000 students and more than 40,000 alumni, and about 80 percent of those alumni still live in North County.

Enrollment at Cal State San Marcos is expected to reach 25,000 students when the campus is complete, which is expected about 2030.

The university is working closely with companies like technology giant ViaSat in Carlsbad to create an agile and flexible workforce, panelists said.

“The big problems of the 21st century are not going to be solved by individuals; they are going to be solved by groups,” said Katherine Kantardjieff, dean of the college of science and mathematics at Cal State San Marcos, also a panelist at the event hosted by the North San Diego Economic Development Council.

“We are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist,” Kantardjieff said.

MiraCosta and Palomar colleges, part of the statewide community college network, are also an important part of the North County higher education network.

Other panelists included Kirby Brady, director of research at the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.; Kevin Ham, Vista director of economic development; and Krist Jaska, vice president of engineering at ViaSat, Inc.

philip.diehl@sduniontribune.com

Twitter: @phildiehl

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