Murrieta Promotes Hub for Entrepreneurs

December 16, 2013

By KATHERINE CONNOR, The Daily Transcript

San Diego’s reputation as a hub of innovation has been growing in recent years, with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development naming it the second most innovative city in the world in 2013 for patent intensity.

While the spotlight hasn’t shined quite as brightly on Murrieta and Temecula an hour north, the two cities have been creating a similarly welcoming environment for entrepreneurship, and say what they need most is people and innovators to take advantage of all the cities have to offer.

“One of the great challenges that we face is that we’re not known all that well, and yet there’s a lot of stuff going on,” said Bruce Coleman, economic development director for the city of Murrieta at a recent Daily Transcript roundtable. “We really need to make sure that people realize this is a lower cost location for manufacturing, lower cost location for setting up a business, that there are resources here and we really want to try to help people.”

Coleman said the city is willing to work with any size company in any sector, though Murrieta is actively targeting early-stage startup companies in the tech, health care, digital media and advanced manufacturing industries. This effort to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem is in its early stages, but Murrieta and Temecula are already seeing success.

“The microclusters are starting to form in biotech, communications, software and agribusiness,” said Steve Austin, firm managing partner at Swenson Advisorsand chairman of the board of the World Trade Center San Diego. “There are probably a half-dozen microclusters, and that’s been so critical to San Diego in terms of wireless and life science and software. So we’re trying to keep that clustering momentum going and enhancing that as a natural phenomenon.”

The city has also actively engaged the Murrieta Valley Unified School District to help enhance its STEM educational opportunities and expose more students to the advanced manufacturing in the area, so that once the startups hit their growth stage there will be a base of skilled employees to hire.

In addition to the primary and secondary schools, the University of California Riverside and Loma Linda University Medical Center are also assets.

“Really, to create that entrepreneurial kind of cluster within a region, you need basically three things,” said Charles Zahl, director of Southern California Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Development.

“One is the entrepreneurs themselves, which I think we already have. The biggest problem is giving them opportunities to stay in the area. Second is the mentors. We’re finding those mentors have started all sorts of companies and are area mentors like CPAs, lawyers, that sort of thing. And then, obviously, the third thing they need is finance.”