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Daily Business Report — March 13, 2013

San Diego County Home Sales
Show Modest Increase in February

San Diego County home sales in February totaled 2,779 — a modest 2.6 percent increase from February of last year and a gain of 62 sales from January’s 2,717 sales, according to DataQuick of San Diego. The median home price in the county last month was $359,000, an increase of 17.7 percent from $305,000 reported in the same period last year. The median home price in January was $350,000.

DataQuick said Southern California logged the highest February home sales in six years last month amid relatively strong sales of mid- to high-end properties and a record share of homes sold to absentee buyers. The median sale price edged slightly lower from January but rose nearly 21 percent from a year earlier, marking the 11th straight month in which the median has risen year-over-year, a real estate information service reported. A total of 15,945 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was down 0.7 percent from 16,058 sales in January, and up 1.0 percent from 15,780 sales in February 2012.

Unmanned Aircraft Industry Poised to Create
70,000 New Jobs in the U.S. in Three Years

If Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones, are integrated into the U.S. national airspace system by the target date of 2015, the unmanned aircraft industry would be poised to create more than 70,000 new American jobs

General Atomics' MQ-9 Reaper

in the first three years following integration. That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Beyond the first three years, the study projects that more than 100,000 new jobs will be created by 2025. In San Diego, the UAV industry includes General Atomics and Northrop Grumman Corp.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for an industry developing technology that will benefit society, as well as the economy,” said Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the association.  “In recent years, unmanned aircraft technology has grown remarkably and is already proving useful in a range of domestic applications. Integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace will lead to new and expanded uses, which means the creation of quality, high-paying American jobs.”

In the first three years following integration, the total economic impact is projected to surpass $13.6 billion, growing to  more than $82 billion between 2015 and 2025, the study said. Additional economic benefit will be seen through tax revenue to the states, which will total more than $482 million in the first decade following the integration.

Nationally, the precision agriculture industry is expected to be the largest market for UAS technology, the study found. UAS will help farmers monitor crops and distribute pesticides, which could not only help improve efficiency, but also reduce the total amount of pesticides sprayed, saving money and reducing environmental impact. The public safety sector is another area that will benefit from the tremendous potential for UAS technology, according to the association.

A study by the General Accounting Office found that much work is needed to overcome many of the obstacles to the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into U.S. airspace — including the inability for UAS to sense and avoid other aircraft and airborne objects in a manner similar to manned aircraft. Congress set specific guidelines for the integration when it passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, setting a target date of December 2015 for the Federal Aviation Administration to meet those guidelines.

County and Fire Officials Protest Planned Closure
of Air Traffic Control Tower at Ramona Airport

The government’s plan to close the air traffic control tower at the Ramona Airport would be a threat to public safety — jeopardizing lives and property — county supervisors and state and local fire chiefs contended Tuesday. They are protesting the planned closure on April 7, announced by the Federal Aviation Administration, because of self-imposed budget cuts mandated by sequestration. “If the federal government closes the tower next month, Cal Fire’s aerial capabilities would be put at risk,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. Said Supervisor Ron Roberts: “When the rainy season ends in San Diego County, the fire season begins. The Ramona Airport control tower functions as an aerial fire fighting hub, for all of San Diego County. We don’t need federal political foolishness jeopardizing people’s lives and property.” The closure also was protested by representatives of the Chula Vista Fire Department, the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Association and the air operations division chief of Cal Fire.

Tech Industry Lobbies Heavily for Immigration Reform

Want to know where money talks in the world of immigration reform? According to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, the tech industry is behind much of the lobbying on the issue. Microsoft, Intel Corp and Qualcomm are among the top 10 groups that most frequently lobbied the federal government on immigration in 2012. These firms want to make it easier to attract global talent to work here. Also in the top ten: the U.S. Travel Association and the parent company of Texas-based Hilton Worldwide — the high-end hotel chain. The travel industry wants to smooth out and speed up the process for foreigners to get visas to visit the U.S. NumbersUSA, a nonprofit that wants to reduce immigration, is also among the top 10 groups lobbying on the issue. The group spent $600,000 on anti-immigration lobbying last year. (KPBS report)

SAIC Receives Navy Contract Valued at $54 Million

Science Applications International Corp. has been awarded a contract by the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific to provide technical and engineering support for maritime intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and information operations. The contract has a two-year base period of performance, three one-year options, and a total contract value of about $54 million, if all options are exercised.  Work will be performed primarily in San Diego.

Ben Hueso Wins 40th Senate District Seat

Ben Hueso

Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, won the special election for the 40th Senate District seat with 52 percent of the vote, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office, KPBS reports. He will replace Juan Vargas, who was elected to Congress last November. The victory restores a Democrat supermajority in the state Senate. Hueso garnered enough votes to avoid a May runoff against one of the other three candidates in the race; Two Republicans — real estate agent Hector Gastelum had 22 percent of the vote, and author Xanthi Gionis, 15 percent. Democrat Anna Nevenic, a registered nurse, was fourth with 10 percent. Hueso’s win will cause another special election to fill his Assembly seat. Candidates for that seat include labor leader Lorena Gonzalez and Chula Vista’s Steve Castaneda.

Schubach Aviation Adds Cessna Citation Sovereign

Schubach Aviation has added a 2005 Cessna Citation Sovereign jet to its fleet of private aircraft, bringing the number of super-midsize and heavy jets the company now offers to five. The Sovereign’s 25-foot cabin seats up to eight passengers. The jet can climb to 43,000 feet and can travel 2,847 nautical miles nonstop at a cruising speed of 458 mph. “The new Citation Sovereign is ideally suited for trips coast-to-coast, to Hawaii, or Europe with one or two stops,” said Henry Schubach, company president.

SDG&E Donates Valuable Land to Forest Service

California gnatcatcher

East El Capitan ridge, a habitat of the threatened California coastal gnatcatcher and home to a golden eagle nesting site, has been preserved and protected thanks to San Diego Gas & Electric and the United States Forest Service. Nearly 80 acres above El Capitan Reservoir on the eastern slopes of El Cajon Mountain is being donated by SDG&E to the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Sunrise Powerlink Habitat Acquisition Plan, Habitat Management Plan and Scenery Mitigation Plan. It is the second of more than 20 environmentally-significant properties inside the Cleveland National Forest and in other natural areas that SDG&E is donating to offset impacts on sensitive vegetation, listed species and scenery.

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The Daily Business Report is produced by SD METRO. Contact: Manny Cruz (619) 287-1865. manny@sandiegometro.com.

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