Thriving Carlsbad Companies Attract and Retain Talent Amid Hot Labor Market

July 14, 2022

The past few years have brought a multitude of uncertainty, but Carlsbad key industries have proven resilient, in part because of our talent base. From the life sciences field to the hospitality and tourism industry, businesses in Carlsbad have been growing and looking to hire talent.

But the labor market has become more challenging for employers following the pandemic. With unemployment at historic lows, the demand for experienced and well-trained employees far exceeds the supply.

Employers in all industries also face the growing problem of employee retention.

More than 47 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs amid the pandemic and during what has been dubbed the Great Resignation of 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Worker shortages are apparent everywhere. 

The pandemic prompted people to reexamine their personal and professional priorities. That’s why thriving companies in Carlsbad have stayed competitive by creating workplace environments that attract and retain employees. We offer an unparalleled work-life balance.

For more than 30 years, Carlsbad-based  Ionis Pharmaceuticals has been a leading innovator in RNA-targeted therapy, pioneering new markets and changing standards of care with its novel antisense technology.

Tracy Defernez, assistant director of human resources for Ionis, identified three major trends HR professionals have recently seen: the Great Resignation, a push for hybrid or remote work, and a focus on mental health and employee well-being.

“The job market is very hot right now and people are reevaluating their professional choices having just gone through the pandemic,” Defernez said.


Ionis Pharmaceuticals was named one of the 2020 Best Places to Work in San Diego by the San Diego Business Journal. Credit: Ionis

Ionis, which was named one of the  2020 Best Places to Work in San Diego by the San Diego Business Journal, currently has more than 100  open positions. Job openings range from entry level to VP-level roles across a variety of areas, from accounting and finance to patient advocacy and research.

Defernez said the company’s groundbreaking work attracts job seekers and keeps people at Ionis, as well as competitive pay, a rich benefits package, a robust internal training and development program, employee resource groups, and stocks/restricted stock units grants for all levels of the organization.

Recognizing the trends in the industry, Ionis also offers flexibility for hybrid and remote work, as well as wellness initiatives, such as access to free fitness classes, company-wide challenges, and events.

Ionis offers a variety of benefits, including company-wide challenges and events. Credit: Ionis

“I think, in general, people are reevaluating life choices and professional choices,” Defernez said.

 “The role of technology during the pandemic and the realization that work could be done effectively remotely has changed our industry’s outlook on the possibility of hybrid and remote work. In general, this kind of flexibility has not been something embraced by the biopharma industry where in-person collaboration and hallway conversations have been highly valued.”

Other companies in Carlsbad have recognized the same trends.

Carlsbad-based  Airspace is a global tech-enabled logistics company focused on complex and time-sensitive shipments. With a growing demand for flexible work arrangements, the company has created a hybrid work environment.  

“Since the pandemic, creating a hybrid work environment and providing flexibility for personal/work balance has been essential to help our team members keep the right balance of home and office based on their roles and responsibilities,” said Megan Omara, people experience manager for Airspace.


Airspace is headquartered in Carlsbad, California. Credit: ​​Airspace

Airspace, founded in 2016, offers a variety of other benefits, including rich benefit plans and perks, as well as a professional development reimbursement program so employees can continue their education and learn new skills

“Keeping a holistically healthy organization is essential so all team members feel supported, cared for, and safe,” Omara said. “At Airspace, we have rolled out initiatives such as wellness programs, employee resource groups, team building events, training opportunities, and team member awards and recognition to support our team’s holistic well-being.”

In May, the company announced it  nearly doubled its funding in a $70 million round led by impact investing venture firm DBL Partners and co-led by Telstra Ventures and HarbourVest Partners, bringing its total funding to $138 million.

According to the company, funding will be leveraged to accelerate market penetration in Europe and further expand into Asia. In addition, the company aims to continue to build out its core business while also launching new service lines such as expedited freight, and expand into new customer verticals such as semiconductor, automotive and cleantech.

“We are growing at an incredible pace, and it’s an exciting time to be part of our organization,” Omara said.

Airspace was founded in 2016. Credit: ​​Airspace

Airspace currently has about 40 open positions.

The company’s “People Team” is dedicated to attracting and retaining talent. Airspace advertises on multiple popular job boards such as Indeed and LinkedIn, but also recognizes that some of the best talents come from employee referrals. That’s why the company offers a generous referral program, up to a maximum of $10,000. 

“There are many efforts put forth by Airspace and the leadership team to retain our talented team members, such as creating growth opportunities and investing in team members’ career paths,” Omara said. 

“Our leadership team is passionate about recognizing and rewarding team members for going above and beyond and exemplifying our company’s core values and mission,” she added. “One of our five core values is transparency, and it plays a central role in our leadership, which encourages team member feedback and responds with action.”

While Carlsbad life sciences companies such as Airspace and Ionis have proven resilient, so, too, have companies in the hospitality and tourism industry.

The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the biggest industries in Carlsbad — and the industry was among the hardest hit during the height of the pandemic. 

The travel industry’s  economic footprint in the U.S. shrank 42% in 2021, from $2.6 trillion to $1.5 trillion, according to  data prepared for the U.S. Travel Association by the research firm Tourism Economics. Travel-related jobs fell by 5.6 million in 2020, making up 65% of all American jobs lost due to the pandemic.

The hospitality and tourism industry is the largest employer in Carlsbad, with 9,179 workers across 467 businesses, according to the  2022 Carlsbad Business Report. The industry is about 1.35 more concentrated in Carlsbad than the national average.

Carlsbad-based  Grand Pacific Resorts was among the many companies impacted by pandemic-related restrictions.

Founded in 1992, Grand Pacific Resorts is a full-service resort management and development company. Today, the company either owns or manages 24  hotel and timeshare resort properties throughout California, Utah and Hawaii. Several properties are in the Carlsbad area. 

“We’ve always been headquartered in Carlsbad and view Carlsbad as being a very fertile business climate over the years,” said Timothy Stripe, co-owner and co-president of Grand Pacific Resorts.

Grand Pacific Resorts either owns or manages 24 hotel and timeshare resort properties, including Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa. Credit: Grand Pacific Resorts 

But when the pandemic hit, the company had to close its properties. “A lot of people took note and said, ‘I’m going to leave the industry,’ and I think that happened nationwide,” he said.

As pandemic-related restrictions were lifted and the industry began to recover, many employees returned to Grand Pacific Resorts.

“I think a lot of them came back because of the good time they had,” Stripe said.

Westin Carlsbad Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California. Credit: Grand Pacific Resorts 

The company offered hybrid and remote work arrangements when possible. People in accounting and administrative roles that required them to come into the office were recognized with “work appreciation checks” during the holidays.

To offset the cost of rising gas prices, Grand Pacific Resorts launched shuttle services so workers in San Diego and as far as El Cajon could get to their jobs in North County. The company has also given gas cards to employees and plans to do so through at least the summer.

“I want every employee who works here to feel appreciated,” Stripe said. “I want them to feel like the job they do is very important, whatever that job is, whether it’s helping on the janitorial side or whether it’s closing on a key sales contract. All employees are very important, and it’s important they feel appreciated.” 

Grand Pacific Resorts has about 20 open mid-level to upper mid-level management positions. The company always strives to promote from within.

Above all, Stripe said it’s essential to let employees know they are appreciated.  

“What’s important are the employees,” Stripe said. “Without employees, you have nothing.”

“If you can accomplish that then you’re well on your way to retaining good talent and the word gets out that it’s a great place to be,” he added.

Opportunities abound for talent across all of Carlsbad’s key industries. Local companies have adapted practices to meet the needs of their employees now and in the future. Businesses are booming and looking to hire talent. 

Learn more about the job opportunities at Airspace,  Grand Pacific Resorts and  Ionis Pharmaceuticals.