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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022
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Bus Tours Showcase a Region’s Finest Attributes to Attract Business

BY ANDREA SIEDSMA

With a U.S. Olympic Training Center; thousands of acres of undeveloped land zoned for industrial uses; new shopping malls; a planned four-year university in Chula Vista; revitalization projects in Imperial Beach; and improvements at the Brown Field airport, San Diego’s South County economic development leaders have lots of selling points for businesses looking to expand or relocate into the region.

These are all benefits that Cindy Gompper-Graves, South County Economic Development Council chief executive officer, strongly promotes. In particular, these South County attributes are highlighted during occasional business economic tours given by the South County EDC. The purpose of these bus tours is to showcase what South County’s five cities , Chula Vista, National City, Coronado, Imperial Beach and Otay Mesa , have to offer to businesses in terms of space, infrastructure and amenities.

The typical tour begins with a 10-minute video highlighting the development projects going on in South County, as well as the unique characteristics of the different communities. The bus tour’s first stop is the Chula Vista bay front. Then it’s off to the National City port area, then downtown National City, where there are a lot of redevelopment projects happening. The bus travels down Third Avenue in Chula Vista to the eastern part of the city, where Eastlake Mall and other developments are highlighted, as well as the new site for Monarch Day School.

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Business tour participants are driven down Interstate 805 toward Otay Mesa, where there is vast undeveloped land. Brown Field, the border crossing, San Ysidro and the revitalization along Palm Avenue in Imperial Beach are also tour stops.

“We do these tours because so much is happening in South County; there are so many opportunities for investment,” Gompper-Graves said. “It’s a comprehensive way to show people what’s happening here and how it can affect their business.

“Hopefully, they understand South County is a dynamic region. We want them to know that it’s not the same South County as it was 30 years ago, that it is ripe with opportunity and that a lot of other companies are investing here and maybe they should, too.”

Educating businesses about what’s happening in South County may whet their appetite to find out more as they look at their growth plan, Gompper-Graves said.


Custom Tours Offered

The South County EDC also hosts customized tours for business and community leaders interested in learning more about the region. For example, the council recently took members of the Tijuana Economic Development Corp. on a tour of the region, including a drive through Chula Vista and National City. The South County EDC also hosts delegations to Tijuana for the same type of tours. The next tour, scheduled for May, will take South County business leaders to Rosarito in Baja California, home to a lot of explosive growth during the past few years.

“There’s a lot of economic growth happening south of the border, including new freeways, new housing developments and a new satellite city,” Gompper-Graves said. “A lot of people have an interest about what’s happening south of the border. This is a good way to get an overview.”

The San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. is also using certain developments in South County to help attract businesses. In particular, the EDC is zeroing in on Chula Vista, which was recently chosen for the site of a National Energy Research Center, which is expected to become a showcase for new technologies and energy-smart urban planning.

It’s what EDC President Julie Meier Wright calls “clean tech.” She said the new center will provide an incredible opportunity for San Diego to create a clean-tech cluster in the region, which means growing local companies as well as attracting outside companies.

In true traditional economic development fashion, the San Diego EDC also offers customized tours of the region, taking interested companies to local scientific and academic labs, to locations where they meet local business and political leaders and service providers, and even to other companies around the county. The EDC also provides site selection assistance; incentive and business tax information; demographic, wage and economic data; and navigation through local government requirements.

“We want to understand what their interests are and if they are actively considering setting up operations in San Diego,” Meier Wright said. “They can be interested in anything from land to buildings, power and water requirements, and even knowledge of the local supplier base. We have a researcher who packages all that information and tailors it to a company’s needs.”

The tours are an opportunity to showcase a region, and to “put on our best face,” Meier Wright said.

“If we bring people in, for example, who have specific knowledge about intellectual property, for a young company it gives them a comfort level that they are coming into a region that has its act together,” she said.


Regional Expansion

The EDC didn’t have figures on how many companies have expanded or moved into San Diego County during the last few years, but according to the state’s Employment Development Department, the number of companies in the region grew from 72,000 in the year 2000 to 85,000 in 2005.

Some of that growth occurred in Oceanside, located about 35 miles north of San Diego. To attract and retain businesses, the city of Oceanside co-sponsors tours led by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, a trade association for developers, owners, investors, asset managers and other professionals in industrial, office, and mixed-use commercial real estate. The typical participants on these tours are local real estate brokers, whose clients are looking for additional space. During the tour, they are shown the residential and commercial development projects happening in Oceanside.

They are also given packets with information detailing each project.

“These tours are important to the city because these brokers have a lot of clients; it creates great contacts for us because the brokers know what’s on the market,” said Jim Schroeder, president and CEO of the Oceanside Economic Development Commission.


Andrea Siedsma is a freelance writer for the San Diego Business Journal.

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