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Mission: Building Technology’s Perfect Climate

Opinion:Julie Meier Wright

Wireless phones with real-time stock quotes and football scores. E-mail access from anywhere in the world. Digital cameras. Revolutionary technologies springing to life , changing the way we work, live and play. These are exciting times.

And we couldn’t be in a better place. Scores of innovative companies creating tomorrow’s new products , and fueling our economic prosperity , call the San Diego region “home.” Add our near perfect weather and our treasured quality of life, and it’s no wonder we’re building a reputation as Technology’s Perfect Climate.

Led by the tremendous growth and success of technology companies like Qualcomm, Inc., SAIC, AMCC, Peregrine, and Idec Pharmaceuticals, our region continues to grow rewarding, high-wage job opportunities for our residents. And no matter where you are, you don’t have to look far to find the infrastructure improvements, “smart growth” planning, and revitalized urban cores supporting this new economy.

The year 2000, in fact, will see significant progress on several projects heralding this region’s economic renaissance. Following are just a few examples highlighting recent developments, as well as what’s on the horizon:

Infrastructure Improvements

– Border Development Zone: Recent state legislation has created a three-mile deep border development zone that will direct property tax revenue to build roads, water, sewage and other infrastructure. This legislation is particularly important to the region’s continued prosperity because more than half of the county’s available employment land is located in the South Bay.

– Convention Center Expansion: The Convention Center Expansion project is on track and on budget, and will host its first convention in fall 2001. The expanded facility will generate $1.5 billion annually in economic impact for our region.

– Light Rail Line: The North County Transit District recently approved a light rail line from Interstate 5 to I-15. The rail line is already in existence, the right of way has been acquired, the crossings are in place, and station sites have been identified.

Smart Growth Planning

– EastLake Business Center: The master-planned community of EastLake in Chula Vista, with its EastLake Business Center, integrates jobs, housing, recreation and open space. The business center enjoys a unique high-tech/biotech incentive zone and fosters an innovative community.

– Otay Ranch: This large-scale smart growth project features transit and pedestrian-oriented development. There will be 12 villages built around a commercial core with walkways that link to residential areas. At build-out (projected for 2020), there will be 2,300 units and a population of 68,000. Also, there are plans to connect the development to the existing trolley system. Two villages are currently under construction.

– San Diego Space and Defense Consortium: In October, this consortium of small contractors announced its first major contract awarded by the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Command, or Spawar. As a result, the consortium has leased a building in the Gillespie Field Business Park and transformed it into a state-of-the-art software engineering center. The building is located on the trolley line and accessible to major highways.

– San Elijo Hills: This master-planned community in San Marcos will add 3,400 new homes, is designed around a “village” concept, and has a portion of units dedicated to affordable housing.

– Santee High-Tech Industrial Park: Santee is examining ways to build an industrial park that will focus on high-tech companies.

– South Poway Business Park: This 700-acre complex offers tenants high-quality infrastructure, numerous amenities and open space in keeping with Poway’s rural surroundings. Currently, more than 264 businesses with 10,223 employees are located in the business park, and construction continues.

Revitalized Urban Cores

– Coronado’s Business Improvement District: Soon the first “bricks and mortar” piece of Coronado’s Business Areas Development Plan will be complete. The plans, which will revitalize Coronado’s downtown, emphasize improving pedestrian access and fostering a “village” atmosphere.

– Downtown San Diego Redevelopment and Ballpark Project: With more than 100 redevelopment and public improvement projects coming online, the city of San Diego’s Downtown is a vibrant, exciting place to be. Spurred by the promise of a new ballpark in Downtown, previously blighted areas are being significantly improved.

– Ocean Ranch Corporate Center: This 400-acre master planned business park, located in the heart of Oceanside adjacent to the Rancho Del Oro Technology Park, features lush landscaping, day care, retail and restaurants within walking distance.

A string of jewels for our region. Projects that represent a healthy economy, jobs at different skill levels, investments in infrastructure, and a proactive approach to securing this region’s treasured quality of life.

Investing in our human and physical infrastructure will be key to our region’s long-term ability to compete in global markets. So, in addition to the important projects that are already under way, we must continue to invest in needed infrastructure.

In 2000, we will have the opportunity to build on our success. From EDC’s perspective, specifically, we should:

– Move expeditiously to solve our region’s airport dilemmas, as we need a long-term plan to meet the region’s needs beyond 2020.

– Closely examine the feasibility of building a research technology park.

– Address statewide fiscal reform, so that local governments can afford to approve and protect the housing developments and employment centers we need.

– Plan communities with higher housing densities and within close proximity to employment centers, helping ease congestion and improving our quality of life.

– Identify a way to finance infrastructure improvements in the region’s older neighborhoods.

– Support the statewide initiative, Proposition 26, slated for the March 2000 ballot, that would change how local bonds are approved for K-12 school districts.

– In this important election year, show our support for candidates who take a thoughtful approach to our region’s needs, especially continuing to grow our technology industries and the companies that support them.

Asked to comment on what lies ahead for our region, I can say with the highest confidence that the hallmark of our region will continue to be change. And in that change, the greatest opportunities for us lie in our ability to come together and shape the direction in which we’re headed. I see a bright start , evidenced by the progress already under way , and a solid foundation for building Technology’s Perfect Climate.

Wright is president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

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