Plan covers county, Baja, Imperial Valley
By Dean Calbreath Union-Tribune Staff Writer
2:00 a.m. May 22, 2009
In an effort to promote more outside investment in the border region, a coalition of local business and civic leaders yesterday launched a marketing campaign aimed at selling San Diego County, the Imperial Valley and Baja California as a single manufacturing zone.
The plan, developed by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. and its counterpart in Imperial County, is to market the area as the Cali Baja Bi-National Mega-Region.
The groups hope to attract foreign investors and manufacturers with the idea of tapping into San Diego's research centers and technology clusters, Imperial Valley's inexpensive and undeveloped acreage and Baja California's manufacturing base and low-cost labor.
“We've already got some companies showing interest in the region, but this provides us with marketing tools that unite the whole area,” said Timothy Kelley, who heads the Imperial Valley EDC.
With the help of a $225,000 Commerce Department grant and $90,000 in private contributions, the EDCs have been working together since April 2008 to put together a marketing plan that would identify the region's strengths and opportunities.
Now that the plan has been developed, the next stage is to begin promoting the areas. In mid-June, the EDCs will host 25 foreign journalists from such countries as China, South Korea, Japan, Canada, Germany and France, and take them on a tour of the region, focusing on companies such as Kyocera that do business on both sides of the border.
Other attractions on the tour will range from research-and-development centers in San Diego to solar farms and algae ponds in the Imperial Valley. The algae ponds are being promoted as a potential source of alternative fuels.
Tijuana Mayor Jorge Ramos said he is already trying to promote Baja California's links to the U.S. side of the border during his attempts to draw more businesses from overseas. At a recent trade fair in the Chinese manufacturing center of Xiamen, for instance, representatives from Tijuana conducted joint presentations with representatives from the San Diego and Imperial Valley EDCs.
“We're trying to aggressively market ourselves to China right now,” Ramos said.
Even though China has had some recent success in luring some manufacturing business away from Mexico, Ramos said the Chinese are now interested in opening plants in Tijuana, partly as a low-cost launching pad for the U.S. market.
“This (Cali Baja) initiative will help us develop a strategic plan for both sides of the border,” he said.