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CRE Info: Economic Growth Booming in South County

Posted by:  Jim Morstad
2016-09-08 12:11:42

SAN DIEGO—South County is outpacing the rest of San Diego County and the rest of the nation in terms of economic growth, said South County Economic Development Council’s president and CEO Cindy Gompper-Graves during the council’s 25th Annual Economic Summit here last week. The summit offered attendees a comprehensive look into the San Diego South Bay and Baja region’s latest business-development and economic-outlook news.


Gompper-Graves tells, “South County is located on the Pacific Rim and adjacent to Baja, Mexico, offering superior access to foreign markets. Businesses are realizing that a location on an international border has great advantages. As companies look for alternatives to opening operations in China, they are seeking to set up their US presence in South San Diego County with a manufacturing component in Baja, Mexico.


Nearly 500 of San Diego’s business leaders and public officials gathered Friday for the summit, where panelists and speakers agreed that collaboration is key to economic growth in the South County. According to Gompper-Graves, “The many panelists and speakers provided insightful information, including a report with amazing data about the growth of South County’s economy. South County is outpacing the rest of San Diego County and the rest of the nation in terms of our growth.


Kelly Cunningham, economist and senior fellow at the National University System Institute for Policy Research, presented findings on the South County economy, which showed that South County grew three times faster from 2010 to 2013 than the overall county. “There’s a boom in South County. People and jobs are growing there.”


Cunningham added that the fields to pay attention to are in the innovation, technology, healthcare and cybersecurity sectors. The report NUSIPR put out states, “fueling this growth has been an increasing number of high-tech and professional-service companies that call South County home, continued growth along the border, and gains on the ‘working waterfront’ of the San Diego Bay.”


Cunningham tells, “South County has more room to grow than other parts of San Diego that are seeing prohibitive costs and limited expansion available. Tech and other businesses especially are finding space, location, and costs conducive to opening and expanding in South County areas. Accessibility to Mexico and the Pacific Rim available through the border, shipping and air facilities are undoubtedly factors in the location decisions as well.”


The numbers bear out. Gross domestic product for South County was $20.1 billion, an inflation-adjusted increase of 30.7% over 2010, according to the report. San Diego County’s total GDP for 2013 was $197.9 billion, an inflation-adjusted increase of 7.2%. Increases in personal income, employment, population and households also outpaced San Diego County as a whole during that time period. Clearly, South County is doing something right.


Marney Cox, chief economist at SANDAG, said San Diego experience more out-migration in the past—now it’s at an equal or neutral level, and the reason for that change is job growth. “South County seems to be the location that’s taking advantage of change in the economy. ‘Old’ industries haven’t seemed to come back.” He added that structural unemployment problems in industries such as real estate have not been overcome.


According to Supervisor Greg Cox, key indicators of South County’s success include projects such as the development of Brown Field and the opening of the cross-border terminal. Residents benefit from economic growth and activity through the ability to retain and grow businesses, which will reverse the flow of traffic as more jobs are created. This will provide opportunities for residents to have jobs closer to home, which Cox said is “not only refreshing, but will bolster the economies of all South County cities.”


Port of San Diego chairman Dan Malcolm said, “Transformation is happening in a big way in South County,” with the Chula Vista Bayfront as the largest project in the Port’s history.


Marney Cox advised the audience to look south, as there are many opportunities for South County to grow in conjunction with Mexico. Congressman Juan Vargas agreed, stating that South County needs to build bridges instead of walls. “And we are—we’re building bridges and bigger gates. We’re not putting up walls.” Vargas led a binational-impact discussion with Sen. Ernesto Ruffo Appel, Mexican Federal Government; and Sen. Victor Hermosillo y Celada, both with the Mexican Federal Government.


Cox said, “South County is a unique geographic location with acres of available land. The proximity to the border will be key in the years ahead, with billions of dollars in economic growth opportunities on both sides of the border.”


Keynote speakers at the summit included Derica W. Rice, Eli Lilly and Co.'s EVP of global services and CFO, and Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO at Scripps Health. Van Gorder discussed the future of the healthcare system and why Scripps Health is successful. “We need to change not only our way of thinking about how we deliver care, but also how we think about care,” Van Gorder said. This change includes creating a seven-day week system. He explained that Scripps Health is investing in research around wireless technology, which would allow for 24/7 access to doctors.


Rice talked about the recently announced expansion of Lilly’s research center in La Jolla, which builds on the company’s longstanding partnership with San Diego as a major research hub. “With collaborations like this, we have the best and brightest minds, working together, to solve the world’s most complex and urgent medical problems.”


Other notable speakers at the event included Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, who discussed tech-economy competitiveness.


The summit included panel discussions featuring local public officials, including: Sen. Marty Block; Sen. Ben Hueso; Lorena Gonzalez and Shirley Weber, California assembly members;Laura Torres, Baja, CA, assembly member; Dan Malcolm, Port of San Diego commissioner;Ron Morrison, mayor of National City; Silvano Abarca, mayor of Rosarito Beach; Serge Dedina, mayor of Imperial Beach; Richard Bailey, Coronado councilmember; and Pamela Bensoussan, Chula Vista councilmember.


An economic-outlook panel for South County and the San Diego region featured panelists Peter Callstrom, president and CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership; Cunningham; Marney Cox; and Phil Blair, executive officer at Manpower West. Event masters of ceremony wereMonica Montano, director of community relations at Scripps Health, and Robert “Dukie” Valderrama, Port of San Diego commissioner.

article written by Carrie Rossenfield for

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Jim Morstad

Vice President of Commercial Real Estate