20 years of improving South San Diego County
In 20 years, South San Diego County has seen tremendous growth and development.
Eastern Chula Vista has seen the expansion of residential communities in East Lake and Otay Ranch. The Olympic Training Center opened. There have been major enhancements to the U.S./Mexico border crossings. New roads have opened, such as State Route 125.
All of these important achievements in the area are in part the result of involvement of a nonprofit organization committed to the improvement of this dynamic region.
This week the South County Economic Development Council (South County EDC) is celebrating 20 years of serving southern San Diego County, at the same time that it commemorates the region’s achievements in the last two decades.
Formed in 1989 by a group of business and community leaders who wanted to improve and boost the economy and quality of life in the area, the South County EDC has evolved into a key player in the decision-making and planning of the area’s economic and social development.
In 20 years, the nonprofit organization has worked in many projects that have resulted in progress for the region, including assisting major companies in opening facilities here, such as the 13,000 square foot FedEx distribution facility opening in October in Otay Mesa.
“We have come a long way. Twenty years ago, Otay Mesa was a farmland growing tomatoes, while Otay Ranch was horse country. Today, they are modern, developed communities housing both commercial and residential properties which are shining reflections of the entire South County region,” said Congressman and founding South County EDC member Brian Bilbray. “I am proud of what the South County EDC has been able to accomplish and the possibilities are limitless for continued accomplishments over the next 20 years.”
San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox was very involved in the beginnings of the South County EDC. He was mayor of Chula Vista at the time, and he credits the organization for a lot of the development that has taken place in the city and the rest of the south county.
“Participation and involvement of the business sector has grown dramatically,” Cox said. “South County EDC has evolved into a well-respected organization and incredible source of information on business development opportunities in South County. It has been truly gratifying to look back over the last twenty years and see the progress that has been made, not only in South County, but also in the role and the stature of the South County EDC.”
The South County EDC also considers Baja California part of the economic region, and thus, has worked to improve business relationships south of the border.
“Our most impressive accomplishment over the past 20 years is reflected in our improved social and economic relationship with our sister city of Tijuana ,” said South County EDC founding member, Joe Ellis. “We have bridged border communication and cooperation at every level and as a result, are seeing few differences between us. We are beginning to see our immediate social and economic community stretching as far south as the port of Ensenada.”
One of the key issues the South County EDC is working right now is the reduction of wait times on both directions at the border.
For Cindy Gompper-Graves, South County EDC chief executive officer, the celebration of 20 years of service to the region is also a way to look into the future.
“It’s a time of reflection and a call of action,” she said. “The South County EDC is probably the only organization where you can get an entire overview of what’s happening in South County. Our members have a passion for what happens here.”
Currently the South County EDC has 350 companies as members. Funding comes from member fees, grants, and fundraising events.
“The caliber of our members is so great,” Gompper-Graves said. “The energy these businesspeople put into the organization is amazing.”
One of those businesspeople who have invested a lot of time into the South County EDC since its founding is Tony McCune, of McCune Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge. He has been with the organization since 1989 and he’s one of the most active members, currently serving in its transportation committee.
“The South County EDC means a lot to me,” he said. “It has been a very important body to help the economy of South County. I think all the members who have participated in our efforts should be recognized because all of these people donate their time and expertise. They do it because they care about the future of the South County.”
McCune added that under the leadership of Gompper-Graves the South County EDC has evolved into a major organization.
“She has taken the South County EDC to the next level,” he said.
Gompper-Graves said that there’s lots to do for the next 20 years in South County. Among the organizations’ goals are to help reduce border wait-times, create more economic opportunities, and the implementation of the Cross Border Airport Terminal in Otay Mesa.