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San Diego’s South Bay Region is Poised for Growth, Local Experts Say

Created: 17 October, 2014
Updated: 26 July, 2022
6 min read

Elected officials, economists and business leaders gathered to discuss development of the South Bay and Baja region at the South County Economic Development Council’s 24th Annual Economic Summit

More than 400 of San Diego’s business leaders and public officials gathered Friday for the South County Economic Development Council’s 24th Annual Economic Summit. The summit offered attendees a comprehensive look into the San Diego South Bay and Baja region’s latest business development and economic outlook news.

“This Summit is an avenue for economists and elected officials to present updates on and discuss the economic impact of major development projects that will shape the future of our region,” said Cindy Gompper-Graves, South County Economic Development Council President and CEO. “These projects will be linked together by the South County EDC’s Visioning Project. This five-year strategic plan includes new strategies that are expected to expand international trade and commerce, promote the innovation cluster, grow the tourism industry and build on specific industry clusters.”

Keynote speakers at the Economic Summit were Linden Blue, Vice Chairman of General Atomics, and John Reilly, Park President at SeaWorld San Diego. Mike Dee, CEO of the San Diego Padres, and Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, were special speakers at the event.

Williams discussed the noble projects that the South County region is working on, including Aerotropolis, which has garnered national attention. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Tijuana Mayor Jorge Astiazaran each discussed the cross-border collaboration, and Williams said this notion of a mega region speaks volumes to the success seen in the area.

“The work that you do makes everything so much more relevant, so much more impactful,” Williams said. “We debate policy in Washington, DC; there is debate about investments and scarcity of resources. At the end of the day, it’s the work that is being done here on the frontlines, at the grassroots level, that is really what is helping to power this economic recovery that we are experiencing.”

John Reilly is the park president at SeaWorld San Diego as well as the park president at SeaWorld’s Aquatica in Chula Vista. Reilly spoke at South County EDC’s Economic Summit in 2013, when Aquatica first opened, but SeaWorld has had a connection to South County for more than 50 years, as many of its employees live in the area. SeaWorld continues to expand Aquatica, and will add heat to its pools next year.

“With the opening of Aquatica, SeaWorld’s waterpark, in Chula Vista in 2013, we became active in the South Bay,” Reilly said. “We are delighted by how well we’ve been embraced by the communities in the South County and excited to be part of the region’s growth and development.”

Reilly addressed SeaWorld’s recent activity in the media, saying that SeaWorld continues to engage with the consumer media to tell the real story and refute data that isn’t fact-based.

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The first panel discussion featured an economic outlook for South County and the San Diego region. Panelists included Mark Cafferty, President and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Council; Kelly Cunningham, Senior Fellow and Economist for the National University System Institute for Policy Research; and Dr. James Gerber, Economics Professor at San Diego State University.

Six years since the onset of the nation’s Great Depression in 2008, and five years after the recovery began in 2009, San Diego’s total economy and job numbers have recovered and exceeded pre-recession levels, Cunningham said. However, not all San Diego economic sectors and/or job categories have recovered, and remain mired at recessionary levels.

“San Diego’s economic environment has considerably shifted. Real estate and leasing, professional and business services, health care, government – including military, utilities and even manufacturing are at record economic levels,” Cunningham said. “On the other hand, construction, information, retail trade and transportation/warehousing sectors remain far from recovery.”

These bi-level movements will continue to significantly reshape the region’s economic environment, Cunningham said.

The second panel discussion included local elected officials who discussed updates on their regions. The elected officials included Sen. Ben Hueso; Assemblymembers Lorena Gonzalez and Shirley Weber; Ron Morrison, Mayor of National City; David Alvarez, San Diego Councilmember; Pamela Bensoussan, Chula Vista Councilmember; Al Ovrom Jr., Coronado Councilmember; Susan Davis, California Congresswoman; Cesar Moreno, Mayor of Tecate, Mexico; Jorge Astiazaran, Mayor of Tijuana, Mexico; Silvano Abarca, Mayor of Rosarito, Mexico; and Juan Manuel Gastelum, Mexico Congressman.

Congresswoman Susan Davis said she knows how important immigration reform is and apologized for Congress’s lack of movement. She said this could be the biggest economic engine moving forward and is glad that its importance is emphasized here. She also addressed how San Diego benefits from the military.

“There’s no doubt that defense spending plays a key role in our region’s economy,” Davis said. “San Diego will continue to be a player in our nation’s defense due in large part to its technological and innovative spirit. We must also continue to ensure small businesses are provided an opportunity to compete in this field that San Diego has not only contributed to but also benefited from.”

In addition to the economic and business development updates, seven local leading individuals and organizations were honored for their devotion to the South County region. Award honorees and categories include:

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· Pioneer Award, San Ysidro Health Center: presented to a leader whose visionary contributions have broken traditional societal, political or economic barriers, whereby opening doors and setting a new course for the South San Diego County region

· Bi-National Endeavor Award, Consul General Maria de los Remedios Gomez Arnau: presented to a leader who has committed extended efforts to continue fostering relationships and promote economic growth on both sides of the border

· Corky McMillin/Best of South County Award, Alan Clark and the Chula Vista Center: presented to a business that has a history of consistent excellence in products/ services, customer satisfaction and overall performance

· Golden Dedication/Marilyn Lassman Lifetime Achievement Award, City of Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox: presented to a distinguished leader that has served in many leadership positions and has integrated valuable benchmarks upon their community

· Regional Leadership A-ward, two winners: Clarissa Falcon and South Bay Community Services: presented to a South County entity or organization that has served as a leader in integrating valuable benchmarks upon the region and has made a significant impact in the South County in the past year

· Outstanding Corporate Citizen Award, Alex Galicia of BPI Plumbing: presented to a citizen or business that has made a remarkable contribution to the South County through their business or organization.

The Summit is the largest public forum the South County EDC holds annually. For more information on the Summit and upcoming South County events and development, visit or email

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