Road to the Summit: First of 16 Regional Forums kicks off in San Diego

150 150 Teresa Acosta

The Economic Summit process began Wednesday with San Diego’s regional forum (Photo Credit: Susan Lovenburg)

The process to gather regional input into the 2013 California Economic Summit kicked off in San Diego Wednesday morning, the first of 16 forums that will be held across California in the next two months.

Around 300 business and community leaders from all over the San Diego mega-region, which includes San Diego County, Imperial County, and Baja California, met to exchange perspectives on the area’s most pressing economic issues and make recommendations for reforms.

The recommendations generated at the event, the 2013 San Diego Regional Economic Development Forum, will be incorporated into the agenda for a statewide California Economic Summit this fall.

Kicked off by San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox and Imperial County Supervisor Ray Castillo, the Forum featured a panel of distinguished local business leaders in a variety of industries, a high-tech audience survey that tabulated real-time survey results and displayed them for everyone, and an economic development case study.

Randy Frisch, the former President and Publisher of the San Diego Business Journal, moderated a lively panel discussion with a half dozen successful business leaders from the area’s biggest industries, including biotechnology, tourism, and defense.

Panelists shared their thoughts on the San Diego business climate, detailing strengths from various industry perspectives, as well as weaknesses. They primarily praised the intellectual capital of the area, culture of cooperation, and the location, while describing challenges with costs to live and do business in California.

Each audience member voted on economic development priorities in several categories: When the topic of access to capital came up, the priority was obvious. 80 percent said that increasing access to capital for emerging companies is a top priority, which is understandable given the dynamic medical and technology companies that have proliferated in San Diego.

It wasn’t as clear in the infrastructure area, where varied opinions were shared. “Helping shape a comprehensive state-wide infrastructure plan” received the most votes from attendees.

The event was opened by 2013 Summit co-chair Jessie Knight Jr., also the Chairman and CEO of San Diego Gas and Electric, and wrapped up with a case study detailing the complicated, five-year process of constructing SDG&E’s Sunrise PowerLink, a 500,000-volt transmission line linking San Diego to the Imperial Valley. SDG&E President and COO Michael Niggli shared his first-hand experience with the ups and downs of the $1.9 billion project, which ultimately went online in June, 2012.

Business leaders throughout the mega-region were impressed by the spirit of the event. According to John Mendez, President of Mendez Strategy Group, the event “was just what our region needs: it takes visioning to the next level by working to make ideas to improve our economy a concrete reality.”

The San Diego Forum was the first of a series of 16 Regional Forums being held throughout California. The ideas and priorities set at the forums will go into a shared agenda at the 2013 California Economic Summit, which will be held in Los Angeles in November to merge the recommendations, solidify a statewide agenda and begin implementation. 


Teresa Acosta

All stories by: Teresa Acosta