North County cities agree to work together to bolster business in region

Five North County cities are set to unveil a marketing campaign in late May as part of their official effort to promote North County as a positive regional entity for prospective businesses. (North Coast Current photo illustration)

Five North County cities are set to unveil a marketing campaign in late May as part of their official effort to promote North County as a positive regional entity for prospective businesses. (North Coast Current photo illustration)

Alex Groves

Five North County cities are set to unveil a marketing campaign in late May as part of their official effort to promote North County as a positive regional entity for prospective businesses, and those surrounding the project say it stands to positively impact the region in a noticeable way.

The cities – San Marcos, Escondido, Carlsbad, Oceanside and Vista – have all signed a memorandum dedicated to mitigating intra-city competition. The memorandum encourages the cities to work with each other by sharing information while also discouraging them from soliciting or targeting another city’s business.

Officials associated with the memorandum said its goal of promoting North County’s State Route 78 cities as a singular region could be good for a couple of reasons; one of those reasons is that it would create a less hostile environment for businesses to come in, and the other is that it would ease the transition for a North County-based business to move from one city to another.

“The benefit of all the cities working together is that, for example, one business might have a need to be close to a certain type of other business,” said Kevin Ham, economic development manager for the city of Vista. He said the newly forged agreement would benefit North County’s job market because cities could work together in order to keep employers settled within the region.

Ham was specifically referring to a protocol within the agreement that strongly urges a city to communicate with other cities when it doesn’t have the space or resources for a business when that business chooses to move to a new location.

By communicating the business’ needs with other North County cities, that city would be increasing the chances of it remaining within the region; that’s because another city might be able to offer that business facilities or property they may have, according to Ham.

But retaining businesses through a distinct regional identity is only one component of the cooperative agreement, which also seeks to bring in new business, as well.

Biotechnology companies, action sports companies and breweries are some of the types of businesses the campaign seeks to bring in to create an environment of job growth and development, according to San Marcos Economic Development Manager Jenny Windle.

“We’re looking to develop a job climate within North County so that when our students graduate from Cal State San Marcos or from Palomar (College), they will be able to stay in the community while obtaining positions,” Windle said.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said he’s excited by the prospects of the new memorandum because emphasizing the region collectively will benefit every city involved.

“There’s an added value for businesses to see the assets of the 76 corridor collectively,” Abed said.

The mayor said that by having a collective branding campaign, the cities will help businesses to see everything that the region has to offer, from the Westfield North County shopping mall to educational facilities such as Cal State San Marcos and Palomar College.

However, Abed said, the project still has a long way to go. The rebranding campaign is still being worked on and won’t be finished for another month or two; then the cities have to decide who will even be in charge of managing the campaign, which could go either to the nonprofit North San Diego Economic Development Council or a private company.

There’s also the language of the agreement itself, which doesn’t require any of the cities to adhere to the protocol list. Instead, it strongly urges cities to play by the rules.

Carl S. Morgan, chief executive officer of the San Diego EDC, said that critics shouldn’t worry about whether or not the plan will toward the solidification of the region. He said the very fact that five cities are working together to achieve a common goal is unprecedented.

“I would say that anytime five cities get together and agree to work together from the elected official, to the city manager, to the ED professional, that’s going to be a positive thing for the region,” he said.

Alex Groves is a freelance writer in the region