Economists State South San Diego County is the Perfect Place for Amazon Headquarters

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 27th Annual Economic Summit

 Panelists and speakers at the South County Economic Development Council’s 27th Annual Economic Summit all agreed — collaboration is key to economic growth in the South County. Event masters of ceremony were Sally Salazar Preston, board chair of South County EDC, and Robert "Dukie" Valderrama, Port of San Diego commissioner. 

A sold-out house of nearly 500 of San Diego’s business leaders and public officials gathered Friday for the South County Economic Development Council’s 27th 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.

If Amazon were to relocate to San Diego, the only place that makes sense for them to put it is in South County. South County has the warehouses, space and airport.

Ivette Casillas, City of Tijuana Councilmember

 "The many panelists and speakers provided insightful information, including a report with comprehensive data about the growth of South County’s economy,” said Cindy Gompper-Graves, president and CEO of South County EDC. “South County is outpacing the rest of San Diego County and the rest of the nation in terms of our growth.”

Phil Blair, Executive Office Manpower of San Diego; Kelly Cunningham, Senior Economist of National University; and Chief Economist at SANDAG, Ray Major rounded out the economic panel.

During the panel, Blair talked about the workforce and job growth in South County – specifically the career opportunities in the tourism industry, which has grown by 20 percent in the past five years. He expressed the importance of young adults building careers in this industry, where people skills outweigh technical skills. Blair also mentioned that only 50 percent of employees will be full-time, permanent workers in five to ten years, due to the rise in project-driven contractors in South County.

Cunningham discussed the challenges that San Diego economy faces. He highlighted that the recent growth in San Diego’s GDP lags the rest of the state, or more precisely trails Northern California/San Francisco Bay Area; noting that San Diego, along with Los Angeles and Orange County show slower economic growth since 2010. He also talked about South County specifically, stating that the region’s $21.3 billion economy accounts for 10 percent of San Diego County’s GDP ($220.6 billion).

“If Amazon were to relocate to San Diego, the only place that makes sense for them to put it is in South County,” said Cunningham. “South County has the warehouses, space and airport.”

Major agrees that South County is primed to have Amazon headquarters in South County, especially with the new expansion in the central San Diego area. South County has large parcels of land, is close to freeways and the international airport, and the workforce to support it. Major shared his predictions for the coming year, stating that our regional economy is well positioned for the 21st century with a strong base and unique infrastructure that supports the innovation, bio-tech, military and hospitality industries. He also noted that even with the historically low mortgage interest rates, housing prices are at levels where in order to afford to buy the median priced home in the region, it now takes two people earning $84,300 with a down payment of $120,000.

Mayor Faulconer addressed the audience and spoke to the importance of NAFTA and bi-national collaboration.

“Our strength is when we work together,” said Faulconer. “We thrive because we collaborate with Mexico. It gives us a competitive advantage and makes us a mega-region that is working and continuing to grow.” 

Keynote speakers included Maj.-Gen. Angela Salinas, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, and Craig Woolston, Autonomous Design CoE Engineering VP at Northrop Grumman.

Salinas talked about her time in the military and challenges she faced as she rose through the ranks to become the first Latina selected and promoted to the general officer ranks, retiring as the senior ranking Hispanic women in the Corps. Salinas also discussed her transition to CEO of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas and how she taps into her military background to grow confidence in, and shape the lives of the young girls.

Woolston spoke to what the future of autonomy means for our region and the rest of the world, highlighting how well Chula Vista is positioned to support the growth of the industry with their robust workforce and new unmanned aerial vehicle site.

Another notable speaker at the event was Pearl Harbor survivor, Stuart Hedley. Hedley recalled his firsthand experience of the events that unfolded that day and reminded the students in the audience to stay in school and get an education.

The summit included an elected official panel comprised of Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina, National City Mayor Ron Morrison, Port of San Diego Commissioner Robert Valderrama and City of Tijuana Council member Ivette Casillas. The panel discussed­­­­ issues and opportunities within their individual regions. Bi-national relations were also a hot topic of the panel.

"I see this as Romeo and Juliet," said Casillas. "They try to put a wall between us, but the love is still there."

Morrison followed up by saying, “What we need to be doing is building relationships, not walls.”

Dedina also talked about the importance of working together to move the economy forward, as well as how he’s working on bettering Imperial Beach and making it possible for people of all socioeconomic classes to succeed in the beach town. Salas agreed with Dedina, adding that small businesses are the economic drivers and vital components to keeping towns unique. Valderrama spoke to the steps the Port is taking to bring tourism to South County, including the new Bayfront addition that’s coming to Chula Vista.

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

·         Regional Leadership Award, Paola Avila: As Vice President of the San Diego Regional Chamber, Paola is focused on advancing bi-national relationships and commerce efforts within the U.S. and Mexico, and creates alliances when opportunities arise.

·         Bi-National Endeavor Award, Denice Garcia: As Director of International Affairs for the office of Mayor Kelvin Faulconor, Denice is responsible for the development and implementation of the Mayor’s policies and priorities related to bi-national relations and international affairs. Denice lead the effort to convene border mayors from across the U.S. to sign a formal resolution pledging support for international trade and the renegotiation of NAFTA.

·         Outstanding Corporate Citizen Award, Luisa McCarthy of La Vista Memorial Park: Luisa values her community and uses the park’s rich history and cultural diversity of its surrounding communities to organize events that are offered at no cost to the public. Luisa is an enthusiastic individual who actively pursues civic and charitable causes.

·         Corky McMillin/Best of South County Award, Sweetwater Authority: In June 2017, Sweetwater Authority completed its new drought-proof water supply facility, the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility. The facility provides enough water for 18,000 families, costs less than purchased water and uses less energy than imported water by using solar panels to fully power the facility and reduce its carbon footprint.

·         Pioneer Award, Bob Koerber: Under Bob’s leadership, BAE Systems, the third largest defense contractor in the world, recently opened an office in Chula Vista for 200 of its San Diego-based employees. While Bob believed he had found the perfect location, he was turned down 25 times after presentations to corporate. Bob did not give up, following his 26th presentation, the new office location was approved. BAE System’s move to South County has brought business growth and additional jobs to the region.

·         Golden Dedication/Marilyn Lassman Lifetime Achievement Award, Eddy Brikho: Eddy is a champion for his community and is continually giving back. Eddy is dedicated to the youth in National City, donating to student ASBs and athletic clubs of local schools. Additionally, Eddy adopts over 500 families annually for Thanksgiving and Christmas to ensure they have memorable holidays.

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


Source: South County EDC