North County Mayors Join Forces To Help Region
These are the kind of questions that make it difficult to define North County, and therefore difficult to sell it to prospective employers - or to government agencies handing out grants.
That’s one reason five elected mayors from cities in North County decided to set aside their differences, and work together to attract opportunities for their citizens.
Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood says the catalyst for their cooperation happened at SANDAG, the regional planning agency where all 18 mayors in the county meet and divide millions of dollars for transportation funding.
“We, meaning the mayors in the North County, have decided that in the pecking order of things like SANDAG, we’re the redheaded stepchild,“ Wood said. “We’re the smaller cities. Now, we’re a region of San Diego, and we’ve decided as mayors we’d like a little more support for the North San Diego County.”
North County mayors saw millions of dollars in transportation money diverted from the expansion of Interstate 5 to build transit projects further south in San Diego.
Matt Hall, the mayor of Carlsbad, says cooperation is about more than winning transit money - it’s about positioning the region to attract more economic development.
Mayor Sam Abed, elected in 2010 in Escondido, is all about attracting more business.
“North County will be able to attract higher profile businesses here and better jobs and we’ll coordinate,” Abed said. “If they need more land in one city, we can refer them to the other city and work together on this."
The mayors are quick to point out what each respective city has to offer.
“Beaches, pier, harbor, small airport - Oceanside has a lot to offer to the North County," said Wood. "Everyone has something to add to the pot.“
“In Escondido, we have Palomar Pomerado Hospital,” said Mayor Abed, “A state of the art, $1-billion investment that will serve North County.”
“We have a great educational cluster than will provide the educated workforce to help us grow in North County,“ he said.
“The airport is very key,“ Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall said. “I think it’s going to have great benefit for the City of Carlsbad, but great benefit for all of North County.”
The mayors are not the only ones planning to build on North County’s reputation as a destination. North County’s Economic Development Council has also begun to explore the potential of the region, with an initiative recently renamed “Prosperity on Purpose.” County Supervisor Bill Horn has chipped in $140,000. The council plans to roll out an economic development strategy by the summer to benefit the whole of North County, including the more rural, unincorporated areas.
The two separate initiatives reflect the reality that North County still hasn’t defined its boundaries. But Mayor Abed is optimistic.
“Before, yes, we were shortchanged, and now I think our voice is more united," he said. "Are we getting our fair share? Maybe next time around."
The mayors said they hope to unveil some preliminary ideas to define the economic potential of the amorphous “North County" region later this month.