REGION — To bring high-paying jobs and large corporations to the area, five cities along the State Route 78 corridor are collaborating together on the North County Branding Project.
Realizing that economic benefits are not constrained by city boundaries, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido collectively hired North Star Destination Strategies earlier this year to develop a brand to promote the area’s strongest business attributes.
“No longer can we work in silos in economic development,” said Vista’s Economic Development Director Kevin Ham. “To help maintain the jobs in North County and help bring the jobs to North County, we need to work together to show the benefits and the attributes of the entire 78 corridor.”
Officials from all five cities explained that while each city has its individual commercial strengths, the cities could offer more to potential companies by combining their strengths as a region.
“As strong and successful as Carlsbad is, we still didn’t have a large enough housing base (and) education,” said Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall. “There are certain elements you need to create a strong jobs base, and we didn’t have all of the elements.”
While San Marcos has a number of higher education institutes throughout the city, the city relies on others in North County to supply high-paying jobs for its graduates, said the city’s Communications and Economic Development Program Manager Jenny Windle.
“We don’t want to just cultivate exceptional employees and then send them away. We want to keep them here,” she said.
Furthermore, North County as a whole offers easy access to most Southern California counties and Mexico, especially with McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, said Ham.
The area also has well-established business clusters that are likely to attract similar companies within the same industry as well as the companies that support them, he added.
“From an economic development standpoint, the 78 corridor makes sense in terms of being a major transportation thoroughfare,” said Escondido Management Analyst Michelle Geller. She explained that with such transportation, a number of business parks and industrial areas have already developed along the corridor, which lends the area to future commercial growth.
By creating an area-wide brand, the cities aspire to attract large corporations to establish locations in North County and also encourage existing local companies to stay in the area and expand. In this way, all of the 78 corridor cities will mutually benefit from the new jobs created for their residents.
Geller cited Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps’ expansion as an example.
The soap company had operated in Escondido for about 30 years, but recently relocated to Vista, which offered more commercial space, to expand its company. Despite the move, all of the original Escondido employees were able to keep their jobs and the business’s expansion created more jobs in the region.
The idea of establishing a brand originated with the mayors of the five cities.
Over the years, these mayors have met regularly to brainstorm ways to bolster the local economy.
Hall said that they quickly identified job creation as their biggest mutual goal and eventually came up with the idea to establish a brand about two years ago.
“Each city is different so we are trying to build on each other’s strengths,” said Vista Mayor Judy Ritter.
Each city contributed $20,000 towards hiring North Star Destination Strategies this spring to take on the project.
North Star Vice President and Director of Client Services Ed Barlow explained that by creating a brand, the cities are essentially designing a narrative for the area that highlights the growth and desirability of North County.
“No one moves anywhere, visit anywhere, takes business anywhere based on a logo and a line,” said Barlow during the most recent Vista City Council meeting. “Your brand is what people say about you when no one is around.”
Currently, the company is working on the research stage of the project, which will be completed this November, he said. Subsequently, the company will work with the cities to create the brand and develop a strategy to promote it.
While the cities have yet to develop specific goals for the outcomes of the branding project, the officials expressed that branding is one part of their initiative to bring economic growth to the area.
“If we (the five cities) weren’t looking to the future to see where we could help businesses and make the changes they need to grow, then we would become stagnant,” said Ham.