Economic status of North County highlighted in summit

Economic status of North County highlighted in summit
From left are MiraCosta College President Sunita Cooke, mayors Jim Wood (Oceanside), Matt Hall (Carlsbad), Jim Desmond (San Marcos), Sam Abed (Escondido), Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer (Encinitas), mayor Judy Ritter (Vista) and Councilman Barry Leonard (Poway). The panel discussed the economic health of North County and their respective cities Wednesday at the San Diego North Economic Development Council summit at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Photo by Steve Puterski

ESCONDIDO — For the love of commerce.

On Wednesday, five mayors and a deputy mayor took to the stage at the San Diego North Economic Development Council summit held at the California Center of the Arts, Escondido to discuss how collaboration, partnerships and business-friendly environments have shaped North County.

Mayors Matt Hall (Carlsbad), Jim Wood (Oceanside), Judy Ritter (Vista), Sam Abed (Escondido), Jim Desmond (San Marcos) along with Councilman Barry Leonard (Poway) and Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer of Encinitas, discussed the economic status of the region.

The panel answered several prepared questions along from attendees, who queried how to work with local government is various ways.

When asked how the cities measure the economic health, Wood said Oceanside uses several metrics including job to housing ratios and feedback from other mayors.

Abed, who received a laugh when he tabbed Escondido as the capital of North County, said measure success is simple. The second-term mayor said it’s through jobs created, skills of workers, attracting capital and the businesses each city lands.

Abed also highlighted the growing efforts between the “five cities,” which are part of the Innovate 78 corridor.

“We use collaborative efforts with the five cities and work to make sure North County is a business friendly place,” he added.

Shaffer, meanwhile, said Encinitas adds tax revenue into the city’s equation, noting sales tax is up 33 percent, property tax 23, while unemployment is at 3.8, below the county average.

Hall, though, brought a more macro approach, noting the five cities valuation is currently $90 billion compared to $180 billion for the 17 other cities minus San Diego. He said the county’s current worth is $415 billion.

All the panelists agreed working with high schools and local colleges and universities is playing a more important role to attract business and keep students in the North County workforce.

“It’s about how we collaborate,” Hall explained. “We have to partner with businesses and young people when they get out of school.”

Desmond continued on the educational theme noting San Marcos is the educational hub of North County with California State University San Marcos, Palomar College plus a number of small private colleges.

Wood noted efforts between Oceanside and MiraCosta College have led to a four-year degree in biology due to the growing industry.

“That’s our piece of the puzzle,” Desmond said. “We want education to stay in North County and create more jobs. If we have the talent, businesses will come and we don’t have to offer tax incentives.”

As for the five cities, Abed said it is an unprecedented program, while Hall said just a decade ago each entity was “building walls” around their borders. But the desire to keep North County as a hub for innovation won out as their partnerships have blossomed into a strong economy.

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