Escondido Council hears report on Innovate 78 progress

ESCONDIDO — Innovate 78 is generating steam as a regional and statewide player for its model in attracting and retaining businesses to North County.

On Wednesday, the Escondido City Council took a report from the city’s Economic Development Manager, Michelle Gellar, and Matt Sanford, director of Economic Development at the San Diego Economic Development Council.

Gellar, who recently took the top economic job with the city, said the department has consolidated and streamlined efforts to land new businesses or those looking to relocate.

“I have the opportunity now to focus on business attraction, retention and expansion,” she said. “We are well positioned to leverage all opportunities coming our way.”

Part of the leverage, she said, is to create a city and business environment where businesses can grow or expand.

She said the efforts of Innovate 78, which drives business from Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido, is generating more success.

Sanford, meanwhile, said Innovate 78 not only recruits but assists businesses already located in the region with state applications for tax credits and other incentives.

Its primary focus centers on three aspects, including economic development, branding and engagement.

“This is really a role model for the country to follow,” Mayor Sam Abed said. “The successes here in our city are duplicated in cities throughout. We are really building on the success of the San Diego EDC. Innovate 78 is a part of this branding.”

Sanford, meanwhile, noted several examples such as Project Membrane, Project Water Tech, VAVi, Klein Electronics, Briteworks Brewing, Green Guard, Baker Electric and Transpower, as entities using Innovate 78.

Others businesses are either in the process of launching or have opened their doors.

Branding efforts are growing as well for Innovate 78.

The model has 52.7 million total website impressions and a 24.8 percent increase in Twitter followers.

As for initiatives, more visibility is a priority.

Innovate 78 hosted a leadership workshop in September at California State University San Marcos, which drew guests from all over the state.

In addition, efforts also rely on recruiting talent from Silicon Valley.

“We were happy with that and will likely replicate that,” Sanford said of the workshop. “Recruitment is something we want to make sure we do well.”

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