Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Cali Baja Means Business
Here's an innovative way to address border issues between the U.S. and Mexico: Erase the border.
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Figuratively erasing the border is the whole idea behind “Cali Baja,” a newly launched marketing and business-development initiative that aims to capitalize on assets positioned throughout the bi-national mega-region encompassing San Diego and Imperial Counties, and Baja California, Mexico.
San Diego State University plays an important role in the project, led by geography professor Eric Frost, co-director of SDSU’s Immersive Visualization Center and head of the university’s graduate program in homeland security.
In an effort dedicated to recently retired SDSU President Stephen L. Weber, Frost and his team are developing an online “asset map” of the Cali Baja area to help attract potential investors from around the world. The interactive tool will show locations of valuable resources for business development, such as universities, fiber optic transmission lines, and geologic potential for wind, solar and geothermal energy.
For example, Frost said, a Google data center located on the southern side of the border could well enjoy huge advantages: clean energy, proximity to a major fiber optic corridor running along Interstate 8, and skilled workers educated at one of Baja’s 82 institutions of higher education—all at significantly lower costs than in the U.S.
Mexico’s comparatively relaxed privacy and workplace regulations also may prove an advantage to some industries, Frost added.
The Cali Baja initiative launched June 13 at the SDSU Visualization Center with a bi-national gathering of business, community and government leaders and a signed agreement to begin promoting the trans-border region.
“Together with our partners, we are committed to marketing the assets of the region as a whole,” said Julie Meier Wright, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), one of the signatories.
“Transactions with client companies interested in locating to or expanding in Cali Baja will be driven by a regional approach to economic development. This unique collaborative model will create a significant competitive advantage for our region.”
Frost foresees more than economic advantages in the bi-national approach. “Trade has become one of the solutions in homeland security,” Frost said. “Instead of looking at the border as an immigration and crime problem, why not look at it as an opportunity, especially related to business?
“Often, innovation and the realization of the potential wealth of a country can help drive solutions to what seem to be intractable problems,” Frost said.
Initially funded by a federal grant, the Cali Baja Bi-National Mega-Region Initiative is now supported by a partnership of private and public stakeholders on both sides of the border.
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