LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - By Mark Cafferty, president & CEO, San Diego Regional EDC (WTC San Diego License Holder)
Each time I have the opportunity to travel and represent our binational economy in foreign markets, I leave with new ideas, opportunities and connections that I see pay off for our region. My trip to London this past week will no doubt yield similar results. But I also can't help but feel like I was part of something bigger this time.
I began the trip as a proud member of the ProMexico Pavilion at the Farnborough International Airshow and Trade Show. Reminding the world's aerospace community of how actively San Diego supports Baja's robust aerospace/manufacturing economy is a role I am always excited to play. And while the legendary English rains put quite a damper on the first day of the show (flooding the trade show floors and completely knocking out electrical power), we still managed to pack in a lot of important meetings.
Returning bright and early for day two, we started off meeting with global manufacturer, Esterline to get an update on the status of their expansion efforts within Baja. Our mega region was out in full force as Baja Governor Francisco A. Vega de Lamadrid brought the newly elected mayors from Tijuana, Mexicali and Tecate together, along with Cristina Hermosillo (President of the Tijuana EDC) and I to talk about how we can continue to support the company from both sides of the border. The respect and support the delegation was able to convey to Esterline, and the company's clear appreciation and enthusiasm were worth the cost of the trip.
After this meeting, Cristina and I were able to get additional time with mayor-elect, Juan Manuel Gastelum of Tijuana, to develop a strategy to position the city as a software support hub and a key asset for San Diego's innovation economy. This meeting proved to be timely and important as well.
Between meetings and ceremonies at the Mexico Pavilion, I ventured out through the acres of trade show space to link up with representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce, economic development colleagues from the State of Washington and local industry giants, Cubic and General Atomics. And as is often the case at Farnborough, a chance encounter on the ride back to London led to a new business relationship between an Italian-based supplier who Cristina and I stood next to on the train and a Baja-based manufacturer who was part of our delegation. Tri-national economic development at its best!
Days three and four were a whirlwind of walks, black cabs and tube rides through London. We were meeting with and feeling out various businesses and political leaders for the potential of a San Diego trade and investment mission in early 2017, led by Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The reception and feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Despite the rather historic backdrop of both the Brexit and the appointment of a new female Prime Minister, the political and economic leadership in London is clearly not breaking stride. We met with representatives from Mayor Sadiq Khan's office and learned that climate change, economic inclusion and cross-border relationships—all hallmarks of our Mayor's administration in San Diego—are at the top of their London agenda. These items combined with a broader dialogue around data, open government and other "smart cities" topics will clearly make for a strong and timely series of meetings between the mayors.
The leaders at super-agency, London and Partners, pledged to work closely with our team at EDC to ensure that a potential visit in 2017 is mutually beneficial and showcases both long-term opportunities and measurable results. Additional meetings with Tech London Advocates (a large Connect-like network that supports London's start-up community), OneNucleus (a small BIOCOM-like entity that brings together London's life sciences companies) and MedCity London (a large network of well-funded life sciences incubators that have been spinning out new biotechnology and medical technology companies for almost a decade) confirmed that the interest in San Diego's biotech, high-tech and startup communities has never been higher.
We had a final meeting with a fascinating NGO called Nesta, where we explored the opportunity for San Diego to be included in some of their research and benchmarking efforts with other major global cities. It turns out they have been looking to engage more with cities in North America...sometimes timing is everything.
Looking back at my week overseas, my key takeaway is just how much our geographic proximity to Mexico and our strong regional collaboration with our partners in Tijuana/Baja have become key to our global identity. And at a time when the world is hearing international news reports of divisive and hateful rhetoric coming from one of our nation's Presidential candidates, the realities of Tijuana and San Diego working together and supporting each other have never meant more to our region and our nation's reputation abroad. We were told as much at the end of just about every meeting we had.
So I truly hope we will be returning to London in 2017 to see our two mayors open up a new connectedness between our highly innovative cities. I hope that business and university leaders from throughout our region will be there with us to generate new investment, trade and strategic partnerships. And I also hope that our partners and friends from Mexico will be right there by our sides—as always—continuing to show the world what binational leadership and collaboration looks like. I believe this can be one of the most important overseas missions our region will ever embark on. And I am certain that the results will pay off in more ways than we can possibly measure.
So as our #GlobalSD campaign marches on, we want to once again thank all of our partners and investors who are continuing to make it all possible. And if you see Mayor Faulconer, don't forget to remind him how much you appreciate, support and encourage his leadership in these efforts.
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