Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation Celebrates a Decade of Growth

By Betty Predmore

Andy Horne reports on the progress of the Energy Committee

“A Decade of Growth….A Plan for Prosperity” was the theme of the annual Dinner and Meeting of the IVEDC which was held at the Barcelona Event Center on Friday, January 22, 2010.  Guests enjoyed a reception complete with live music, and a delicious dinner followed by the program/meeting.   President Timothy Kelley gave a warm welcome to all and a brief report on current projects in development.  A special welcome was given to visitors from Shanghai, China, who were in the Imperial Valley looking at prospective business and investment opportunities.

Chairperson Marlene Best called the meeting to order and Rick Gonzales followed with a financial report.  As a non-profit corporation, IVEDC generates revenue through membership, sponsorship, and event attendance.  IVEDC currently has over 100 private and public entities in its membership.

Don Barioni, Jr. gave a report on behalf of the Agribusiness Committee.  The mission of the Agribusiness Committee is to showcase agriculture business opportunities for the Imperial Valley.  This is done through attracting food manufacturers to the valley.  The committee stages events such as the “Taste of the Valley” which showcases Imperial Valley crops to out-of-town visitors, they arrange tours for potential business owners, and they participate in agricultural trade shows throughout the state and beyond.  The Leader Award was presented to Ayron Moiola of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association for her role on the Agribusiness Committee.

Andy Horne reported on the progress of the Energy Committee.  He reported encouraging developments of Renewable Energy Projects in Imperial Valley.  There are currently 16 geothermal plants in the County, which is the 2nd largest county in the nation for producing geothermal energy.   There are nearly two dozen renewable energy projects proposed or in development at this time.  Prospects for these projects are attracted through the annual Renewable Energy Summit.  This year’s summit will be held March 16-18 at the Quechan Casino Resort.  The focus of the summit will be on project financing, workforce development, and education.  They will be exploring local opportunities for alternative fuels, including ethanol and algae.  Laura McDonald of
Sempra Energy Utilities/San Diego Gas & Electric was presented with the Outstanding Service Award for her work with the Energy Committee.

The International Committee Report was presented by Thomas Topuzes who stated that there is an average of a1-2 visitors per week from other countries such as China, Mexico, Europe, Spain, Germany, South America, and India, who are looking to create investments in the Imperial Valley.  Of course, this leads to new jobs for Imperial County residents.  The Calexico Port of Entry project is one such project that is a mutual projects between Imperial Valley and another country, in this case Mexico, which will create jobs for valley residents.  Daniel Fitzgerald received recognition from the International Committee for his dedication to the Baja Project.

Jennifer Donatt, Chair of the Marketing Committee, stated to the audience that the greatest marketing tool IVEDC has is the positive words of its members.  Several events are held annually to promote marketing of IVEDC and the Imperial Valley.  One such great event this year was the Aviation Day held at the Imperial County Airport.  Other marketing tools used are video and radio commercials.  Rosa Maria Gonzalez of the Imperial Irrigation District was presented with recognition for the Marketing Committee for her promotion of the Renewable Energy Summit.

Keynote speaker Mary Ingersoll of Team California gave an energetic talk about what is on the horizon for the Imperial Valley and the State of California.  Team California is made of members of area economic development corporations throughout the state who represent the State of California in its efforts to bring commerce to the state.  According to Mary, Green Technology is the current focus of the California government.  Green Sector industry will infiltrate the valley and create jobs through solar and renewable energy projects.  President Timothy Kelley presented Mary with the Partnership Award for her diligence and dedication to Team California.  The evening ended with the presentation of the Annual Chairman’s Award which was given to Thomas Topuzes.

Economic Outlook for the Imperial Valley

The Imperial Valley has been rich in the production of Agriculture over the last decades, producing crops that feed millions around the world. Now there is another aspect of the Valley that is generating interest around the world. Then Imperial Valley has been slated as having the potential of becoming the renewable energy capital of the world with solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass. Along with the renewable energy, the Imperial Valley resides along the Mexican Border with the third busiest port coming into America being Calexico.

With the NAFTA trade agreement there now is a Los Angeles firm fronting for Chinese and Korean concerns that are lobbying for the Mexican government to be granted permission to build a $1 billion dollar port in the agricultural area of Punta Colonet, 150 miles south of Tijuana. The port project would be one of the largest Mexican public works projects ever. Roads, rail lines, port facilities and even a small city will have to be constructed to accommodate the project. The consortium believes it is necessary to accommodate the growing demand for Asian goods; imports from China grew at the astounding rate of 15% last year.

The project would improve Baja’s current port facilities and bring an international rail port to Southern California that will cut up to 500 miles off the overland shipping to Mexico, which in the past was only available halfway across the country in Texas. In the process, 500 much-needed jobs will be created in the Imperial Valley. There are talks of the rail coming up to the Calexico east port, creating needs for warehouses and distribution services.  Connecting Hwy 7 to Hwy 115, and talk about a cargo airport on the outskirts of Holtville.

The Imperial Valley Economic Development has been doing a lot of promoting of the valley over the last ten years and their hard work is being seen around the valley. We have seen a lot of growth in Imperial and Calexico with enterprise zones. We have seen the coming of the Imperial Valley Mall, three super Wal-Marts and signs of much to come.

In May of 2009, San Diego Gas and Electric opened a renewable energy office in El Centro. With the Sunrise Power link project slated to start construction in June 2010, a $2 billion transmission line from the Imperial Valley to San Diego will be created. In August 2009, IBEW local 549 opened the Electrical Workers Training Center in the city of Imperial. Now in January 2010 Imperial Valley College just opened their new $32 million Science Building with many courses focusing on the renewable energy industry.

The Imperial Valley has a lot to offer, it’s hot in the summer and mild in the winter just like Phoenix, Las Vegas and Palm Springs. We are one hour away from the recreation of the Colorado River and the Sand Dunes, two hours away from San Diego and Three hours from Los Angeles.  We have a major shopping mall with franchises like Macy’s, J.C. Penny, and Dillards

There are still some environmental issues being worked on and it is our hope that they will be resolved soon so that the Imperial Valley can become the power house of America. We have the resources. We have the people. We are ready.