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‘Deep Rolodex' offered to help county in economic development

January 13, 2001|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

A Los Angeles-based company is offering its "deep Rolodex" to Imperial County to help local economic development efforts.

Xavier Hermosillo, executive director of the NAFTA Corridor Institute, said the company's business and government connections are being offered to the county to help cut the local high unemployment rate by bringing new business and industry to the area.

"Imperial County is very important in our 1,800-mile NAFTA corridor," he said, adding there is more to economic development than just attracting new industry, including quality of life, housing, water, power, keeping businesses in the area, agriculture, the flow of goods across the border and business that fits a border region.

Hermosillo said he's visited the Imperial Valley numerous times since last summer and talked to a wide range of people including politicians and city and county staff members.

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"From day one we have touted our deep Rolodex with government and business contacts," he said. "What we're saying to people is, ‘Let us help you.' "

Hermosillo said no actual written proposal has been made during his visits, but in exchange for bringing new business to the county, NCI would expect what he calls a "success fee."

"You pay us if we succeed," he said.

That payment would be in the single digit percentage of some form of benefit to the area, he said, such as a percentage of the new business's property tax or tax increment or something else.

"When we bring a success then they pay us a fee. It's fee after success," he said,

Some of the people with whom Hermosillo has met include supervisors' Chairman Tony Tirado, District 3 Supervisor Joe Maruca and District 2 Supervisor Hank Kuiper. Maruca and Kuiper were not yet on the board when they met with Hermosillo.

"Like everything else, people are beginning to look into the Valley," Tirado said, adding the county, the cities and the Imperial Irrigation District are all doing economic development with differing degrees of success. "We need to come to some consensus. There has to be a one- stop location where interested parties can get all the information they need. We should all be open-minded and see what develops, but in the end it has to be one stop."

Maruca said he's met with Hermosillo twice.

"They were interesting, and there was a lot of talk that sounded good," he said. "Who knows what people can deliver?"

Maruca said when he asked Hermosillo what the cost of such an economic development arrangement with NCI would be, Hermosillo did not provide a full answer.

"I didn't get a straight answer, but the answer I did get sounded exorbitant," Maruca said. "Whether they're as good as they say they are, I don't know. The jury is still out."

One effort Hermosillo takes credit for involves the under-construction beef-processing plant in Brawley. He said when the potential manufacturing enhancement area designation was hung up in a legislative committee, his organization was able to move it out of committee and get it passed by the Legislature.

Meanwhile, Maruca said he is unsure if the services of NCI will be used, and that the county will continue its own economic development efforts.

El Centro Mayor Cheryl Walker said she has not had the opportunity to meet with Hermosillo but she welcomes his participation, and looks forward to NCI being included in future dialogues.

Cathy Kennerson, executive director of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, said she too has not met with Hermosillo.

"Our plans are to still have the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corp. do our economic development," she said, adding that organization is close to selecting an executive director. "It's main task is to market the Imperial Valley and not duplicate those efforts by the county or the cities."

Kuiper could not be reached for comment.

Staff writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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