Foote: Valley needs attitude adjustment in order to grow

January 26, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

For the effort to attract economic growth to the Imperial Valley to succeed, attitudes need to change, rivalries must be broken and the public and private sectors must unite.

That was the message delivered by El Centro attorney Orlando Foote to local business and government leaders gathered at the Imperial Valley Expo Thursday to celebrate the first-year birthday of the Imperial Valley Economic Development Committee.

For a year IVEDC has been working to become an agency that can attract industry to the Valley to spark job-creation.

Founders of IVEDC, a nonprofit corporation, say it can drive a new type of economic development, one not tied to any local government.


On Thursday Foote became president of IVEDC for the coming year. He replaces Ron Hull, president as IVEDC in its first year.

Foote lauded Hull and all those involved with founding the agency.

Joining Foote on the board are Marty Plourd of Valley Independent Bank as vice president; Rudy Maldonado, an Imperial Irrigation District director, as secretary; and Cathy Kennerson of the El Centro Chamber of Commerce & Visitor's Bureau, who will be IVEDC's chief financial officer.

The agency has hired Louis Fuentes, a Calexico native and a member of that city's Economic Development Commission, as the full-time executive director of IVEDC.

Fuentes will vacate his seat on the Calexico board to take on his duties with IVEDC.

In a presentation in which he spoke about the problems of the past and the keys to the future, Foote told those gathered the time for change is now.

"We are being left in the dust and I don't like it," he said.

Foote pointed out the Valley has the highest unemployment rate, the lowest per capita income in the state, a slow economic growth rate, a high poverty level and regional rivalries.

"There are rivalries between the north and south ends, rivalries between cities, between government agencies," Foote said. "There is adversity to change."

He added, "You know the follies. It is time for change."

After pointing out the negatives, Foote touched on the positives — productive space available, water and power, a diverse labor force, an environment that throughout most of the year "is as hospitable as anywhere."

Foote said as the IVEDC moves into its second year, it has the momentum to help bring growth. He said the agency has a full-time executive director, an office at 1224 State St. in El Centro, a toll-free number and a Website.

When asked what will make IVEDC's work different from past economic development pushes, Foote said the agency will not have the agendas that public sector economic growth efforts have.

He said IVEDC will focus on finding industry and attracting it to the Imperial Valley. It will not push that industry to locate into any one area of the Valley.

Foote added IVEDC will not attempt to seek retail growth or housing development. That is the work of the chambers and the local governments.

He said the agency will focus on industrial growth.

"What we haven't had is a cohesive privately driven effort," Foote said.

The agency will operate with an annual budget of about $280,000, and at least 51 percent of that funding must come from the private sector. He said no more than 49 percent of the funding can come from local governments.

Fuentes said one of his goals as executive director will be to work with Mexicali on marketing both sides of the border as a region. He said already Mexicali has expressed an interest in such a partnership.

"I think we can work together and come up with a twin package," Fuentes said. "We must form a stronger alliance with our neighbors in Mexicali to promote the region as a whole."

Foote said Mexicali has a similar agency to IVEDC and that agency has promoted that city and brought growth to that side of the border.

"Our neighbors in Mexicali are light years ahead of us with a similar effort," Foote said.

For more information contact he IVEDC at (877) 994-8332. The agency's Website address is

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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