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Our Opinion: Incubating the economy

May 25, 2001

Aside from the farming industry, in many ways the Imperial Valley is still in its economic infancy. We have little industrial development, high unemployment, relatively low wages and too much poverty.

So a "business incubator" that could help Imperial County's economic baby grow is definitely a good thing.

The way the incubator would work is that a municipality would build a facility in which businesses would locate, then the businesses would build up commerce over a few years, particularly in connection with the maquiladora industry in Mexicali. Once established, the businesses would move out into their own facilities and thereby allow other businesses to move into that municipal facility and start building trade.

The idea is supported by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Mexicali business officials and the Small Manufacturers Association of California.

Calexico was first offered the incubator setup but it never came to fruition there. Why that happened is debatable and old news, and casting blame at this point won't do anyone any good. What is good is that county Supervisor Tony Tirado, who mostly represents the Calexico area, decided to take the idea to El Centro, which has a new industrial park where the facility could be built. El Centro officials seem ready to act quickly to provide an economic stimulus.

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The project is now being called an "accelerator" instead of an incubator and the concept is only slightly different. Instead of bringing in startup businesses to the facility, more-established firms would be set up in the building and allowed to flourish.

There are still hurdles to cross in order for this whole thing to happen. An application would have to be filed with Commerce's Economic Development Administration and then approved by the EDA, which could provide up to $1.2 million for the project. And El Centro officials say it would cost $3 million to build such a facility.

Still, federal officials think the Imperial Valley, with cheap land and proximity to Mexicali's maquiladoras, is an ideal spot for such a program. With our great need for economic development in general and jobs in particular, it seems something we would be silly to not pursue.

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