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LINK 2018 Kicks Off in San Diego with Conversations about Collaboration

Known for sand, surf, the Pacific Fleet, and proximity to Tijuana, Mexico, the San Diego region at first blush doesn’t seem to have much in common with metro Atlanta. But it didn’t take long for participants on ARC’s 2018 LINK trip to discover that the two regions share many attributes – and challenges.

Both regions are dealing with a rapidly growing population, increasing housing costs, stagnant wages, and a lack of homegrown talent to fill the jobs of the future. These were the topics of discussion on Wednesday, as the group of more than 120 metro Atlanta leaders kicked off the three-day LINK trip to the San Diego region.

Collaboration is Key to Success

LINK participants visited Liberty Station, a sprawling 361-acre mixed-use development in the former Naval Training Center San Diego which served as host of the first day’s activities. From its opening in 1923, the Naval Training Center was where most of the U.S. Navy’s sailors prepared for combat until it was closed in 1997. Today, it is home to businesses, nonprofits, art galleries, residences, offices, schools, and a rambling waterfront park.

Photo - Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, talks with Pat Upshaw-Monteith, president and CEO of Leadership Atlanta during a break at Liberty Station.
Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, talks with Pat Upshaw-Monteith, president and CEO of Leadership Atlanta during a break at Liberty Station.

Two panel discussions were held at Liberty Station. One focused on San Diego’s innovation economy, while the other explored the CaliBaja binational megaregion. But a common theme emerged that dominated the discussion: the importance of collaboration.

Takeaways from the day’s sessions included:

  • San Diego area businesses, like Qualcomm and Northrop Grumman, are working with local school systems to prepare students for STEM careers.
  • The region’s businesses sometimes share resources to help each other solve tough problems. For example, Qualcomm programmers might help a genetics company write the computer code needed to help them study the genetics of Alzheimer’s, cancer, or other medical issues.
  • Business leaders on both sides of the Mexican border recognize that their citizens possess skills that are different from those on the other side. And, over time, they have developed a binational economy that depends on the two sides respecting each other and working together to produce a shared result.
  • Officials from San Diego and Tijuana travel together to visit their nations’ capitals and discuss their region’s needs with legislators. And rather than being cautious during the current tensions between their countries, they see the tension as an opportunity to better educate their legislators about their symbiotic relationship.

These discussions led one LINK participant to note that Georgia has several business sectors spread across the state, such as cyber security in Augusta and shipping in Savannah. The group wondered if there are ways Georgia’s metro areas could better share resources and work together to improve the economy of the entire state.

LINK Forward Group to Take Deeper Dive into Regional Issues

For the second year, a group of about 20 Atlanta leaders joined the LINK participants on the first day of the trip but will have its own sessions on Thursday featuring deeper dives into some of the most pressing issues facing the San Diego region.

Photo - Ron Roberts of San Diego County, Mary Salas of Chula Vista, and state senator Brandon Beach of the North Fulton CID share a funny story during the LINK Forward dinner on Wednesday evening.
Ron Roberts of San Diego County, Mary Salas of Chula Vista, and state senator Brandon Beach of the North Fulton CID share a funny story during the LINK Forward dinner on Wednesday evening.

This group, called LINK Forward, had dinner on Wednesday with Mary Salas, mayor of the city of Chula Vista and regional planning chair of the San Diego Association of Governments; Ron Roberts, supervisor of San Diego County; Peter Callstrom, president and CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership; and Albert Velasquez, policy aide on transportation to mayor Salas.

Follow LINK activities by searching for the hashtag #atlLINK on Twitter.