February 22, 2022
The Ahlers Center for International Business at the University of San Diego (USD) released a report that provides an in-depth analysis of the characteristics, dynamics, and impacts of the CaliBaja regional economy. The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce partnered with USD for this research to help inform policy and influence economic growth within the CaliBaja region.
“This report is important for the Chamber and regional stakeholders, as it helps us address challenges and opportunities for the binational region with a collective voice. It also serves as an essential tool for promoting the development of policies that drive our economy through efficient cross-border trade, along with strong international business, political, and cultural relationships,” said Jerry Sanders, San Diego Regional Chamber President, and CEO. “We are very grateful to USD for this in-depth analysis focused on growing our cross-border workforce and regional economy.”
Combining the border economies of the U.S. state of California and the Mexican state of Baja California, the CaliBaja regional economy is the largest integrated economic zone along the U.S.-Mexico border. With a regional GDP of nearly $250 billion, “CaliBaja” is home to diverse industries, including some with powerful manufacturing capabilities that drive cross-border economic activity and create jobs in both the United States and Mexico.
This report was made possible by The Ahlers Center for International Business’ Move Forward program – which connects professors with local businesses to solve a current organizational challenge.
Key Takeaways from the Report:
CaliBaja’s educational institutions are preparing the region’s STEM workforce. A total of 30,932 higher education degrees were conferred in San Diego County and 18,800 were conferred in Baja California in 2018, with 32% and 38% awarded in the STEM fields, respectively.
The region’s manufacturing strengths helped CaliBaja weather the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID-19 struck certain industries hard —with severe job losses in Arts, Entertainment, and Recreations (-51.7%) and Accommodation and Food Services (-51.4)— job losses were much lower in Manufacturing (-7%), Information (-8.4%), Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (-5.9%).
Much of the region’s high manufacturing capability comes from the Mexican side. The region has a strong manufacturing base compared to other parts of the United States and Mexico, particularly in areas like audio-visual manufacturing and medical devices. In 2018, Tijuana had 41 industries (including 27 in manufacturing) that were well above average in the number of workers, while Mexicali had 49 such industries (including 17 in manufacturing). By comparison, San Diego had high concentrations in 35 industries (10 in manufacturing). Imperial had high concentrations in 27 industries (one in manufacturing).
The strength of the CaliBaja economy has made it attractive to outside investors. Baja California attracts over a billion dollars a year in foreign direct investment (FDI), with the majority of that investment in manufacturing. Venture capital flowing into San Diego has increased sharply in recent years and topped $2 billion in each quarter from 2020Q4 to 2021Q2, mainly in the life sciences (biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and genomics).
Improved infrastructure is needed to create jobs and promote investment for both countries. Continued infrastructure investments—including the construction of the Otay Mesa East port of entry for trucks and commercial vehicles—are urgently needed to enable the CaliBaja region to contribute to the growth of U.S.-Mexico production and trade in the coming decades.
This report was prepared through binational collaboration with the University of San Diego, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, and Colegio de la Frontera Norte.