TEMECULA, CA – The Truax Management Group (Truax) hosted a small group of local private and public organizations for an initial briefing with representatives from the United States Department of Commerce on April 21.
“We hope to give the Department of Commerce an idea of what the Temecula Valley is all about,” said John Mueller, Director of Corporate and Strategic Planning and Project Finance for Truax, who arranged and facilitated the briefing. “Ninety percent of the world market is outside the United States; we can open new opportunities using the Department of Commerce resources and their 195 offices and embassies around the world. We hope to learn more about import and export opportunities for our area and possible funding and investment. This is the first of many such meetings.”
Fred Latuperissa, Regional Director and Richard Swanson, Pacific Southwest Director, represented the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration. Andrew Wylegala, Minister-counselor for Commercial Affairs was there from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan to talk about specific opportunities there.
Mueller first acknowledged Latuperissa as this year’s recipient of the Stanley T. Olafson Award, presented by the LA Chamber of Commerce to the outstanding member of the world trade community in Southern California who throughout their lifetime contributed above and beyond their job requirements to the development and advancement of world trade in the region.
Glenn Miller, Mayor of Indio and Executive Director for Senator Jeff Stone, Holly Hough staff member from congressman Duncan Hunter’s office, Maryann Edwards, Southwest Executive Director for Senator Jeff Stone and Temecula Mayor Pro Tem, and Olivia Balderrama from Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington’s office were in attendance.
Heidi Marshall, Commissioner of Foreign Trade and Richard Dozier Ashley, Principal Foreign Trade Specialist represented the county of Riverside Economic Development Agency.
Christine Damko, Economic Development Analyst and Cheryl Kitzerow, Temecula Innovation Center represented the City of Temecula.
Doug McAllister, Executive Director for the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Southwest California, CEO Alice Sullivan from the Temecula Chamber of Commerce, and Kimberly Adams, President/CEO of Visit Temecula Valley were also in attendance.
Adam Ruiz, Realtor/broker for first Action Real Estate, Geraldine Strunsky of the Strunsky Group, Paul Bandong VP Sales & Marketing for the Reeder Media Group (Valley News), and former Temecula City Manager Ron Bradley were also in attendance.
Shawn Nelson, chief financial officer for Truax Management Group and a former Temecula City Manager and Gary Thornhill, Government Liaison for Truax Development also participated.
Mueller’s opening presentation focused on the area’s readiness for participation on the global stage — its centralized location and access to business and recreation opportunities, economic stability and growth, attractive demographics, lower cost of living and doing business, growing infrastructure, affordable housing, low crime rate and high quality of education.
The discussion then focused on possible exports from the area.
Tourism is defined as an export by the Department of Commerce. Last year, according to Visit Temecula Valley, the area generated $650 million from 2.5 million visitors. The Department of Commerce can be a resource to target specific demographics for tourism.
There are over 40 wineries in the area with room/plans for another 40 more. Wine exports – not only for the immediate economic benefit — can be a draw for additional tourism to the area. It was noted that there is not significant enough production to warrant volume exports, but marketed to targeted demographics with lifestyle packages (wine, cuisine, hotel/resort stays) could be very successful. “Portland, OR has done a good job with this in the Japan market,” said Wylegala, “It is now a destination for Japanese tourists.”
Specialty products, like olive oil and lavender, could also be exports. Light industrial manufacturing is also a possibility.
Education – foreign students studying in the U.S. – is a growing trend and represents another specific target marketing opportunity.
“We also have other important business export opportunities,” said Edwards, “training opportunities – like industrial automation that attracts people from all over the world. We have great facilities for police and fire department training, a golf college for golf course development and management, viticulture education.”
Edwards also mentioned CR & R’s new anaerobic digester as a leading edge technology where nothing goes to the landfill could be a great opportunity to attract the rest of the ecologically-conscious world.
Mueller then shared the idea of establishing a Global Trade Center housed in the Truax building on Second Street that would provide export trade support: logistics, freight forwarding, international attorneys, patent attorneys, bankers and funding sources. The Center could also provide extension trade offices for government and private sector entities, including the possibility of a more local economic development office for Riverside County. Small business incubation was also discussed.
Foreign Direct Investment covers a wide range of investments: EB-5 (investment for fast-track citizenship), direct investment into US businesses and real estate projects, companies opening branch offices for distribution and manufacturing, companies launching new products into the U.S. market, etc.
Mueller then detailed Truax development projects as examples of possible investment opportunities: boutique hotel, Marketplace and others still in planning. Other opportunities include the Ambien project of 1500 residential units, room for 40 more wineries, specialty retail shops in Old Town.
Commercial Affairs Minister Wylegala briefed the group on the Japanese market. “Japan has always had affinities and synergies with the United States. The new Prime Minister’s reform program is in its third year and Japan is becoming an easier place to do business. It is a developed market – low-growth, high-quality – with a shrinking and aging demographic. Niche products for targeted markets do well. Japan needs to up its game to compete with Asiain threats. It needs energy solutions, entrepreneurship and innovation, security solutions (military and cyber). “
“There is high interest in foreign direct investment and tourism, although the dollar/yen exchange affects travel. Japan is geographically and sectorally diversifying. Investment is up in food service/agro, housing solutions. Inbound tourism is booming with 35-40% year-over-year growth.”
“The Japanese have a high interest in entertainment: arts, symphony, theatre, sports. They also like recreation, vintage cars and learning about other cultures, like the American Indians. They are pro development and pro investment.”
Director Richard Swanson suggested the possibility of a contingency attending the third annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, June 19-21, 2016 in Washington, D.C. for an opportunity for exposure to 40 countries and more than 80 funding sources in one place. He also suggested offering a “spin-off travel opportunity” for foreign delegations to visit the region before or after the summit.
Wylegala offered opportunities for “single-location promotion as well as multi-delegation road shows in Japan that would have exposure to 500 investors.
The group then discussed regional branding and cooperation in order to market for economic development. It was noted that there is a strong spirit and history of cooperation among local municipalities and that there is growing interest in regional marketing.
Nelson emphasized the need to geographically define the region and specifically name it for marketing purposes. Swanson agreed that marketing the region would be more effective globally than doing it as individual cities. Adams added that a state-sponsored report explored the possibilities of regional names for the area and possible consumer response.
Doug McAllister, Executive Director for the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Southwest California stated that a number of groups and municipalities were having these same types of meetings. “There is momentum building around this . . . every city is on fire. It is the responsibility of the EDC to coalesce these groups for the purpose of having a common voice, goals, interests, economic flows and cooperative budgets in order to avoid duplication of efforts. The opportunities for commerce both ways is off the charts. This area is the future of southern California.”