From Amazon to Award-Winning Breweries & Biotechs
Vista, CA –As we surpass a little over a year of the pandemic, its economic disturbances are still being felt in cities around the world. However, there are some cities that have not only weathered the economic storm but continue to thrive and even attract businesses and investment.
According to a recent Milken Institute report, “The top-performing metros have cohesive strategies allowing them to weather economic storms and leverage their assets more effectively. The experience of these metros also provides a benchmark for leaders in other regions seeking to promote sustainable growth and prosperity.”
Another main ingredient to a city’s success is the way its leaders interact with local businesses. In Vista, Calif., for example, close relationships and productive dialogues with local businesses have been key to the city’s long term economic development prowess.
Vista is home to more than 20 craft breweries, including Belching Beaver, which has locations Downtown as well as in an industrial park.
Brewing Success – Many companies that have relocated or grown in Vista say it’s one of the best cities to do business in, mainly due to an accessible and approachable government. City leaders have worked to attract and retain businesses by minimizing red tape, maintaining a high-quality civil service and ensuring its government agencies are approachable. One example is the growth of craft breweries clustered around the city – from downtown to business parks.
Vistas status of having the most breweries per capita than any other US city hasn’t been by accident.
“Many municipal governments – and the people they represented – were scared off by the alcohol’s historic stigma. But not the City of Vista, which saw the stellar reputation local brewers were building for themselves and next-level potential for the industry on multiple fronts,” said Brandon Hernández, Founder and Executive Editor of San Diego Beer News.
“Rather than make brewery owners jump through hoops to become a part of the community, the City of Vista invited breweries in with open arms, going so far as to ease regulations so those businesses would have better chances for success. The result is a municipality that’s now home to well over 20 breweries, second only to the much-larger City of San Diego. Vista’s Economic Development Director Kevin Ham has been there through it all and continues to count breweries as valuable mechanisms for growth and opportunity in Vista.”
In an effort to share Vista’s secret recipe for its brewing business success, Ham, along with Vista’s Community Development Director John Conley, regularly give a presentation, “Growth on Tap: Fostering the Creation of a Craft Brew Industry” during a Brewing course at UC San Diego Extension.
Outside-the-Box For Ham, it’s all about changing how we think about economic development.
“Economic development is about creating a city where people want to spend their dollars and businesses want to invest,” he said. “Cities have traditionally seen economic development as primarily providing tax incentives for businesses. However, today’s businesses want to be located in communities that have robust infrastructure, good schools, a diverse talent pool and cultural amenities. These community assets also enhance the quality of life for employees, so businesses also consider these when making decisions about where to locate or expand.”
Vista also boasts an active and vibrant downtown and robust business park with 14 million square feet, further fueling companies’ desire to locate and stay here.
“We like to take a strategic approach to growth, with support for and from the business community, appropriate regulations, clear communications, taking the time to listen to businesses’ needs, and effective long-term city planning,” said Vista Mayor Judy Ritter. “We also believe that a good relationship between the city and businesses can lead to significant progress in improving long-term economic growth, resilience and quality of life. We have a great City Council and City Manager and overall city team that has the experience and knowledge to make thoughtful decisions that work for everyone.”
The City of Vista has invested in arts and culture, including new sculpture above the recently completed Paseo Santa Fe.
‘Prime’ Location It’s that mindset and strategy that brought Amazon to Vista. The e-commerce giant recently opened a more than 200,000 square-foot delivery station in Vista, which currently employs over 300 full time and part time associates.
So why did Amazon choose Vista? According to Stephen Maduli-Williams, Manager, Economic Development Policy for Amazon. “There are a lot of contributing factors that go into our thought process on where to place a new fulfillment center. We looked at the workforce and found talent in abundance in Vista. We’re also responding to customer demand and want to make sure our fulfillment centers are close to customers so we can offer great Prime service and fast shipping speeds.”
Williams said the City of Vista has been a great partner through the development and launch of the local Amazon facility.
“We’re a global business with local roots set firmly in the communities in which we live, work, and play,” he said. “From the local jobs we bring, to the local people we employ, train, and upskill, our business is made up of people from the communities in which we operate. Vista has a great community with great people, and Amazon is excited to invest in the local community through good jobs, sustainability initiatives, and philanthropic partnerships.”
Another company that opened a new facility in Vista – also during the pandemic – is Cue Health, Inc. The company uses its new 197,000 square-foot facility in Vista for the production of Cue COVID-19 Test Cartridges. Cue plans to hire an additional up to 500 employees at its Vista location, with more expected in the future as the company continues to grow in research and manufacturing.
Vista is a growing hub for biotech and innovative healthcare companies and diagnostics firms such as Cue Health.
“The City of Vista is an appealing place to expand our organization and we look forward to watching Vista develop as a biotech and life sciences hub,” said Elizabeth Swanson, Director of Human Resources at Cue. “With Vista having several educational institutions nearby and a business park with over 900 companies, we’re confident this sector will continue to grow, adding to the already noted appeal of residential living in the area. Over the next five years, we envision being a thriving company within the community, offering growth and creating new jobs while strengthening the economy.”
A Developer’s Dream
Adam Robinson, President of RAF Pacifica Group (RPG), a San Diego-based owner, operator, and developer of high-quality commercial real estate, hopes his firm’s buildings in Vista will attract even more companies and jobs to the city. RPG is known throughout San Diego for its creative industrial properties and the unique value the firm’s assets bring to tenants and the community.
RPG owns a handful of properties in Vista, including a recently purchased 203,000 space on 1 Viper Way. The firm purchased the property in a joint venture partnership with CenterSquare, a global investment manager.
“This acquisition is perfectly aligned with our niche approach to identifying, sourcing, repositioning, and developing exceptionally well-located, high-quality assets in the San Diego market, especially in North San Diego,” Robinson said.
RPG and CenterSquare plan to implement a comprehensive repositioning plan to modernize the property to appeal to a growing number of industrial tenants throughout the region. Planned improvements to the property include adding nine new dock-high doors along with five new grade level doors. The JV partnership also plans to reduce the amount of office and mezzanine space to appeal to last mile industrial users.
“North San Diego has emerged as a hub of growth over the last several years as quality industrial users continue to migrate to the region,” Robinson said. “By updating the property and integrating features and amenities we know users are demanding, we can drive long-term demand for the property over time.”
RPG owns several properties in Vista, including 1 Viper Way.
A little over a mile away, RPG is repositioning another recently acquired property called gen•er•ate on Joshua Way. As an extension of the current 56,382 square-foot building, this new Joshua Way building will be a 21,359 square-foot industrial facility that will feature RPG’s premier creative industrial amenities.
“It’s an exciting project and will be a one of a kind property in Vista,” Robinson said.
Property owners and developers such as RPG are attracted to Vista because they view the city as a gateway to San Diego and Orange County and it is in a strong growing region with demand for industrial uses.
“I’ve developed in a lot of cities and Vista is probably the best and most business-friendly – from zoning to weather to city staff,” said Robinson, who has been involved with property development in Vista since 2002. “We wish Vista had more industrial land for us to develop.”
Right on Course
As Vista continues on its positive growth trajectory, City leaders have pledged to strengthen connections with not only the business community but also with the community at large.
“We pride ourselves on being a business-friendly city,” Ham said. “Our goal is to create diversity in our business parks, as well as tourist attractions and walkable communities, which benefit residents, visitors and the overall business
For More Information Contact:
Kevin Ham, Economic Development Director, City of Vista