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5-Year Economic Development Strategy for Imperial County Presented to County Supervisors

By: Mario Conde, Reporter

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors discussed the 5-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy at their regular meeting.

While the board decided to postpone the approval of this document at their June 4th meeting, the board agreed that this plan shows a good snapshot of where the county is and what should do to bring investment to the Imperial Valley.

The presentation was made by Deputy CEO Esperanza Colio-Warren about the updated document and the new projects added this year. Colio-Warren said in order for the county to compete for EDA funds, an approved Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, must be prepared, maintained and formally submitted to U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy reflects a cohesive and coordinated vision for economic development in Imperial County, embracing the goals of each municipal jurisdiction as well as a wide range of private sector, public, and non-for-profit partner organizations. The CEDS meets planning criteria from the Federal Economic Development Administration, thereby qualifying each jurisdiction to submit projects to EDA for funding assistance.

Agencies seeking funding from the Economic Development Administration need to present their projects to the Imperial County Overall Economic Development Commission to include their projects as part of the CEDS.  A Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy is the result of a local planning process designed to guide the economic growth of an area and is required to qualify for Economic Development Administration assistance under its public works, economic adjustment, and most planning programs.

Imperial County and Economic Development have been the lead agency, in conjunction with the CEDS Committee, in carrying out the responsibility of updating the document. This year there were three projects added to the CEDS:

  1. Improvements to McDonald Road and Highway 111-County of Imperial is requesting $2,500,000 in EDA funding to offset the cost of road improvements per provisions in the conditional use permit.
  2. Broadband Fiber-Imperial County Economic Development Corporation is asking EDA for financial assistance to extend the fiber optic infrastructure from the nearest possible fiber facilities to the Salton Sea area of Calipatria for the four companies already operating in the area.
  3. Pioneers Memorial Healthcare Facility. Pioneers are requesting for assistance with medical equipment, fixtures, and materials for the construction of a 44,000 square foot building on land owned by the District. The project will provide rehabilitation, long-term care, and therapy to the residents in Imperial County.

For the 5-year update, the county hired Applied Development Economics as the consultant for this project.

Some of the findings in the economic development plan: Imperial County has increased populations by nearly 16,100 since 2010, to a total of 190,624 persons in 2018. This reflects a 1.1 percent annual growth rate, which exceeds all the surrounding counties expect Riverside and is well above the state average. According to the State Department of Finance, this growth was due in part to increasing household’s sizes, as well as a new housing development.

Total housing units grew by 0.4 percent per year during this period and the vacancy rate increased from 12.4 percent to 13.2 percent. This is very high, compared to the state average of 7.4 percent in 2018. However, the vacancy rate varies by location throughout the county, with cities like Brawley, Calexico, and Holtville ranging from 8.0 to 8.5 percent, closer to the state average.

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