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San Diego mayor's Tijuana trip is all business

With Tijuana Mayor Jorge Astiazaran at his side, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer visited two maquiladoras and met with members of the city's business community Friday to discuss concerns such as border crossings, tourism and the region's water supply.

"It's not only a chance to strengthen the relationship that I have with Mayor Astiazaran, but also look at how we're promoting the mega-region", Faulconer said following a tour of Kyocera, a solar panel manufacturing facility near the U.S. border.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce organized the visit as part of an effort "to make sure that the business communities are not silo'ed", said Paola Avila, the chamber's vice president for international business affairs. "To have the testimonials of the businesses, to hear from them directly as they're making important decisions, is critical".

At Kyocera, the mayors were joined by a small entourage that included Jerry Sanders, president of San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce; Mark Cafferty, president of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.; and Xavier Peniche, Tijuana's Economic Development secretary.

The Japanese Kyocera ceramics and electronics conglomerate has facilities in San Diego and Tijuana.

David Hester, president of Kyocera Mexicana, said the company has 1,500 employees in Tijuana who produce both solar panels and cellphone infrastructure components.

"If it was not for our Tijuana facility, we would have lost many many jobs in the U.S.", John S. Rigby Jr., president of San Diego-based Kyocera International, told the mayors during a presentation at the Tijuana plant.

The visit comes six months after the two mayors signed a memorandum of understanding that outlines how staff members from the two cities can collaborate.

The San Diego chamber is hoping that this will be the first of several joint tours by the mayors, both in San Diego and Tijuana. On Friday, the mayors also visited the Plantronics, an electronics manufacturing company headquartered in Santa Cruz that manufactures a wide variety of headsets.

Astiazaran said that Plantronics has been striving to increase the percentage of its products manufactured in Tijuana, from 10 percent to 40 percent.

By locating in Mexico "it's a much shorter supply chain", Sanders said. "It makes it much easier for the reliability of getting products out and getting them shipped".

By Sandra Dibble

(619) 293-1716

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