San Diego needs to embrace change and become more of an international business hub if it wants to grow, according to former baseball commissioner and U.S. Olympic Committee head Peter Ueberroth.
Ueberroth was in town Thursday, speaking on a wide range of topics at a Burnham Moores Center for Real Estate gathering at the University of San Diego. (video)
"San Diego's best attribute is its albatross," he said. "It's too pedestrian and a little too sleepy.
"If San Diego doesn't change, and take advantage of this opportunity, I think it will miss a lot in the future. I'd be screaming for an international business site in San Diego that would include Mexico; for San Diego to not be so dependent on the military and so dependent on one part of the medical industry and continue to grow in the right way with the right jobs."
Currently, the managing director of the Contrarian Group, an investment and management company, and co-chairman of the Pebble Beach Co., Ueberroth said the city needs to take advantage of its geographical setting by working together with Mexican officials.
"We need to change the dynamics and figure out ways to help Mexico grow and grow in the right way," he said. "You've got to make Mexico an ally, not just a neighbor. And have an offensive plan to bring jobs here."
Ueberroth was president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee from 1980-1984, preparing the city to host the 1984 Summer Olympics. It was the first privately financed Olympic Games and, despite not taking a penny of public money, it resulted in a surplus of $238 million.
He said the success of the Summer Games was because "people cared" and joined in beneficial partnerships. He said it's important to note the two-week spectacle was held in facilities in 29 cities, nine counties and three states – not just Los Angeles.
The '84 Games were modeled after the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, where organizers operating in a country devastated by World War II were still able to pull off a successful event. England's ability to host sporting events is one reason he's excited about this summer's games in London.
"I think the Olympic movement is in a good place," said Ueberroth, who was chair of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 2004-09.
Following his stint as head of the Los Angeles Organizing Committee, Ueberroth served as the sixth commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1984-89. Like the Olympics, he said baseball also is healthy but suggested that it could – and should – expand beyond the U.S. and Canadian borders.
He worried, too, that the game is pricing families out of ballparks, which could severely harm the sport, and that baseball owners need to split major television revenues evenly.
Ueberroth also shared some of his thoughts on the real estate industry, saying he didn't think the office sector is a growth area.
"We're all transferring away from going and sitting in the traditional office," he said.
He's bullish on farming, however, and thinks the industrial space is still working well.
Ueberroth also said he prefers communicating in person and that entrepreneurialism is borne out of need.
"Just be willing to keep your eyes open," he said. "Don't let the information of society determine how you think. Keep it simple."
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