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Escondido businesses linked to the future

The CEO's or CFO's checklist of requirements for locating a business include location and access, housing, shopping and services, recreation and culture, schools, medical options, sense of community and, of course, affordability. Consider the following:

Location and access

Location, location, location invariably tops the list of attributes a city must have to attract and retain viable businesses. Strategically located at the north/south I-15 and east/west Highway 78 intersection, Escondido has easy access to key markets, airports, attractions and Mexico.

Escondido City Council Member Marie Waldron serves on the North Country Transit District Board and is a strong proponent of the $330 million, light rail project that will connect the San Diego coast to Escondido's multimodal transit center. With service beginning in 2005, a projected 12,000 passengers daily will take the 30-minute ride -- growing to 19,000 riders a day by 2020. The route will also offer connecting bus service and links to the Coaster, Amtrak and Metrolink to Orange and Los Angeles Counties.

There is easy pedestrian access to a variety of business districts for shopping, services and restaurants from the Escondido Transit Center including Gateway Center, Plaza Las Palmas and the El Mercado (Old Town) area. A bus ride or horse-drawn trolley could provide transportation to places for fun and business like the Hawthorne Country Store, Pony Espresso and Sundae Saloon, the California Center for the Arts, Escondido with its visual and performing arts and conference facilities, historic Downtown and Grape Day Park.

Housing

Escondido's housing options include multi-acre estates, single-family homes, condominiums and apartments. It is a city where the company CEO wants to live and employees can afford to live. All can enjoy the family atmosphere Escondido is known for, feel the stability fostered by an established community and experience an abundance of natural beauty and culture.

Approximately 800 new single-family housing starts this year will bring considerable quality housing to Escondido. This is not inexpensive housing with prices starting in the low-mid $300,000s, but you get a lot more house and community amenities for your money. There are some lovely condo units and row housing also in the planning stages that will offer more choices to Escondido's growing work force.

Shopping and services

Shopping and community services are well-established and growing by the minute. Escondido has the second highest sales tax revenue in the county, only behind the city of San Diego. Approximately two-thirds of Escondido's shoppers come from neighboring communities like Rancho Santa Fe, Pauma Valley, Rancho Bernardo, Valley Center, Ramona and Temecula. Shoppers enjoy a wide range of options including the Westfield Shoppingtown North County mall, the Escondido Auto Park, The Promenade, specialty markets and family-owned enterprises. Every Tuesday there is a Farmer's Market bringing ambiance and the freshest seasonal produce to downtown Escondido; and don't miss Escondido's legendary antique shops.

There is also the full range of business services including software and computer services, financial services and communications companies to support any enterprise.

Recreation and culture

Golf courses, open-space preserves, parks and lakes lure duffers, hikers, fishermen and families. Lake Dixon, Lake Wohlford and Daley Ranch are popular recreational venues and all are just minutes from the heart of Escondido. There is a host of private and public golf courses including The Vineyard public golf course adjacent to the Orifila Winery.

On any weekend, Kit Carson Regional Park is filled with families enjoying soccer matches, Little League baseball, softball tournaments, Pop Warner football, picnics, swings, jungle-gyms, sandlots or just a great day in the sunshine. The Sports Center complex at Kit Carson Park features a 20,000-square-foot skate park, two full-size roller hockey arenas, one full-size soccer arena, one "mini" soccer arena and a pro shop.

Grape Day Park is home to the Heritage Museum and adjoins City Hall and the cultural center complex. Two blocks away, stroll Grand Avenue and enjoy the Children's Museum, galleries and restaurants. Every second Saturday the galleries restaurants and shops present "Culture Crawl" offering special activities, demonstrations and workshops. Or, simply enjoy a concert at The Center, host to the world's greatest entertainers.

Perhaps one of the best things about being in Escondido is the year-round events from street fairs to the county's oldest Christmas parade to vintage cars Cruisin' Grand on Friday nights throughout daylight savings time (April through September).

And if that isn't enough, try the Escondido wineries for a lazy afternoon of wine tasting. Or stop by the San Diego Wild Animal Park, also just minutes from the heart of Escondido.

Schools

There is a cluster of educational facilities on the East Valley Parkway including a new $9.5 million charter school located on 9 acres of the former Edwards Theatre property and will open in August 2003. You will also find a Palomar Community College campus, the San Diego Workforce Partnership and the school district offices. Right next door to Escondido, California State University San Marcos provides advanced degree programs in business, sciences and the arts to the region and will be linked to the light rail project when it begins service in 2005.

Medical

Over the years a comprehensive medical district has evolved just east of Hickory near the Palomar Medical Center. The Escondido Medical Arts Center is there, as well as a profusion of medical services, doctor and dentist offices, some of which have renovated beautiful old homes in the area to house their practices.

Community

Escondido's pro-business attitude is evident in its active and involved business community. For a city of 135,000 people, there is much interaction among business leaders from the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Business Association, the East Valley Association and the Westside Economic Development (Mercado) Group, as well as local chapters of service clubs like Rotary, Kiwanis and Elks.

This is truly a community where City Council is accessible and a visible part of the fabric of the community. It's not uncommon for the Police Chief to stop by to update you on something of importance to your business; or for business leaders to grab a cup of coffee together on a regular basis.

One benefit of these activities is a spirit of cooperation and support for the city. Another benefit is the lifelong friendships that develop, and a true sense of community.

Affordability

Escondido is where the Southern California experience and lifestyle come together with value and opportunity. Although not inexpensive, it is generally true that Escondido offers more value for your investment dollars compared to some of its Southern California neighbors.

Case is manager of the city of Escondido Economic Development Division. She can be reached at (760) 839-4563 or jcase@ci.escondido.ca.us.

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