Jun 07 2019

OCBC’s Economic Development Forum Discusses International Tourism, Trade in Orange County

On May 29, over 150 guests joined OCBC for the 2019 Economic Development Forum at the Anaheim Convention Center, which featured high-level speakers and panel discussions on the topic of “Leveraging International Markets to Drive Economic Growth.”

Featured speaker Lenny Mendonca, Chief Economic Advisor for Governor Gavin Newsom, spoke about the Governor’s regional approach to economic development, and the challenges facing robust job markets like Orange County with the lagging supply of affordable housing for a growing workforce. “It’s important to ensure we have regional growth and connection between regions, creating affordable housing where the jobs are, and transit that connects jobs and housing,” Mendonca said. “That’s easier said than done, but in an economy like we’re experiencing in California, it’s an important priority.” 

Mark Thorpe, CEO of Ontario International Airport discussed Southern California’s over-dependence on one airport – LAX – and the adverse impacts this has on the region’s economy, environment and infrastructure. However, Ontario International Airport is a convenient alternative for international travel – servicing over 11.7 million Southern California residents, and almost all of Orange County. Thorpe also demonstrated statistics of destinations where ONT receives most of its international travel to and from – including China and Taiwan, with 68.2% and 74.1% of traffic from these countries, respectively. 

The first panel discussion, “Tourism and Orange County Investment,” centered around the rich ecosystem and attractions Orange County offers to domestic and international tourists, with over 50 million visitors last year into Orange County. Moderated by Jay Burress, President and CEO of Visit Anaheim, panelists included: Brian Chuan, South Coast Plaza; Atif Elkadi, Ontario International Airport; Geoff Goodman, Disneyland Resort; and Paul Sanford, Wincome Hospitality. “Tourism is booming in Orange County,” Burress said. “We’re on par with some of the biggest destinations in the entire country… How do we continue that? How do we grow that and manage it appropriately? Developing our infrastructure, workforce development and housing, and utilizing our tourism assets well for economic development is crucial.” 

The second panel discussion, “Orange County’s Global Appeal,” focused on how businesses can attract investors in Orange County. Moderated by Natalie Rubalcava, Chief Operating Officer of Orange County Business Council, panelists included: Maggie O’Sullivan, JPMorgan Chase; Juan C. Basombrio, Dorsey & Whitney LLP; and Sesha Neervannan, Allergan. “Orange County is incredibly diverse, with a highly intelligent workforce,” Basombrio said. “From an international perspective, having an intelligent workforce with a multiplicity of languages is an incredible asset, and puts us on par with, or even above, areas like New York City and Los Angeles.” 

Thank you to our sponsors Ontario International Airport, Segerstrom & Sons, Mayer Hospitality Group, and the City of Anaheim!

For more information, contact Jesse Ben-Ron, OCBC’s Director of Workforce and Economic Development.

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