San Diego, the Welcoming City

by Juan Pablo Sanchez, Owner of Super Cocina

Creating “an inclusive economy in San Diego” has been a regional buzzword for the last couple of years. But what does that really mean for those of us who don’t spend their time in economic development think-tanks, government hallways or philanthropic board rooms?

It’s pretty self-explanatory, actually: for us, it’s a firm belief that immigrants give more than they take. That simple statement should be the starting point of all good policy related to San Diego’s new Americans – immigrants or refugees. It’s why we think San Diego is stronger when it welcomes its newest residents, and why we’ve held it proudly since launching in San Diego.

We will all be hearing soon about the mayor of San Diego’s strategic framework that was developed through the city’s WelcomingSD initiative. But I’ll give you a quick preview since I’ve been participating on the initiative’s steering committee as a Business for Good board member since the beginning: it’s a really good first step. The plan includes policy recommendations and innovative practices in 5 different areas to create a more welcoming environment for families and businesses who come to San Diego from all over the world. Those areas were economic opportunity; education; inclusive access; civic engagement; safe and connected communities.

I’m actually quite impressed with some of the recommendations and ideas in this plan, because they are based on best practices. The principles behind them are solid. And, if implemented, they’d make me even prouder to call San Diego home. As first steps go, I’ll gladly encourage Business for Good and our members to stand by the Mayor, his staff, and the partner organizations who all worked so hard to get as much input as possible into the plan.

But what I’m really interested in doing is writing another post in a year to see how well we did in putting any of these ideas in motion. Because this isn’t a time to be middling in self-congratulatory back-patting over a well written plan. The stakes are probably the highest I’ve ever felt them in my career. The mere fact that some of us feel compelled to build a monument so we can make our commitment to being a welcoming community obvious is both inspiring and saddening.

As an immigrant, I want to see the immigrant and refugee integration policy recommendations from the Mayor’s WelcomingSD strategic framework become a reality. That would be great business for San Diego.

It’ll take a level of coordination across different municipal entities and jurisdictions. We’ll have to find ways to open up our public systems instead of making them difficult to access.

Without it, this plan will remain just that, a plan. Business owners are all about execution, it’s what makes us different: if we don’t produce past the idea or concept, then we’re out of business. On this one, Business for Good members are going all in, proudly stating to our newest neighbors: We Welcome You.

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