CALEXICO – Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) met with local businessmen in Calexico Friday for lunch and to discuss ideas for jumpstarting the sputtering Valley economy. The host for the event was Louis Wong, owner of Yum Yum Chinese Restaurant. Wong said he brought the businessmen and Garcia together to see what could be done to stop the domino effect of closing businesses in Calexico as well as Valley wide.
“I look to the left of my store, and another restaurant closed shop. I look to the right and I see a vacant store front, and now I see the business across the street is going out of business,” Wong told Garcia. “We lost our courthouse. We only have one bank. People don’t have a reason to come here and then eat and shop.”
Garcia said Wells Fargo executives in San Francisco promised to remain in Calexico. In fact, being the sole bank has made the branch profitable and they are expanding. Other banks have ATMs, but Wells Fargo is the only full service bank in Calexico.
Daniel Romero, representing Calexico Chamber of Commerce, said 32 million people cross the border annually and there is only one bank. Starting a bank is practically impossible with the new regulations. According to Romero, before the new rules, community banks needed several investors pitching in $50,000, but new rules say those investors need to put in $500,000. That bar is too high for Calexico, Romero said, adding the city is dysfunctional with no hospital, no courthouse, a clogged port of entry, and only one bank.
Garcia reminded the businessmen of the federal government’s $246 million appropriated for the second phase of the Port of Entry, however, the funds still depend on final approval of the federal budget.
Garcia said the state is moving in taking action on the New River concerns, even if the action seems backwards. A park next to the river is planned in Calexico, Garcia told those in attendance. He said he hoped the state will budget money to clean up the river if they have a multi-million dollar park next to it. But, the park itself will be an economic stimulant as it beautifies one of the ugliest parts of the city and will propel new businesses to locate along the parkway, he added.
Garcia said Mexico has capped the New River on its side, and built a road over the area, keeping couches and other trash from being thrown into the river.
Finally, the assemblyman spoke about “Go-Biz,” an app on the state website that gives small businesses options for help in financing.
“One World Beef had consultants to work with us so we can help financially get the beef plant up and operational,” Garcia said. “We know most businesses can’t hire consultants, so our ‘Go-Biz’ website shows all that is available in help to smaller businesses. Just go there and get started filling out forms for help. It has to be 50-50. It doesn’t do us any good to keep passing stimulus packages if businesses won’t go to the site and get help.”
As the meeting ended, Wong said, “Paying $15 an hour is not hard if business is good, but look around, businesses are closing, store fronts aren’t renting, owners are stress selling. This is an economic disaster area. There are so many rules from the city, county and state. Now, going to the bank costs me two hours in time to bank in El Centro and higher fuel fees, just to make a deposit.”