The airport hanger was a fitting venue for Horn’s remarks, since he has encouraged the growth of the regional airport. Olivier Brackett, a manager at the airport, said it is now the 4th busiest single runway airport in the nation; Lindbergh Field is first.
Dozens of corporations fly their private jets in and out of the airstrip, and the private hangars dwarf the public departure and arrivals lounge near the entrance of the airport. The rapid development is funded with $55 million from the county’s airport enterprise fund, including federal dollars, and $140 million in private investment.
Horn’s address was delivered in the large hanger of “Premier Jet,” and punctuated with the sound of private jets taking off and landing immediately outside: “the sound of money,” as Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall called it.
“We need to work as a team,” Horn said, referring to his efforts to market North County to companies who could bring high paying jobs to the area. “Our whole purpose is to promote our region as an economic destination. I know Texas is doing a lot to borrow our companies, but we’re doing just as much effort to make this happen.“
Horn said his efforts to lengthen the runway at Palomar Airport would allow international flights, since a customs service is already up and running there.
“We’ll be able to bring in much quieter jets, “ Horn said, in reference to community concerns about a growing international airport in the middle of a residential area.
Currently, United’s SkyWest flies to Los Angeles, but a second commercial airline, California Pacific Airlines, plans to begin offering fights to Las Vegas, Phoenix and Sacramento. Spokesman Tom Morrow said the company is still waiting for FAA approval but has already begun flight training for its pilots, and hopes to start operations this summer.
Horn’s address focused on merging the interests of the nine individual cities in North County to redefine the area as a region.
“We have about a million people in North County” Horn said to applause. “If you count Del Mar and Poway and come north, we are almost a million people. The City of San Diego has 1.1 million. I contend that we should have the same powerhouse that they have.”
Some North County cities feel they lost out on millions of dollars in tax money for transportation improvement when the regional planning agency, SANDAG, divvied up TransNet money. Horn also hopes to qualify for more federal funding by developing a comprehensive economic development strategy for North County.
“We need to all be on the same team,” he said. “I know each city has its own goals but at the same time we can’t be opposed to one another.”
Several cities, including Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido are already working to overcome their differences and cooperate. The San Diego North Economic Development Council has an initiative called “Prosperity on Purpose“ that is working on an economic vision for the region.
The concept of a cohesive North County Region would require collaboration between areas represented by both Horn and newly elected Supervisor Dave Roberts. Roberts’ third district includes Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas and much of Escondido. Roberts attended Horn’s event and said he is interested in working with Horn in areas where they can find common ground.
Horn, a Republican, and Roberts, the first Democrat to be elected to the county board in decades, do not see eye to eye on every issue. One example of this is the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill off Interstate 15, which Horn supports and Roberts opposes. Horn's district includes large unincorporated areas with more rural needs.
But Roberts said he is interested in finding where he and Horn do agree so they can collaborate on a regional vision for the benefit of their constituents.
The cities that string like beads up the coastline - Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside -- have a culture that differs from the string of cities that spread inland along Highway 78 - Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido, but the gathering in the airport hangar suggests an identity as a North County region could eventually take off.