On a map, the United States and Mexico may seem to be only neighbors. However, where the two nations converge it’s clear that they don’t operate independently of each other. At the busiest points of their borders, they’re partners. Despite carrying different flags and representing different nations, cities in the western U.S. and Mexico are merging and collaborating to create the megaregion of CaliBaja.
CaliBaja combines the growing economy of Baja California, Mexico — including cities like Tijuana and Mexicali — and Southern California’s established San Diego and Imperial Valley hubs. Together, these sub-regions make the bi-national megaregion of CaliBaja, which is strategically located on a border that provides access to productive regions including California and North America, the Pacific Rim and Latin America. The geographic location of CaliBaja, along with its economic strength and skilled workforce, makes it one of the most crucial regions for the future of global markets.
Covering an area of over 35,000 square miles, the region connects the United States to Latin America — acting as a global bridge to people, culture and commerce. More than 7 million people call CaliBaja home, making it the largest concentration of population along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Tijuana-San Diego port of entry is the busiest land border crossing in the Western Hemisphere with more than 125,000 vehicles and 63,000 pedestrians crossing every day.
However, CaliBaja is not merely a gateway — it’s a region where people live, work, learn and contribute to a thriving economy. It’s filled with a growing workforce and stands as a strong economic powerhouse with a Gross Domestic Product of well over $250 billion dollars — and rising. From 2010 to 2016, its GDP grew by more than 25%, continuing its expansion during 2018. The growth in the megaregion can be attributed to its special bi-national location that attracts hundreds of global corporations.
CaliBaja contains five primary industry clusters which include advanced manufacturing and agribusiness, logistics, tourism and applied biotech. Companies focus their strategic operations around research and development, manufacturing, services and more. These businesses and their employees have an impact that extends around the globe, reaching markets in South America, Europe, Asia and the rest of North America.
While historically the attention in the megaregion has focused on San Diego, in recent years Mexican cities such as Tijuana and Mexicali have established themselves. The workforce across Baja California is1.6 million strong, more than San Diego and Imperial Valley combined. Mexicali alone is home to over 130 multinational companies, including LG (South Korea), Bosch (Germany) and Kellogg’s (USA), while Tijuana has welcomed Medtronic (Ireland), Toyota (Japan) and Plantronics (USA), along with more than 570 other world-class corporations.
Though part of the region’s success comes from its location along the border, its legacy of regional cooperation and transnational connections have equipped CaliBaja and Southern California to serve as hubs for global industry. The core of the megaregion’s success is composed of strategic partnerships on both sides of the border — including local governments, multinational corporations and higher education institutions. Today, CaliBaja represents the true essence of what a U.S.-Mexico partnership looks like and the positive impact it has on the world.
Mario Dipp is Dean of the Mexicali Campus at CETYS University.