Alvarez de los Cobos is President of Energy Communications Corp. and member of the Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce. She lives in Chula Vista.
I’m the president of a small Chula Vista based company that serves both national and local advertisers targeting the Hispanic market for our primary client, Grupo Televisa TV stations broadcasting in the San Diego and El Centro markets. Calexico. The recently lifted travel restrictions at the border have almost permanently shut down my business as well as many other businesses located in the interdependent economies of border towns and communities.
The closures have resulted in contract cancellations and requests to stop advertising from over 80% of our local customer base, and have made it clear to us that the cross-border economy of our local advertisers depends on land tourism.
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This cross-border traffic is considered a “non-essential” trip by the Department of Homeland Security, which closed the US-Mexico border in March 2020 to limit the spread of the coronavirus. These travelers pass through a US port of entry to support US establishments by spending their money on goods and services, staying in hotels, and enjoying entertainment and dining. They are anything but “non-essential”.
Local advertisers panicked over the closure of land tourism. Among those who went out at the same time were restaurants, casinos, attractions, community events, concerts, movie premieres, pawn shops, car demolitions, and car dealerships. . Sadly, many were wiped out or did not survive.
Fortunately, our business has been placed in the “essential business” category. We opened up employees on leave on a daily basis and focused on recouping the local ad revenue that we lost. We decided to offer our restaurant clientele free publicity to stay alive. Many have served food outside of their establishments to stabilize themselves. Unfortunately, government officials have ruled that restaurants cannot allow customers to dine on-site as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, and have instead allowed take-out as the only option. Many closed forever after that.
As a company, we were grateful to receive federal support in the form of paycheck protection program repayable loans that allowed us to bring our entire team back. We then focused on helping existing customers and serving public service announcements for state and local governments while guiding the Hispanic market in the COVID-19 era.
Closing the COVID-19 border has come at a tangible cost. In June, after nearly 15 months, in a demonstration of solidarity, leaders of several border towns in San Diego County began sounding the alarm bells over the economic impact in cities that rely heavily on legal border crossings. . San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina and County Supervisor Nora Vargas have called on the federal government to ease travel restrictions between Mexico and the United States. United States.
That same month, the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce reported that 197 companies had gone out of business since travel restrictions began. Jason Wells, executive director of the chamber, told NBC San Diego at the time that a region that generated an average of $ 895 million in annual revenue in an average year had seen its revenue drop to $ 250 million. dollars from the previous year, a decrease of 72%.
I am happy that our company went through the worst crisis it has ever faced and came out on top. But it is important to make improvements for the next time. We cannot forget that Mexico is one of our main trading partners. In 2020, two-way trade in goods and services between our countries totaled $ 582.4 billion, making Mexico our third global trading partner.
Given these figures, I think it would be appropriate to consider how future joint initiatives will affect our border towns and their interdependent economies. I agree with Mayor Gloria that any action by the US government to close the US-Mexico border in the interest of public health should be accompanied by “directions and measures … to accelerate a reopening” and to know “what level of vaccination rates we should have as well as what other conditions would be necessary for the border to reopen sooner.” “
Cross-border economies need the traffic of others to support each other. The economic impact was personal for us. Due to the protracted border closures, handled by the U.S. government on a monthly basis, and the difficulty of predicting the business climate ahead, we have chosen to restructure and make all kinds of tough decisions at once.
As a small business owner, you need to plan for and prepare for disasters. All of my decisions were made to move my troops forward while seeking to protect them and the families who depend on my business. Unfortunately, this disaster was unprecedented and there was a lot of collateral damage. It took us all by surprise. Thank goodness I was one of the blessed people who managed to survive both professionally and personally. Barely.