Ensenada’s New Mayor


Cesar Mancillas commits to expanding foreign investment in Ensenada


Cesar MancillasNewly elected Mayor Cesar Mancillas hosted a gathering of 300 multi national investors, politicians and entrepreneurs to a sit down dinner at the Hotel Coral. The gathering was to present Ensenada´s strategic plan to promote and assist foreign investment

Ensenada has always been friendly to foreigners but never eager, and certainly not aggressive, about pursuing their investment. Historically, Ensenada´s economy and real estate has been the domain of a handful of families who were indifferent to foreign capital.

The largest municipality in the world, Ensenada has more than 400 miles of coastline on both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez., The Northern borders of Ensenada begin 20 miles South of San Felipe on the east coast and Rosarito on the Pacific. Both coastlines extend south to the state of Baja Sur.

At the end of the revolutionary war (1910), Ensenada was awarded to three generals: Clark, Rodriquez and Zertuche. Ensenada was a territory of Mexico until gaining it’s statehood in 1952.

The generals’ descendants and those of their cronies ruled Ensenada, without much regard for foreign investment until 1985. A major political and economic shift occurred that year with the election of Ernesto Ruffo as Mayor.

Ruffo, by birthright, was the first important “bi national” leader in Mexico. Born in San Diego and raised in Ensenada , he and a growing number of “free enterprise” entrepreneurs, had the vision to cultivate foreign investment in Baja California and abandon the nepotistic exclusionism of past generations.

Ruffo, in 1989, went on to become the first opposition party governor in Mexico’s history. Mexico was controlled autocratically by the PRI party for the first seventy years of the republic. The PRI´S roots are socialist, whereas, Ruffo’s Pan Party is orthodox free enterprise.

Ruffo’s win caused a renewed optimism that real democracy in Mexico might work. It was dubbed Ruffomania – A political windstorm, it spread across Mexico and led to Vicente Fox becoming the first Panista (opposition party) President of Mexico in 2002.

Among the “global visionaries”, that joined with Ruffo, was Cesar Mancillas‘ family. Successful business people that were not the sons of the privileged, they succeeded through tenacious entrepreneurial effort. Hardcore PANISTAS (Pan Party members), they were always aligned with Ruffo’s bi national strategies. The new mayor appears to take his family legacy seriously as he starts the first of his three year term.

We have not seen an Ensenada leader so expressive in his commitment to bi nationalism since Ernesto Ruffo Appel. Ruffo was present at the Thursday night event and was given appropriate respect by Mancillas in his introduction. He acknowledged Ruffo as having initiated the first serious foreign investment effort for this city.

Los Angeles city councilman Tony Cardenas commented that Cesar Mancillas is the first Ensenada mayor, in his memory, that visited Los the Angeles movers and shakers the first week after his inauguration as mayor.

Cardenas further heralded the new mayor’s uniqueness in that he actually had an articulated vision. A rarity among Ensenada leaders, Mancillas presented Los Angelinos with a strategic plan of cooperation with specific goals and a method for measuring results.

Lou Correa, Orange County board of supervisors and Rudy Fernandez from the City of San Diego , echoed the sentiments of Tony Cardenas. That Mancillas is a breath of fresh “cross border” air. A results oriented politician who recognizes the importance of effective planning and teamwork for the two Califonias. All agreed, that Cesar Mancillas has generated new confidence in Ensenada among California´s leadership .

Jose Perez Nuñez, representing Baja’s Department of Tourism, shared the results of a market study – a joint effort by the prestigious Monterey technical institute in Monterey Mexico and a U.S. consulting firm. The study concluded that Ensenada address five areas of need to foment tourism:

  • Insure access to Ensenada with improved roads and street signs (a fraction of Ensenada streets have signage).
  • Land use regulations – Ensenada neighborhoods are a hodge podge of non planning.
  • Ensenada needs a “cleanup type facelift”, debris, littering and graffiti is a scourge to many tourists.
  • Improve Ensenada’s security and police protection.
  • Improve the marketing of Ensenada

Andres Armenta spoke of the resilience of Ensenada’s fishing industry. Once Baja California had the largest tuna fleet in the world. The industry was dessimated by the U.S. ban on Mexican tuna, supposedly caught without sufficient dolphin protection. As a result, Ensenada’s fisheries shifted to Aqua culture; successfully breeding tuna, oysters, mussels and abalone for expanding world markets.

Fernando Favela spoke about the rapidly growing acceptance of Baja wines throughout the world (95% of all Mexican wines are produced in Ensenada) and the conditions that make them so desirable: soils that produce a low quantity but flavor intense product, climate, days of sunlight and wine making technology by experts who understand drip irrigation, hand picking of grapes, ageing in French oak and “state of the art” bottling.

Major infrastructure projects in Ensenada, outlined at the conference, were: expansion of the Sauzal port, a dam in the Santa Rosa canyon to supply Ensenada’s increasing need for water, a rail line that will connect Ensenada’s port with Southern California and a heavy emphasis on new and better roads throughout the county, including the extension of the coastal road from downtown to the Cypress airport.

At the table, this reporter occupied, sat major U.S. developers and city planners along with Ensenada developers. These joint venture partners, had already been received by Cesar Mancillas in seeking their experience and expertise. The excitement at this table was evident to say the least.

During a one hour break for networking, midpoint in the presentations, Cesar Macillas “worked the room”. Shaking hands with all 300 invitees he looked extremely comfortable as he gave each one of us his card and an Ensenada supporter pin. Cesar Mancillas listened to everyone’s brief congratulations and thoughts. He played the role of populist quite well. Everyone on both sides of the border were won over by his openness and humility.

Buena Suerte Señor mayor!.

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