The San Diego Convention Center in downtown San Diego. File photo courtesy of the center

We’re now past the halfway mark for 2020. And what a year it’s turning out to be. Despite the roiling of the economy by the deadly coronavirus, there are plenty of positive developments to pass along.

It’s been a rough spring and summer for the San Diego Convention Center, but everyone is keeping fingers crossed that conditions would start to improve in the months ahead. The agency plans to resume hosting conventions in December with a full return to activities by July 2021. Officials report that more than $20 million in bookings has been lost since COVID-19 pandemic struck in early March and forced a shutdown. Fortunately, some of those losses have been covered through the arrival of federal stimulus money. According to a report in the Voice of San Diego, the convention center has been forced to cut nearly 50% of its workforce — 35 full time and 170 part time workers. The cavernous facility has been transformed into housing for more than 1,300 homeless people.

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Walmart says it has now hired more than 11,000 veterans for its California stores, including the 20 stores in San Diego, through its Welcome Home Program. One of those veterans hired is Durrand Lardge, assistant store manager at the San Diego Supercenter on Shawline Street. Lardge is quoted as saying in a news release that “When veterans come home it is helpful to have veteran programs like the one at Walmart that connect us with practical resources and aid our success.”

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Hundreds of locally owned businesses are still waiting for financial relief from the Small Business Relief Fund that the San Diego city officials created to help owners. Officials report 585 businesses received money out of more than 10,000 applicants. Of more than $20.5 million available, just $5.6 million or around 27%, has been distributed.

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It looks like the cross-border region will soon start getting that promised economic boost, now that the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement took effect July 1. The international agreement replaces the controversial 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. The USMCA creates a new incentive to build cars and trucks in North America. And it dictates that 75% of a vehicle’s parts to be made in one of the three countries — up from the current 62.5%. More importantly, the agreement includes provisions for $300 million to be spent on cleaning up the Tijuana River. The river which separates the U.S. from Mexico has been a longtime headache for residents bordering the waterway. Raw sewage and trash have spilled into the Pacific Ocean for decades, forcing the closing of beaches and destroying the natural habitats along the river. Officials from both countries announced a series of projects over the next few years that should help to clean up the mess.

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San Diego International Airport has announced four new companies to participate in its 16-week Airport Innovation Lab, which is aimed at helping to reduce barriers for fledgling businesses to break into the aviation industry. The most recent group is comprised of four companies largely focused on reducing waste and enhancing the passenger experience. One of the four companies chosen, Zero Waste, is San Diego based. The company is working on a “smart” waste bin which uses robotics to sort the waste from recycling. The bins also process the waste and recycling for easy handling. Officials says the goal of the program is to reduce waste while increasing the reuse of food and beverage containers.

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La Puerta, a popular restaurant in the Gaslamp for the past dozen years, says it is opening a second location in Mission Hills within the next four to seven months

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Ted Eldredge succeeds Dick Gibbons as president and CEO at the Manchester Financial Group. Gibbons is retiring after 35 years with the company.  According to a news release issued by the firm, Manchester recruited Eldredge in 1999 as president of M Commercial Properties but left in 2010 to start his own company. He then returned in 2018 to become president of Manchester Pacific Gateway, the massive $1.8 billion development project now underway on San Diego’s waterfront. Manchester Financial Group was founded in 1970 by Doug Manchester.

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Benjamin Petell named vice president of non-gaming operations at Jamul Casino. Petell joined the casino a year ago as its director of food & beverage/retail, overseeing seven restaurants as well as other retail operations.

Tom York is a Carlsbad-based independent journalist who specializes in writing about business and the economy. If you have news tips you’d like to share, send them to tom.york@gmail.com.