San Diego lies along the Pacific Ocean on San Diego Bay, just north of the international border with Mexico and approximately 120 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The landscape becomes hillier to the north and eastward toward a line of mountains along the edge of the city. The region has a mild, sunny climate year-round and receives little precipitation, mostly during the winter.
In 1900, the only link that San Diego had to the outside world was the Santa Fe Railroad, which ran North to Los Angeles. It would be almost two decades before an additional railroad line was finally completed toward the east from San Diego. However, by that time, Los Angeles had firmly established itself as the transportation center for Southern California, and had even created a manmade harbor to steal commerce away from the natural deep water port in San Diego.
During the next ten years, while the residents of San Diego continued to pin their dreams to commercial shipping and railroads, it was the military, primarily the Navy, that shaped San Diego’se future. The Spanish-American War had highlighted the strategic importance of San Diego in times during times of national emergency. The natural harbor and clear flying weather in San Diego again attracted new military facilities during WW I. The army built Camp Kearny and Rockwell Field, which eventually became a part of the Naval Air Service.
After WW I tourism became an important part of the San Diego economy, including an exposition in 1915 and 1916, related to the completion of the Panama Canal, and brought many tourists. The first home of the highly respected Scripps Institution of Oceanography was built in La Jolla.
Between the wars, tourism continued to boom while San Diego also attracted a the film colony, which attracted crowds to its legal gambling houses. Soon the world-famous San Diego Zoo was built in Balboa Park. The Spirit of St. Louis that was built by Charles Lindbergh in 1927, in San Diego which helped the city to claim its share of the new and rapidly developing aircraft industry.
Consolidated Aircraft Corporation moved San Diego from Buffalo, where it began building flying boats for the Navy. This laid the foundation for the development and growth of General Dynamics Corporation and Convair, ensuring the future of San Diego as a major contributor to the U. S. defense industry.
The military presence in San Diego expanded with WW II on the horizon, including the development of the Army’s Camp Callen and Camp Elliot. The San Diego area became home to Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, the Miramar Naval Air Station, the Naval Training Center, and the 11th Naval District Headquarters.
The end of the war left behind numerous veterans who had been stationed in San Diego and decided to make it their home. Many of them found employment in the growing aerospace and defense and aerospace industry, which fueled the economy in San Diego for the next 20 years.
San Diego hit a slowdown during the 1960’s, when the aerospace industry declined. However, along with an expanding military presence and a growing tourist industry, the development of the University of California at San Diego campus as well as the opening of the Salk Institute by Dr. Jonas Salk help to soften the impact on the local economy through the 1970’s and the 1980’s.
With the advent of the new century the San Diego economy expanded into in the communication, biotech, and high-tech fields. These clean, cutting-edge industries continue to help maintain the healthy and prosperous economy of the entire San Diego area.