Numerous influential historians have argued that California (as well as the rest of the "Pacific slope") remained under-industrialized in comparison to other, older areas of the United States. Despite the fact that Puget Sound, the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles had begun to develop a base for heavy industry during the late nineteenth century and had become manufacturing centers in their own right, San Diego remained almost entirely devoid of "smokestack industry" until the World War II era. The US Navy had in the meantime become the city's main source of economic development as well as a major provider of essential urban infrastructure.
Many San Diegans felt that industrialization might threatened their quiet way of life. Factories would pollute the air, the bay, and the skyline; an unruly, undisciplined and multiethnic working class might upset the city's harmonious social and political structure as well. San Diegans seemed not to realize that the Navy itself was a considerably industrial entity, producing some of the same impacts one could expect from large scale factories.
Even so, aviation, and the possibility of an aviation industry, did capture the imagination of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce at an early date, and its leaders encouraged "bird-men" to conduct their experiments here. The Montgomery brothers -- James and John -- took advantage of the San Diego region's topography and equable climate in 1883 to prove the viability of heavier-than-air flight by piloting their glider a distance of 600 feet (a record at the time) from a cliff at Otay Mesa. Aeronautical pioneer Octave Chanute came to San Diego in 1895 to conduct his own experiments, thanks in part to reports about the perfect climactic conditions he could expect to find. According to Chamber of Commerce records, the data Chanute obtained helped the Wright brothers in their quest for the first powered flight.