Reflections on San Jose: EDC Leadership Trip

As I was sitting on my Southwest Airlines flight back from San Jose, I looked into the rows ahead of me to see a scene that has become synonymous with our EDC Leadership Trips: Our former chair and the National Head of Commercial and Industrial Banking at Western Alliance Bank Julian Parra leaning into the aisle to have a discussion with our current vice chair for inclusion and the CEO of Lifeline Community Services Lisette Islas. Also leaning into the conversation were Neighborhood House Association President and CEO Rudy Johnson, and the COO of Connect Christie Marcella. Meanwhile, a row behind them, ResMed’s Head of Global Inclusion and Diversity Sarah Hassaine was in a deep and enthusiastic conversation with Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Carlsbad David Graham. All smiling and laughing. All heading home after two and a half days of deep thinking, work, and reflection in another California city and region dealing with many of the same challenges and opportunities we have back home. All recommitted to an inclusive economic development agenda they helped to create.

Getting 35 local business, higher education, nonprofit, and civic leaders to set aside time to travel, learn, and grow together is difficult. Finding the kind of leaders who can carry all of their knowledge and expertise into every conversation while checking their egos at the door might even sound impossible. But here we are once again, returning home with even more energy, enthusiasm, and focus than we had when we left.

Our time in San Jose reminded us of just how far we have come since we took our first leadership trip to Nashville almost nine years ago. Hearing the stories of employer engagement and commitment to inclusion, learning about deep and meaningful public-private partnerships, sitting in on an hour-long conversation between San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan and San Diego City Councilmember Raul Campillo, and enjoying our time together at Mexican Heritage Plaza and the Google HQ Campus all made for meaningful and inspirational moments. Sharing it all with such a special and committed group of San Diego leaders and friends makes it almost magical.

But it isn’t magic that that will move the needle to ensure that we train enough skilled workers, support the development of enough quality jobs within our small businesses, and create the conditions that will ensure more resilient and thriving households throughout our region. It is hard, focused, intentional, and purposeful work. It requires an unwavering commitment to the belief that inclusion is a true economic imperative. And it only happens when we continuously find, leverage, and support this group of thoughtful, committed citizens who together can help our region meet our 2030 goals.

For those of you who have been a part of this journey with us over the last several years, thank you for your investment, leadership, and support. And for those of you who would like to be a part of the most meaningful, intentional, and inclusive economic development work in the nation, reach out, lean in, and join us in endorsing and advancing these goals. You will absolutely gain more than you give. I guarantee it.

Returning home with clearer eyes and a fuller heart—Mark

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

President & CEO

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