A note from Mark on EDC’s Annual Dinner

Honoring Life. Changing. San Diegans

Dear EDC investors and partners,

I hope this message finds you all well and enjoying springtime in San Diego. As we speed through April, our entire team is turning its attention to our upcoming Annual Dinner.

As many of you know, for more than 20 years, San Diego Regional EDC has presented an award at our Annual Dinner that focuses on community and economic service and leadership. Originally called “The Spirit of San Diego Award,” this recognition was later changed in 2010 to honor the memory of Herb Klein—a truly wonderful San Diego leader who was noted for bringing people together to work on many of San Diego’s most challenging political and economic issues. More than anything, both iterations of this award were structured to recognize an individual who goes ‘above and beyond’ their day job to help make San Diego a better place, whether through philanthropy, volunteerism, vision, action, etc.

About nine years ago, EDC added a second award in memory of Duane Roth, another beloved San Diego leader and a tireless promoter of San Diego’s innovation economy. By contrast, this award would recognize a business or institution (not an individual) that was ‘changing the world from San Diego’ through technology, science, or innovation (think Qualcomm, the Salk Institute, Illumina, etc.). Duane was passionate about San Diego’s smart and life-changing companies and ideas, and this was EDC’s way of honoring his leadership, service, and memory.

Over the last few years, we have made efforts to ensure that the criteria for these awards are not only reflective of the leaders who inspired them, but of the changes in EDC’s work—with continued alignment to our core values of integrity, accountability, collaboration, and inclusion. The awards have now become known as our “Life. Changing. Awards,” an ode to our region’s brand identity and reflective of the EDC that businesses and individuals are investing in today. And if there were ever two words that could encapsulate the impact of Herb Klein and Duane Roth, those would certainly be them.

Meet our 2024 awardees

This year, our individual award will be given to (retired) Vice Admiral Jim Zortman. Admiral Zortman is one of the most highly decorated Naval officers to call San Diego home. He is the former Commanding Officer for Naval Air Forces, San Diego and Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet. He is also the retired Senior and Sector Vice President for Global Logistics and Operations Support for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. While at Northrop Grumman, he led the effort to make San Diego the company’s ‘center for excellence’ for unmanned systems. Admiral Zortman also served on the Chairman’s Competitiveness Council—a group of senior business and university leaders who worked to carve out meaningful and independent directions and focus areas for EDC, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Connect. He served on EDC’s board of directors and executive committee for more than 10 years. From 2016-2018, Jim served as EDC’s board chair and made ‘economic inclusion’ his focus area and platform. Feeling he had been a part of meaningful and intentional efforts made by the U.S. military to strengthen and diversify its officer ranks, and by Northrop Grumman to increase the number of women and people of color within its engineering, technical, and executive workforce, Jim felt that EDC could be a powerful catalyst to establish inclusion as an economic imperative within the San Diego region. Since Jim’s time as chair, every new EDC board chair has continued to build off the foundation he established and has kept inclusion at the forefront of EDC’s goals and work, which now so many of you have committed to and engaged in with us.

We will be presenting this year’s business award to a legendary San Diego company—Solar Turbines. Solar Turbines designs and manufactures industrial gas turbines for onshore and offshore electrical power generation, for marine propulsion, and for producing, processing, and transporting natural gas and oil. Headquartered in San Diego for nearly a century, Solar Turbines has more than 8,000 employees in dozens of countries around the world, with the majority of them working in the San Diego region. For decades, the company has represented the best elements of our binational economy with substantial manufacturing operations in Tijuana/Northern Baja. Solar Turbines has been a constant partner and investor in workforce development and training programs throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties, and has one of the most dedicated and diverse workforces in our region. It is also important to note that the corporate leadership of Solar Turbines has chosen to remain in San Diego and California despite aggressive efforts by other states to lure them away.

As champions of our organizational core values, examples of what Duane Roth and Herb Klein stood for, and critical partners in building a stronger, more vibrant, and more inclusive region, we could not be prouder to recognize Admiral Jim Zortman and Solar Turbines with our 2024 Life. Changing. Awards. Hoping that you will all join us at Petco Park on June 18 to give them the celebration and thanks they deserve.

Learn more and buy your tickets at EDCannualdinner.com.

With continued thanks for your leadership and support—Mark

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

President & CEO

Read EDC’s Monthly Report

Special thanks to our award sponsors Boston Consulting Group, San Diego State University, and UC San Diego.

Looking into the 2024 crystal ball

Sticking the ‘soft’ landing

Happy new year from your local, recovering economist!

After another year filled with uncertainty and the seemingly ever long tail of pandemic-related disruptions, we enter 2024 with a whole host of questions—some new, some recurring.

The past year was dominated by the prognostications of a looming recession. Goldman Sachs famously gave it a 100 percent probability and even the Federal Reserve was bracing for an economic downturn as recently as the summer.

However, it is worth stating the obvious here that the United States did not go into a recession. Throughout 2023, measures of economic growth consistently beat expectations. In the fourth quarter of the year, the economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.3 percent fueled by consumer spending as well as business investment. We saw record corporate profitability, a strong labor market that added nearly three million jobs, and even inflation slow significantly and come close to the Fed’s comfort level of two percent.

Locally, we ended the year with 23,400 more jobs. Investment also came into the San Diego region from both public and private sources. Startups raised another $4 billion in venture capital funding and San Diego received $950 million in federal funding for cleantech development.

There are more jobs in San Diego than ever before, however there are fewer people available to do them. Over the last 12 months, the labor force declined and it is expected that our prime-working age population will shrink in the coming years. Part of this is due to accelerated retirements brought about by the pandemic; part is due to the ever-increasing cost of living. The median-priced home is now more than $1 million with a monthly mortgage payment of more than $5,300.

So, 2024…

Looking to the year ahead, we are approaching a unique moment to accelerate large scale transformation around the future of work and the built environment.

Employers are offering remote and flexible work arrangements at higher rates than during the height of the pandemic. The rapid adoption of generative AI tools is changing how work is done and re-defining what skill development means, favoring agility over ability. There are 32,000 employers nationwide competing for workers with AI skills. In San Diego, there have been more than 5,200 unique job postings seeking AI skills since the launch of ChatGPT just over a year ago.

The permanence of remote work offerings has led to a re-imagining of the office with a flight toward quality. Many employers remain unsure of when and who should return to the office (we can help). These decisions will have profound implications for the future use of office space across our region, of which there is more than 10 million square feet currently vacant, with several million more planned, under construction, or with leases coming due in the next year.

While affordability remains abysmally low, housing production has ramped up with permitting activity expected to match levels not seen since 2017. This is still not enough new housing to meet demand, but still very welcome development (pun intended!). Additionally, rent growth seems to have plateaued and returned to pre-pandemic rates giving renters a much-needed pause in increases.

And yet, nothing that our region will face in 2024 is inevitable. What lies ahead is both a familiar challenge and a new opportunity for inclusive growth. A challenge to meet the talent needs of our employers, and an opportunity to remove barriers to entry into the workforce. A challenge to promote quality job growth in small businesses, and an opportunity to shift spending toward local, diverse suppliers. A challenge to address affordability, and an opportunity to re-imagine our urban core to retain high-paying jobs and provide housing for working families.

It’s a tall order, but our region is hungry. Let’s get to work!

Eduardo Velasquez
Eduardo Velasquez

Sr. Director, Research & Economic Development


Read 2023’s edition: Looking into the crystal ball…

More FROM EDC’s research bureau

More on inclusive growth

A note on the new year

Dear EDC partners and investors,

Reflecting on our past year at San Diego Regional EDC, I turn to the conversations and moments I’ve been privileged to share with many of you across the San Diego community.

Each month, on a Wednesday morning overlooking the greens at Torrey Pines (or via Zoom screen), more than 60 board members from across San Diego’s industries—life sciences to defense, breweries to sports—have created space to connect, collaborate, partner, and assess our progress toward the region’s Inclusive Growth goals: 20K post-secondary completions annually, 75K newly thriving households, and 50K new quality jobs in small businesses by 2030. We know this is a marathon, not a sprint, and we’re in it for the long haul.

Our Board represents businesses born and grown here, new market entrants, large businesses with global reach, small, family-owned firms, nonprofits, academia, and anchor institutions in between. All of us have one thing in common: a commitment to the future of San Diego.

If we have learned anything about economic development over the years, it’s that we can neither stay the status quo nor stick to our swim lanes. We must work together, in our different ways, to ensure a resilient and competitive San Diego for employers and residents alike. In 2024, here’s how you can lean into this work with us:

  • While every company grapples with its post-pandemic approach to employee retention and return to office, participate in EDC’s study to understand your workforce’s needs
  • Support talent pipeline development and host summer interns in computing, engineering, or business—paid for through grant funding and sourced from San Diego’s Verified Programs
  • Support small businesses through procurement by joining the Anchor Institution Collaborative
  • Endorse the Inclusive Growth goals and adopt strategies to create more quality jobs, skilled talent, and thriving households in San Diego
  • Stay tuned for World Trade Center San Diego’s trade mission to draw regional investment and elevate San Diego’s global identity
  • Join 150 local companies and institutions in investing in EDC’s programs, research, and goals

The steps we take on this journey will be underpinned by EDC’s Research Bureau, market strategy, talent initiatives—and reliant on your investment—to help grow San Diego’s economy.

Join us in this work in 2024.

In gratitude,

Ms. Jennie Brooks
Ms. Jennie Brooks

EDC Board Chair

Executive Vice President


Read EDC’s Monthly Report

Investor Spotlight: General Atomics

As a nonprofit, San Diego Regional EDC is supported by investment from nearly 150 private organizations, companies, and public agencies like General Atomics. With this support, EDC provides direct services to help companies grow and thrive in San Diego by leading initiatives to enhance the region’s growth and prosperity.

General Atomics has long been an EDC investor and global leader in energy and defense research and development. In early 2023, Mayor Todd Gloria visited the DIII-D National Fusion Facility at GA’s Torrey Pines campus as part of a series of tours of the region’s leading defense innovators.

Hear about General Atomics’ leadership in the world’s clean energy future and how the company is investing in San Diego.

Tell us about General Atomics and its mission.

Headquartered in San Diego, General Atomics (GA) specializes in diversified research and development for energy, defense, and aircraft. As the world’s largest private participant in fusion energy research, GA aims to provide sustainable, reliable carbon-free energy for future generations through commercialized fusion power plants. Cracking the code on fusion would mean no harmful emissions, no radioactive spent nuclear fuel waste, and no mining for fuel because fusion fuel is derived from seawater.

GA operates the DIII-D National Fusion Facility in San Diego on behalf of the Department of Energy (DOE) and has been the sole-source supplier of targets and target support services for the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration’s inertial confinement fusion program since 1991.

Why San Diego?

Founded in San Diego in 1955, GA has proudly called the region home for nearly 70 years. GA’s Torrey Pines campus was originally made possible by the City of San Diego, which arranged a public vote to approve the sale of what was then an empty cow pasture overlooking the Pacific Ocean. While the company now operates on five continents with more than 12,500 employees and more than 8.3 million square feet of engineering, laboratory, and manufacturing facilities worldwide, the majority of GA operations remain in San Diego County.

Over the years, GA has benefited enormously from San Diego’s quality of life, competitive innovation workforce, and partnerships with world-leading universities like UC San Diego and San Diego State University (SDSU). GA has hosted countless students for internships and postdoctoral fellowships, and generations of UC San Diego and SDSU researchers working alongside its scientists and engineers on a wide range of projects. Many of these students have gone on to become leading scientists in their field, some of whom now work full-time in San Diego at GA.

GA is also known for its support of San Diego’s small businesses, which make up 98 percent of the region’s firms. Now a cornerstone of San Diego’s innovation ecosystem, GA as a long-time federal contractor is committed to supporting San Diego’s small, women-, veteran-, and minority-owned businesses through its comprehensive DOE-recognized Small Business Program.

Please share more about GA’s collaboration and partnership with San Diego Regional EDC.

GA has been an EDC investor for more than 30 years. Vice Chairman Linden Blue has served as a director and in EDC leadership roles over the years. As GA facilities have  expanded, EDC has provided permitting support as well as helping elected leaders understand the company’s economic impact on the region. In recent months, GA has worked the team to arrange behind-the-scenes tours for Mayor Todd Gloria and local business leaders sharing our exciting fission and fusion facilities with community partners.

Looking ahead, what is on the horizon for GA?

Among other initiatives, GA is drawing from its decades of experience in fusion to develop a new concept for a Fusion Pilot Plant that will deliver clean, safe, and economically viable fusion-powered electricity. The facility will utilize GA’s proprietary Fusion Synthesis Engine to enable engineers, physicists, and operators to optimize the plant for maximum efficiency, and has developed a concept for tritium, a fusion fuel, to make the fuel cycle self-sufficient. As part of this project, GA is joining with leading institutions around the world, including France-based ITER Organization, to pursue the most rapid, economically practical path to fusion energy.

The great thing about clean energy is that anyone with a passion for it can find their calling in the space. In addition to the scientists and engineers who create clean technology, San Diego’s GA team needs the same talented business, operations, and marketing professionals that any other company needs to operate successfully. For GA, a clean energy future means access to high quality jobs for all San Diegans.

Read more about EDC’s investors in our investor spotlight blog series and join GA and 150+ investors committed to supporting the region’s inclusive economic development by becoming a member of EDC.

Interested in publishing an investor spotlight? Contact our team:

Liz Muthoni
Liz Muthoni

Coordinator, Investor Relations & Marketing

Reflections on our Korea Trade Mission

From San Diego to Korea: Collaborative partnerships to strengthen global competitiveness

It has been six years since World Trade Center San Diego—which EDC operates on behalf of the Port, the Airport, and the City of San Diego—ran its very first trade mission. Since then, we have taken annual targeted, cross-sector delegations to Canada, the UK, Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands. Led by Mayors and Members of Congress, flanked by Port, Airport, and University leadership, and accompanied by senior executives from our most innovative firms, these trade missions connect San Diego companies large and small to international markets, seek foreign investment that creates new jobs in our region, and tell the San Diego story: one of life-changing innovation and collaboration.

This year’s destination: Korea. And like every other year, San Diego showed up and impressed. Led by Mayor Todd Gloria—and joined this time by SANDAG and County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Nora Vargas—this year’s trade delegation of more than 30 civic, academic, and corporate partners also included peer organizations like Biocom and the Tijuana and Imperial Valley EDCs, as well as companies like Qualcomm, Illumina, Dexcom, ASML, General Dynamics NASSCO, and more.

At a time when more than a trillion dollars of federal investments are aimed at modernizing American infrastructure, enabling a green energy transition, and building domestic capacity in strategic industries like semiconductors and biomanufacturing, Korea is a natural partner for the United States, as evidenced by the deepening collaboration between our two countries. Korea is second only to China in manufacturing intensity, and Korean firms produce almost 25 percent of all EV batteries and almost 60 percent of global memory chips used in phones and laptops.

Why Korea →

There is also perhaps no more complementary partner for an innovation incubator like San Diego than a country that scales innovation more efficiently than anywhere else.

The trade mission opened with a Sunday visit to the residence of the Governor of Gyeonggi-do, Korea’s largest and most dynamic province. Governor Kim and his cabinet hosted us for a roundtable discussion focused on revitalizing the MOU between the state of California and Gyeonggi. We delivered a letter from Governor Newsom and invited a return delegation to visit California in 2024 to continue the conversation on economic cooperation.

This set the stage for a whirlwind four days packed from morning to night with more than 15 briefings, meetings, and events:

  • With the help of Dentons and the U.S. Embassy, we convened representatives from more than 30 of the largest Korean companies for an Invest San Diego Luncheon. We provided an economic overview of investment opportunities throughout the binational mega-region, followed by quick pitches on manufacturing, energy, innovation, and real estate projects from Tijuana, Imperial Valley, and San Diego.
  • We visited the rapidly growing Korean offices of Illumina and Qualcomm, and announced a new partnership between San Diego’s Dexcom and Korean tech giant Kakao.
  • We toured and met with leadership of Samsung Biologics, which in just a few years has grown into the world’s largest contract manufacturer of biologics and is considering the location of a large investment in the United States.
  • We celebrated partnerships between UCSD and SDSU—both developing new state of the art innovation districts—and Seoul National and Yonsei Universities, two of South Korea’s finest.
  • We spent a day in the City of Incheon—a city of millions that has been master planned and developed on land reclaimed from the ocean over the last two decades and is now the innovation hub of the greater Seoul area. Incheon is also home to the international airport, completed in just eight years, as well as the Port, completed in four.

See the FULL agenda

Finally, we closed the trip with a VIP meeting with U.S. Ambassador to Korea Philip Goldberg to discuss the evolving political and economic environment in the region, followed by a reception at the Ambassador’s residence in the former legation district of Seoul. As is the tradition on these trade missions, this reception gave us an opportunity to reconnect with the hundreds of partners we met during the week, cement new friendships (and perhaps most importantly, make sure everyone knows which team to root for when the Padres play the Dodgers in the MLB opener in Seoul next March).

We returned home this week to a region in which the entire urban core is being reimagined—with massive mixed-use projects under construction from the border to the bay; to a country attempting to rebuild its infrastructure and establish new industries to take us into a cleaner, smarter future; and in a post-pandemic world where supply chains and geopolitical alliances are shifting rapidly.

One thing is clear: Our binational region has always been a remarkable place, but at this moment—with San Diego’s innovation ecosystem, Imperial Valley’s clean energy leadership, and Tijuana’s advanced manufacturing prowess—we can compete like never before. Add the right international partnerships like those we are building in Korea and elsewhere, and we have all the necessary pieces to anchor the supply chains of the future: collaboratively, efficiently, and sustainably.

Thank you to our sponsors Qualcomm, Dentons, and Townshend Venture Advisors, as well our partner the U.S. Embassy in South Korea for support on this trade mission.


Nikia Clarke
Nikia Clarke

Senior Vice President; Executive Director, World Trade Center San Diego



Learn about WTCSD’s trade missions


A note from Mark…

October update: Implementing actionable insights

EDC Investors and Partners,

I hope you are enjoying the early days of fall in San Diego.

Those of you who have worked closely with our team at EDC over the last decade know that our core values have long been integrity, accountability, collaboration, and inclusion. We strive to ensure that these principles guide all that we do and are woven into the work of every team—and one of our most important teams at EDC is Research.

Our research is something I have always been quite proud of. You will frequently hear our team and board members say that everything we do at EDC starts with research. I have even heard more than one of our current board officers cite research as our organizational “superpower.”

When we reestablished the EDC Research Bureau, it was mainly to ensure that the internal decisions we were making, the goals we were setting, and the information we were providing on the San Diego economy was accurate and up-to-date. Over the years, we realized that our data and information was at its most powerful when it was being shared with audiences and decision makers outside of the organization.

More and more partners and investors began asking us to use our research to help understand the economic impact of a business or project, a certain sector of the economy, a new market or customer base, and more. Our team has partnered and worked with the Brookings Institution, AECOM, UCSD, SDSU, SANDAG, CBRE, CA EDD, County Office of Education, BW Research, and other partners to ensure that our data remains relevant, free from bias, and helpful in creating more quality jobs, skilled talent, and thriving households across our region.

As the organization has grown and the work has evolved, so has the research. Over the last year, EDC’s Research Bureau has:

And as the challenges, opportunities, and work pertaining to talent, equity and diversity, cost of living, and technology continue to evolve, we will again make sure that our team is moving and changing as well. In the year ahead, our Research Bureau will focus on better understanding and supporting the changing needs of small business as well as the ‘future of work’ and its impact on commercial real estate.

If interested in sponsoring and investing in our research into 2024, we welcome those conversations and opportunities. Please reach out to Eduardo Velasquez—our Sr. Director of Research and Economic Development—if you would like to learn more. After all these years, I can still assure you that everything we do at EDC starts with research, just as I can assure you that an investment in our EDC research team is an investment in accountability, integrity, collaboration, and inclusion.

Thanks as always for your leadership, partnership, and support.

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

President & CEO

Read EDC’s Monthly Report

Halftime in San Diego

A June note from Mark

When I began working at EDC, I saw a Super Bowl ad that caught my eye—both a car commercial and a moving pep talk in a post-recession era.

As the narrator spoke about “halftime in America” and the opportunity to make a comeback, images of businesses, communities, and people from across the country flashed across the screen. At the end, the narrator’s face came into view as he walked through a locker room tunnel of a packed stadium. You may remember that narrator was actor and director Clint Eastwood, and that his message carried optimism, hope, and resiliency at a critical turning point.

Later that year, to bring that halftime hope home, EDC made our own version with philanthropist and business icon Malin Burnham as our narrator (our Clint Eastwood). You can watch that clip from 2012 here.

And indeed, when we pause at the midpoint to recognize the progress made and refocus on the work still ahead, we are always better for it. This year should be no exception, as EDC recognizes:

  • Our region’s progress toward an inclusive and thriving San Diego at EDC’s Annual Dinner, where we honored Taylor Guitars and WD-40’s Garry Ridge in partnership with Point Loma Nazarene University and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • The local and global growth of San Diego small businesses through programs like MetroConnect, and World Trade Center San Diego’s nationally-recognized role in fueling this expansion.
  • AI-Machine Learning technology’s proliferation and job creation in San Diego’s key economic clusters, explored in our AI in San Diego report series with Booz Allen Hamilton.
  • Advancing San Diego’s work to strengthen San Diego’s defense talent pipeline, convening SDMAC and other partners to assess and support emerging shipbuilding needs.

Still, we have work to do—to analyze San Diego’s RNA and Cybersecurity clusters, to lead this fall’s trade mission to Korea with Mayor Gloria, to celebrate your innovation at our annual Summer Bash, and to continue driving inclusive growth.

It’s halftime, San Diego. And it’s with and through your continued leadership, collaboration, and contributions during the months ahead that we will continue to strengthen the region we’re proud to call home.

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

President & CEO

Read EDC’s Monthly Report

Honoring our 2023 San Diego Life Changing Awardees

Each year, EDC’s Annual Dinner brings together nearly 900 of the region’s business and community leaders to celebrate our organization and region’s success, and to honor an individual and company whose work has promoted an inclusive and thriving San Diego.

Last night at Petco Park, and together with EDC Board Chair Jennie Brooks and Councilmember Raul Campillo, EDC and JPMorgan Chase & Co. were honored to present the 2023 San Diego Life Changing Awards to these household names, made right here in San Diego:

Taylor Guitars

Founded in El Cajon nearly 50 years ago, Taylor Guitars represents the best of what’s ‘Made in San Diego’—manufacturing some of the world’s best guitars for hobbyists and rock stars alike.

In January 2021, Taylor Guitars became the first reported multi-national company to transfer ownership to all of its employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Rather than selling the company to another guitar company or outside investor, founders Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug felt the best way to position the company for future success was to entrust it to its 1,200-person workforce—domestic and international—who drive Taylor Guitars’ innovative culture, growth, and decades-long success.

For its steadfast commitment to inclusive growth, EDC is proud to recognize Taylor Guitars with one of the 2023 San Diego Life Changing awards presented by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Garry Ridge

Garry Ridge is well known for his 35 years at the helm of WD-40 Company, but even more so for his philosophy and expertise in cultivating corporate culture. Leaning on Aristotle’s quote, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work,” Garry has spent his career as a CEO, professor, author, and coach helping leaders create work environments, or ‘tribes,’ where people feel safe, fulfilled, happy, and guided by values.

For his commitment to uplifting and supporting San Diego talent even beyond the walls of local WD-40, EDC is proud to recognize Garry Ridge with one of the 2023 San Diego Life Changing awards presented by JPMorgan Chase & Co.

To those who could join us to celebrate, thank you. To those who couldn’t, we’ll see you next year!

Six ways to return to the office by Cultura

As a nonprofit, San Diego Regional EDC is supported by investment from nearly 200 private organizations, companies, and public agencies. With their support, EDC provides direct services to help companies grow and thrive in San Diego by leading initiatives to enhance the region’s growth and prosperity.

On the heels of the pandemic, many employers have transitioned back to in-office or hybrid operations. And one thing is clear—there is no one definitive way to bring people ‘back to work.’

This week, we sat down with Anne Benge and Annie Cook, senior executives at EDC investor and design and furnishing company Cultura to understand how employers can promote their workforce’s successful transition back to the office. Check out Cultura’s six essential criteria for your Return to Office strategy.

Tell us about Cultura and its commitment to #lovewhereyouwork

Cultura’s mission is to create places where people love to work. We cultivate discussions around a client’s culture then design and furnish their space to reflect it. After three years of working with more than 300 companies, we have observed companies with successful Return to Office strategies do the following six things. Company size is irrelevant as these steps apply to companies from three to 140,000 employees. Failure to do each of these will result in a subpar return to the office.

Six required steps to ensure a successful return to office:

  1. Lead by Example
    Leadership, at all levels, must be present in the office to lead by example. This means everyone, not just the top executives. By demonstrating a shared commitment to the return, leaders at all levels can help to establish a culture of accountability, motivate employees, and drive success for the company.
  1. Listen
    Taking the time to listen to everyone is essential since returning to the office can be perceived as a loss of a benefit, similar to eliminating health insurance, and affects people differently in ways.
  1. Embrace the Start + Stop
    It is normal to begin a transition back to the office only to have it stop. There can be outbreaks, office relocations, and resignations; some may only return to work with masks while others may refuse to come back if masks are required. It’s a challenging and unpredictable journey that requires perseverance and resilience.
  1. Coaching + Management
    The philosophy of “I trust you until I don’t” can change abruptly, and not everyone is equipped to handle conflict and resolution when trust is breached. Managing remote work, bringing people back to the office that are against it, and questioning work ethic all come into play. You have to address what the new rules are and how are you managing them.
  1. Hidden Influencers
    In every organization, there are change agents who are not in leadership or management roles and may not necessarily lead people, yet are perceived as if they know “what’s going on” and are sought out for “real” answers. Engaging this group in your return is crucial, as they hold great influence and will bring more than 50 percent of the individuals with them.
  1. Space Matters
    Your office performance is a hugely important tool you should use to support a positive internal culture. Temperature, ergonomics, snacks, amenities, and social merriment all matter. Pizza and beer will not bring them back alone—you have to have it all.

If your return has stalled, look to these six things to identify where the breakdown may be. They are your keys to unlocking success.

Previous investor spotlight: Cultura: Women’s History Month

Learn more: wearecultura.com

Instagram: @wearecultura

Read more about EDC’s investors in our investor spotlight blog series. Or, join Cultura by becoming a member of EDC.

Interested in publishing an investor spotlight? Contact our team:

Liz Muthoni
Liz Muthoni

Coordinator, Investor Relations & Marketing

Reflections on #SDinDC with the Chamber

Last week I traveled back to Washington, D.C. with our partners at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce for their 15th annual #SDinDC trip. The delegation brought more than 160 San Diego political, business, education, and community representatives together in Washington to advance local agendas with our federal leaders and partners.

While there, I had the opportunity to sit down with senior leadership at the Pentagon and Washington Navy Yard, meet with members of our congressional delegation, and host a meeting for local San Diego leaders with our partners at the Brookings Institution. Purposeful and beneficial meetings, all. But it was a short walk that I took from my hotel to the Washington Monument that likely had the greatest impact on me.

About a block from our hotel was the U.S. Department of Commerce. As I walked around the building, I took note of the quotes etched in stone above all of the entrances. They are attributed to Lincoln, Washington, and numerous other American leaders who have all famously shared their thoughts on trade, innovation, and the pillars of a free economy. Yet it was a quote from a more obscure statesman from the mid-1800s that still has me thinking.

One-time diplomat (and Secretary of the Navy) from Massachusetts John Bancroft said: “Commerce Defies Every Wind, Outrides Every Tempest, And Invades Every Zone.” He shared these words almost 175 years ago.

While I know that this quote hasn’t proven true for many individuals and populations in our country throughout its existence, it is an important reminder of the intentions and promises of our systems, and clear proof of just how far and wide commerce is supposed to reach—to every zone, and every person, in every corner of our communities.

The words etched above the doors of the U.S. Department of Commerce are meant to stand the test of time and remind us of who we must continuously strive to be as an economic development community—defying every wind and riding out every storm are only important in that their benefits can truly invade every zone. Until then, our work will never be complete.

Inspired and energized by the past, present, and future of our work,

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

President & CEO