Investor Spotlight: The Lufthansa Group

As a non-profit, 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 and, through its affiliate World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD), leads global initiatives to enhance the region’s recovery and resilience.

We sat down with Lufthansa Group, WTCSD’s preferred European airline, to discuss its partnership with and support of key efforts to connect San Diego’s business community to Europe. Check out the investor spotlight below!


Tell us about Lufthansa Group and its commitment to global connectivity.

The Lufthansa Group is one of the world’s leading aviation groups, as well as the market leader in Europe’s airline sector. The airlines of the Lufthansa Group—Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings, Lufthansa, SWISS, and Eurowings Discover—fly business and leisure passengers to more than 300 destinations around the world via hubs in Brussels, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, and Zurich. Passengers enjoy a premium product and a comprehensive route network, combined with the highest level of travel flexibility. In its 2022 summer schedule, the Lufthansa Group carriers will offer flights from 30 North American gateways to the various home market hubs, Europe-at-large, and the world.

From San Diego to Germany, and beyond 

A long-time partner, Lufthansa continues to work collaboratively with WTCSD and San Diego Regional Airport Authority (SAN) to offer a trusted gateway from our region into Western Europe.

In March 2022, Lufthansa launched its nonstop service to Munich, opening an opportunity for San Diego companies to partner with German and other EU innovators.

WTCSD’s 2021 Annual Report and the Go Global 2025 Report showed the San Diego business community is eager to return to international travel and expand global connectivity—and Lufthansa’s direct Munich flights have enjoyed positive feedback and frequent use since its launch.

Thriving Cities: A trade mission to the Netherlands

In September 2022, WTCSD will take a delegation of San Diego business leaders to the Netherlands via Lufthansa’s new direct flight to Munich. Over the course of a week, trade mission delegates will broaden international connectivity between San Diego and Western Europe with topics ranging from mobility, sustainability, to life sciences and tech.

In collaboration with Lufthansa and the Consulate of the Netherlands, WTCSD aims to drive increased investment between the two regions.

Are you a senior leader at a San Diego innovation company interested in joining the delegation? Contact Caroline Murray, listed below, for details.

From San Diego to the world

WTCSD looks forward to continuing its partnership with Lufthansa and collaborating on opportunities to help San Diego companies access new international markets through programs like:

  • MetroConnect
  • Future Trade missions
  • Reliable connectivity to Germany and beyond

Stay in touch

Read more about EDC’s investors in our investor spotlight blog series. Or, join Lufthansa Group and become a member of EDC.

Contact our team:

Caroline Murray
Caroline Murray

Coordinator, World Trade Center San Diego

Meet our Board: Chris Williams

Hear from EDC board member and Marsh & McLennan Agency CEO of the West Region Chris Williams on the importance of talent, collaboration, and resilience below.

Describe your “day job”?

As CEO of Marsh McLennan Agency’s (MMA) West Region, MMA’s largest region, I head up nine offices and 1,300 employees across California, Arizona, and Alaska. The beauty of my role is the number of areas of our business that I get to touch on a daily basis—whether it be working directly with clients, brainstorming and working with our HR team, or collaborating on special projects with colleagues across all of our departments. We have so many incredible people working at MMA… they are hardworking and passionate, and constantly come up with new ways to better our business and be there for our clients. I’m grateful that my position allows me to hear these ideas and help bring them to life. The days where I get to be face-to-face with colleagues, discussing their aspirations and ideas, are by far my favorite days on the job.

What is your life-changing moment—something that changed the trajectory of your life for the better?

In 1987, I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a B.S. in Economics. Shortly after, I began my insurance career with a large national healthcare organization in a sales role. In 1991, former MMA employee Jeff Calder attempted to recruit me to his brokerage firm. I have always prided myself on being a loyal employee, so I politely declined the promotion to a regional role with a large national carrier. Jeff did not give up easily as he was convinced that a new position with leadership opportunities at his firm was the right path for me. I remained in my current position until 1993, when I finally made the decision to take a leap of faith and accepted Jeff’s offer. Through a merger with Barney and Barney and being acquired by Marsh, I have now spent 28 years building my career with MMA. I am forever grateful to Jeff for his persistence, influence, and the impact MMA has had on my life.

Of all the boards in San Diego, why EDC?

When I first moved to San Diego, as a newcomer to the region, I was eager to connect with and learn from local business leaders, civic leaders, and government leaders. Trindl Reeves, Chief Sales Officer at MMA, was on the board at EDC and encouraged me to get involved. After joining, I knew it was a great fit and perfect opportunity to become more ingrained within the community. EDC itself feels like a community. The group consists of so many amazing local leaders that have welcomed me to San Diego and inspired me to lead.

What EDC program or initiative interests you most, and why?

EDC’s talent development, attraction, and retention programs are by far the most helpful initiative right now. The current talent landscape is an incredibly competitive one, and MMA is growing rapidly year in and year out.

Our highest priority is bringing in talented, diverse people that want to stay with us. In order to achieve this, it’s crucial that we are constantly looking at ways to improve and evolve how we take care of our peoplewhether it be through our training programs, benefits offerings, company culture initiatives, or the way we find candidates in the first place.

Over the last year, our country and communities have simultaneously endured a pandemic, a social justice movement, and a time of hostile and divisive politics. What is your biggest lesson learned in the last year?

What a past year and a half it has been… By far, the biggest lesson I have learned is that society, and people, are so resilient. Every single one of us was affected by these worldwide crises, with the impact hitting seemingly overnight. I couldn’t believe the level of support, collaboration, and empathy we all showed to our fellow neighbors. It has been truly remarkable to witness and reminded me just how strong we can be when we work together.

Luckily, from a business standpoint, MMA was prepared and able to adapt incredibly fast to a virtual work environment. Many of our clients were hurting due to the shutdowns, and so many of our own people were personally affected. Yet, our colleagues powered through with such strength and worked hard to continue serving our clients and community. Everyone was apart, yet working together, in a way I had never seen before. This experience will leave a mark on me, for sure.

Favorite quote:

I learned from my Grandfather: Expectations only create disappointment. I taught my kids: Never bet on what you can’t control.

Follow along with Chris on LinkedIn.

Meet the rest of EDC’s board of directors

Meet our Board: Dr. Steven Jones

What do leaders at Qualcomm, SDG&E, and the NBA have in common? They’ve all made a commitment to have difficult conversations about how patterns of racial, gender, and other forms of biases are hijacking the potential of their workforce. That’s where JONES steps in. San Diego-based consulting firm JONES has helped create work environments for these companies, and many others, that bring out the best in people through leveraging trust, inclusion, and diversity for the past 25 years. Check out this spotlight with new EDC board member and JONES CEO Dr. Steven Jones to learn more about the firm’s leadership.

Describe your “day job”?

They say when you love what you do you never have to work a day in your life! Career counselors often advise others to identify their passion and turn it into a career. I have had the opportunity to live my passion every day and do what I love in my role as the CEO of JONES. JONES has recently been named one of the Top 10 Diversity and Inclusion Companies in the United States by Manage HR Magazine. For the past 25 years, I have been blessed to lead, learn from, and work with a phenomenal group of team members at JONES. Every day we help committed leaders at companies such as Toyota, Honda, Qualcomm, the NBA, SDG&E, Sony Music, Viacom CBS, SoCal Edison, Rady Children’s Hospital, the Getty, and many more, create work environments that bring out the best in people through leveraging trust, inclusion, and diversity for business success. Guiding culture change, providing executive coaching, conducting unconscious bias training, facilitating bilingual meetings, and supporting clients in having difficult conversations about how patterns of racial, gender, and other forms of biases are hijacking the potential of their workforce are daily menu items in life at JONES. As a CEO who is also a DEI Global Thought Leader and Organizational Psychologist, my ‘day job’ means guiding a team that helps companies unlock the people potential in their organizations.

What is your life-changing moment—something that changed the trajectory of your life for the better?

In the summer of 1987, I packed my Toyota Corolla with all my belongings, which included a suitcase, TV, and a boom box, and headed on a road trip from Louisiana to my new home in San Diego, CA. The destination was my first professional job as a Resident Director at Olmeca Hall on SDSU’s campus. I was to become the first African American/Black person to run a residence hall in the history of the university (a trail I would repeat blazing at the University of San Diego in 1990). In my second year at SDSU, my boss “voluntold” me that he and I were going to conduct a diversity training for 150 student leaders. I was pursuing a master’s degree in Computer Science at the time and had never conducted diversity training before, so I was confused by his request. Two weeks before the training, I learned he was leaving the university and insisted that I still conduct the training, but solo. I continue to be grateful for Dr. Jesus Nieto and Kasimu Harley, two social justice warriors on SDSU’s campus who helped me organize the agenda for the training. The experience was amazing. There were lots of insights gained, lessons learned, and skills practiced by student leaders. At that moment, I knew my life would never be the same.

Of all the boards in San Diego, why EDC?

I have been impressed by the authentic leadership of Mark Cafferty and Janice Brown, along with San Diego Regional EDC’s commitment to economic inclusion. I was moved to join the EDC’s Board because of its work with the Brookings Institute, which identifies economic inclusion as “crucial” to San Diego’s success. The need for San Diego employers to act in a way that closes the minority-achievement gap, equips small businesses to compete, and to recruit/retain diverse talent in our community are personal passions of mine. JONES supports organizations large and small to become employers of choice—ones that recruit, select, develop, promote, and retain a diverse workforce who thrive. We are excited to join the impressive group of business and community leaders on EDC’s Board of Directors who are also committed to work environments where that diversity drives innovation through high levels of trust, psychological safety, equity, and belonging. With all of us working together, we can do this!

What EDC program or initiative interests you most, and why?

The need to enhance the San Diego community so it leads the world in creating an equitable and inclusive ecosystem that exists across our impressive corporate, small business, educational, military, tech, life sciences, hospitality, and other industries is very interesting to me. We have work to do to make “America’s Finest City” great for all its constituencies.

Over the last year, our country and communities have simultaneously endured a pandemic, a social justice movement, and a time of hostile and divisive politics. What is your biggest lesson learned in the last year?

One thing has been made abundantly clear to me: it is essential that each of us take collective action to keep one another safe. Each of us was challenged to reevaluate our individual and collective versions of normal. Every aspect of our lives shifted—how we worked, how classes were taught, whether we traveled, socialized, and the amount of time we spent with nuclear and extended family, etc. We understood that we needed collective action on a global scale to defeat COVID-19, a battle we are still fighting.

Simultaneously, the world moved into action to defeat our second global pandemic, Systemic Racism, which also continues today. Protests and marches were held around the globe to demand that we increase the lengths we are willing to go to keep each other, especially members of our BIPOC communities, safe and alive. We battled over “all lives matter” vs. “blue lives matter” vs. “black lives matter.” Many people realized how interconnected these three statements are while others refused to reexamine the history that impacts the deeply rooted inequities sustained in our present-day systems. Unless we find a way to come together, we will lose the fight against COVID-19, Systemic Racism, and all their variants… it is essential that each of us take collective action to keep one another safe.

Favorite quote:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Follow along with Dr. Jones on LinkedIn.

Meet the rest of EDC’s board of directors

Meet our Board: Lisette Islas

In recognition of Women’s History Month, we are publishing a series of blogs about the women behind EDC—our fearless leaders, our board members, our executive committee, our guiding lights. To close the month, we are featuring a woman that San Diego is lucky to have. The Executive Vice President and Chief Impact Officer for MAAC, a community organization that provides services and advocacy to some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and one of Mayor Todd Gloria’s Women of Distinction, Lisette Islas.

Tell us who you are and what you do. Why did you choose your career?

I am the Executive Vice President & Chief Impact Officer at MAAC, a nonprofit that works in the areas of health, education, economic development, housing and advocacy. Every year, MAAC supports more than 70,000 people across San Diego County, most of whom are facing severe economic and social hardships when they walk through our door.

I came to this work through a winding path. My intention was to become a university professor; I had dreams of teaching courses and doing research in the areas of sociology and ethnic studies. I love learning. To this day, I stay up way-too-late reading books and articles, so in my early 20’s the idea of spending life as a researcher seemed very appealing. During graduate school, I realized that I was most fulfilled when I was working directly with community members to solve problems and create new opportunities. So, I changed the plan and found a career that would place me in the midst of efforts to transform communities and uplift families. In the two decades since then, I have learned that I’m good at building partnerships across sectors, bringing unlikely groups together to find new solutions to old problems, and driving organizational and community change.

At my core, I am a mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend who feels a sense of commitment to the community that raised me and who is trying to do my part to leave the world a little better for the people that come after me.

Other things to know about me: I grew up in Imperial Beach, am a proud Cal grad, look forward to dance parties in the living room with my little girl, and have a pretty loud (and frequent) laugh. I think in English but often dream in Spanish, so I’d say that makes me truly bilingual. Most importantly: I love to cheer for people doing good in the world.

What does your involvement in EDC mean to you?

I joined EDC just as the Inclusive Growth Initiative was taking shape. Serving on the EDC’s Executive Committee quickly became one of the top honors and joys of my workdays. The committee members all come from different industries and our world views and personal histories run the full spectrum of possibilities. That diversity of thought and experience is exactly what makes us successful as we look for new strategies to develop the economic strength of our region. We listen deeply, are always open to learning, and talk through things until we land on the right solution. Plus, we genuinely enjoy each other’s company!

When I walk away from an EDC meeting, I always feel like I am taking something with me that will make me a better leader at the office—be it a new idea, a partnership opportunity, or data that can help me make better decisions. And, just as importantly, I also feel that I have contributed to efforts that are going to meaningfully improve the lives of San Diegans. I will never meet most of the business owners and community members whose lives are touched by the work we do at EDC, but I feel immensely proud knowing that I am collaborating with a group that is genuinely committed to the betterment of San Diego and is championing strategies that will impact our region for generations to come.

What role do you see women playing across the San Diego region in the next five years?

It has been very inspiring to watch the number of women in significant leadership roles grow across San Diego over the last few years. There have been ceilings shattered in visible and not-so-visible positions, and a lot of intentionality in making board rooms and other decision-making seats much more equitable when it comes to gender. Just in recent months, we have seen the first Latina be elected to the County Board of Supervisors, a Filipina appointed to the Southwestern College Board, and a Black woman selected at as the first Chief Innovation Officer for the City of San Diego.

My stats? As the second in command at MAAC, I am the highest-ranking woman in the organization’s 55-year history, and I’m the first Latina appointed to the EDC’s Executive Committee.

Though we have made significant strides, we can’t get comfortable. Among the many things we have learned since March 2020 is that all the gains we have made towards gender equity at home and in the workplace can quickly disappear. In the last 12 months, across our country, 2.3 million women have left the workforce. The story is not much brighter for those that remain employed: men have been promoted three times more than women during the pandemic. And, of course, sustaining pay inequity, with women earning 82 cents on the dollar compared to men, and that number drops to 70 cents for working moms. There is work to be done: women are hold a disproportionate number of low-wage jobs; there aren’t sufficient affordable, high-quality childcare options; and retirement savings are virtually nonexistent for one in five women. As a region, we have to wrap our arms around some really complex issues. EDC’s work provides very important tools to do so.

Share with us your favorite quote.

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” –Maya Angelou

This quote sits in a frame, in my office at work so I don’t forget to bring my full self to any situation – including all the uncommon parts of my personal and work history. I’ve learned not to hide them because they are what gives me the unique leadership perspective I have today.

What advice do you have for women in business?

Growing up, my mom often told me that there will always be people that have more than us and others who have less. I think about that often when I look back at my career, taking stock of what I’ve done and what I have yet to accomplish. There is always someone that has gone before me, that I can learn from and be inspired by. Likewise, there is someone that is following in my footsteps, who can benefit from the lessons I’ve gained and things I’ve experienced.

So how does that tie into my advice for women in business? Four words: lift as you climb.

Follow along with Lisette on Twitter: @lisetteislas1

Our Annual Dinner is back…with a new location

The business event of the year is back…and we’re knocking it out of the park.

Join us at EDC’s Annual Dinner for another unforgettable evening. Our signature event gathers more than 900 business and community leaders celebrating our organization and region. And a new decade calls for a venue changeup.

Get ready, EDC’s Annual Dinner is around the corner. from San Diego Regional EDC on Vimeo.

So we’re heading to Petco Park.

That’s right, it’s EDC’s Annual Dinner @ Petco Park on June 11. We’re a bit biased, but it just might be the best ballpark, in the best city in the country. We will have a short program, where attendees will hear updates on what EDC has been up to for the past year, and we’re heading in the future, and then it’s game time. And by game time, we mean fun time. You will have a chance to go on the field and enjoy a unique dining experience at Park at the Park. As far as annual events go, we promise it’s a good one.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be announcing the award honorees for both the Duane Roth Renaissance Award – named after the late founder of CONNECT & a tireless champion for our region – and the Herb Klein Civic Leadership Award.

All are invited: EDC investors, board members, community members, and anyone that wants to celebrate San Diego. Join us for an unforgettable EDC Annual Dinner @ Petco Park.

Get your tickets here

Want your company’s name in lights (on the jumbotron). Contact Jennifer Storm to learn about sponsorships