Meet our Board: Jennie Brooks

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. Up next, a trailblazer in the defense and artificial intelligence spheres: Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, Ms. Jennie Brooks.

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

Born in the Bay Area and raised in San Diego, I’m a Californian at heart. After growing up in Point Loma, I didn’t stray far from home when attending UC San Diego, and later, SDSU. Throughout my life I’ve had the opportunity to travel, but there’s no greater sight than the Coronado Bridge and bay front when landing at the San Diego International Airport. I’m grateful to raise my son in this amazing community and proud to serve alongside leaders who work to uphold San Diego as America’s Finest City.

I serve as Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, leading our San Diego office of 1,300 employees. Booz Allen is a global technology and management consulting firm, with work in data science and analytics, digital solutions, engineering and cybersecurity, spanning a range of industries including defense, civil, health, and commercial.

Booz Allen has been a great place to build my career because the values of the firm align with my own. I’m passionate about our work, helping to solve our clients’ toughest challenges, and empowering people to change the world. Dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, I serve on Booz Allen’s Women’s Business Resource Group, working to attract, retain, and develop female employees across the firm. In 2021, I’m focused on reimagining the future ways we will work and live post-pandemic, and on working with colleagues and community leaders to create a more equitable world.

What does your involvement in EDC mean to you?

At Booz Allen, we’re passionate about strengthening the communities where we live and work. Through pro-bono work, mentorships, and partnerships with impactful organizations such as the USS MIDWAY, Rady Children’s Hospital, Feeding San Diego, and Girl Scouts, I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back. My involvement in EDC provides a meaningful opportunity to help drive economic inclusion across San Diego. Our work on EDC’s Defense Innovation Voucher Program helped to strengthen small and mid-size businesses bringing innovative solutions to the military. Further, our work on EDC’s series, Measuring the Future: Artificial Intelligence and San Diego’s Economy, will quantify the impacts of AI technologies on our economy. Our partnership with the organization also provides the opportunity to work together on building the STEM talent pipeline needed for our future.

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

Women’s History Month is a great time to honor the brave women who pushed boundaries and paved the way for us to have the opportunities we enjoy today. We stand on the shoulders of giants—women who established their seat in the Board room, in the cockpit, in the laboratory, and in the halls of Congress.

While we look back at the challenges and achievements of women from past generations, we recognize we’re living through historic times and there is still a great deal of work to be done. Unfortunately, we’ve seen significant setbacks to gender equity in the workforce due to the unprecedented challenges of this past year. Families have juggled work, distance learning, and home responsibilities, while segments of industries have eroded, resulting in women leaving the workforce in record numbers since the start of the pandemic. Recognizing the invaluable contributions women make to our economy and society, as San Diego emerges post-pandemic, women will play vital roles in redesigning the workforce and creating solutions and flexible work benefits which enable women to regain and retain meaningful employment. Forums such as the ASCEND Executive Women’s Forum (produced by UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management) will continue to be key in bringing together women serving in executive leadership positions across San Diego to go beyond merely discussing the challenges they face, and continue working together to solve these issues.

Share with us your favorite quote.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead

What advice do you have for women in business?

  • Never stop learning. Keep a growth mindset and willingness to take on new roles. These will bring diverse experiences and lessons learned.
  • Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. Women are not just participating in STEM fields but also leading, innovating, and driving the development of new technologies and solutions.
  • Use your voice. Bring your unique perspectives, experiences and insights to the business.
  • Trust your instinct.
  • Give back by mentoring. It will be valuable to those receiving your guidance and undoubtedly very rewarding to you as well.

Follow along with Jennie on Twitter: @JennieBrooksSD

Investor Spotlight: Cultura

As we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, we sat down with Anne Benge, CEO and founder of EDC investor Cultura. Anne talked to us about company culture, the importance of office space, and why they support EDC. Check it out!

Tell us about Cultura

Creating environments for the workforce is what we do. As a business, we design and create places where people love to work. Attracting and retaining talent is the number one problem that Cultura solves for our clients.

With a name like Cultura, you must have a strong commitment to your corporate culture. Tell us about that.
We’ve built an inclusive culture. We are a family. We love where we work, and we do work we love. We live for making our clients happy. Our energy is infectious. Our core values are the foundation of our company: Influential, Inventive, Impactful and Dedicated. We hire based on them, they guide our decisions and are part of our DNA.  It’s paying off. We boast a 99 percent employee engagement rate. In 2019, we were awarded #1 Best Places to Work in San Diego by the San Diego Business Journal (image right).

As we prepare for returning to the next normal, how do you see the office environment changing?
Let’s just state it up front, Cultura is pro-office. We believe businesses need offices. After a year of articles ranging from “the office is dead” to “everyone is more productive at home,” we cannot state enthusiastically enough that your business needs an office. Your office should bring your culture together, refresh, reinvigorate, and restore your people. Our job is to create an environment that enhances productivity. We did this for more than 10,000 San Diegans in 2020 by designing and furnishing places where people work.

We’ve all experienced so much during this past 12 months. Will you share your thoughts about the last year?
Our leadership team is entirely female (image left) so we’re very aware of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We work hard to make sure our team reflects the diversity of our community.  As our country experienced social justice movements following the death of George Floyd, we saw the importance of a supportive workplace. We learned that firsthand this year when an employee asked that we not work with an organization that failed to uphold our morals. It is impossible to keep work and personal life 100 percent separate. Recognizing bias; being self-aware and open to learning; and creating dialog in the workplace are our obligations. These practices will provide a benefit to everyone on the team.

Final thoughts you’d like to share with our investors?
We certainly appreciate all that EDC does to attract and retain talent in our region. It’s one of the reasons we invest in EDC. I learn so much from watching Mark Cafferty and EDC’s team run an organization that is focused, provides clarity, is reliable, and continues to be resilient. We look forward to working with EDC and other investors as we inspire positive change, dream ideas into reality, and grow together. #LoveWhereYouWork

Learn more:

Instagram: @wearecultura

Meet our Board: Janice Brown

In recognition of Women’s History Month, EDC is publishing a series of blogs about the women behind EDC. Our fearless leaders, our board members, our executive committee, our guiding lights. To kick it off, a piece by an entrepreneur, a visionary, and only the second woman to lead EDC’s board, our former chair: Ms. Janice Brown.

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

Some time ago, I was called a “Chief Executive Optimist.” I don’t think that’s a bad description of who I am, but I was not born sunny. My optimism is earned. Now, people see me as a lawyer and an entrepreneur. I had my own firm and am now part-owner in my fabulous new gig, Meyers/Nave. I also have a side hustle called Beyond Law, wherein I teach lawyers and law students how to be successful from the inside out. I call it building “soul muscles.”

My journey started with my father who joined the Air Force when he was 17 and my mother who married my father, when she was 17. They have been married for over 64 years. My father tells me that I am legit. Over five years ago, I lost my only brother to a heart attack. He was my little brother, but he was about 6’ 4” tall. I remember the day that my father called me to tell me that he had died. I was in New York City about to give a speech and I fell to the floor, ice cold. Of course, I recovered and gave the speech, through tears, which I dedicated to him. I typically don’t share my sad stories, but those stories are what caused me to purposefully look for the good in my life and in the eyes of others. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I don’t see that light, but I still always look for it. I learned that we are most often able to see it if we look for it.

My first “lucky break” was getting a scholarship to Gonzaga Law School. I had been accepted by other schools, but Gonzaga’s scholarship allowed me to finish law school early without much debt, as I had a full ride. After five years of undergrad (I spent about five months as a USO singer traveling throughout Korea, Okinawa, Guam and the Philippines – that was the “lost” year), and two years of law school, I was accepted into the Department of Justice in the Tax Division as a Trial lawyer. That was another life-changer, as San Diego was my docket, which is how I ended up in this loveliest of regions.

I have been married before. I am happily single now, with a full life that includes my parents (who I plan to help move here, as soon as COVID gets a bit more manageable), my friends, my love of books, music, movies, wine, good humor, and good hearts. I remain active in San Diego and have been a part of the fabric of this city and region for my entire time here. I truly love it.

What does your involvement in EDC mean to you?

Lauree Sahba recruited me to EDC, which perplexed me because I didn’t see any true connection between the organization and myself. But I quickly learned that my perception was in error. EDC is a community of like-minded and like-hearted people who believe that economic inclusion is the path forward for our region. The ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ approach that we see too often on the news isn’t the prominent feeling at EDC. It’s community; it’s family; it’s given me oh so much more than I have given it. I recognize that being the EDC Chair enhanced my profile in this region, but more than anything, it taught me to be myself and to connect authentically. EDC staff, respectfully, is the best in town.

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

First, women are going to need to recover. COVID hit women a lot harder than men, primarily because women still bear the majority of benefits and burdens that come with family. We also hold the heart space in many of our organizations, and if we are too tired or too stressed or too bored, that heart space is weakened. So first, we’ve got to recover. Next, I think we need to self-define. So often, we look to others and seek a sense of our value from what is reflected back to us. We need to change that. We are overdue for that change. We need to lead from that heart space. I had the chance to do that at EDC and it’s a beautiful thing. EDC has been the home for many female employees who are contributing to our region in amazing ways. And our board is rich with talented women who can frankly do anything they please.  We just need to decide and then—watch out!

Share with us your favorite quote.

“Your biggest fear is that you are powerful beyond measure”  from a poem by Marianne Williamson.

What advice do you have for women in business?

Be You.  Fully.  Richly.  Just You.

Follow along with Janice on Twitter: @JPatrice4080.


Investor Spotlight: Hines

This month, we sat down with Eric Hepfer, managing director at Hines. An EDC investor, Hines is a global real estate investment, development and management firm with 148 developments currently underway around the world. We spoke with Eric to learn more about the company’s local projects, and how they align with our regional goals.

Please tell us about your past projects and history in the region. What are some things most people don’t know about Hines’ work? 

Hines came to San Diego in 1996 to work on projects for SDSU, including the Tony Gwynn stadium, which we parlayed into serving as development manager for Petco Park and then acquiring and developing properties. We developed three towers at La Jolla Commons. I joined Hines in 2012 to work on the second tower – a 420,000-square-foot tower for LPL Financial, where we incorporated an innovative fuel cell electrical generation system that can power the entire tower. For the third tower, I managed the design, entitlement and predevelopment before we sold it to American Assets. I also supervised the lease up and sale of the 449,000-square-foot Procopio Tower in downtown, and our company’s expansion into the Carlsbad market with the acquisition and repositioning of 400,000 square feet of flex/office projects.

In addition to our current work to transform Mission Valley’s Riverwalk Golf Course into a 200-acre, mixed-use, transit-oriented village, we’re in pre-development on a student housing project adjacent to the CSU San Marcos campus, and we’re evaluating a number of additional deals throughout San Diego.

Your Mission Valley project, Riverwalk, is closely aligned with EDC’s inclusive growth goals. Can you tell us more about this?

Riverwalk is a complete-village project that celebrates its surroundings and provides an interdependent mix of uses for a wide variety of people, including a new, central trolley station. It also opens and restores over 100 acres of park space to the general public living, visiting and working in Mission Valley, which is woefully underserved with park space. Hines will also restore the expansive portion of the San Diego River that runs through the project, and we will add a large section to the San Diego River Trail. The regional vision includes connecting this biking/walking trail from East County all the way to the ocean. Adding the Riverwalk section will go a long way toward completing this vision.

The 4,300 units planned at Riverwalk are comprised of a diverse mix of market-rate, affordable and senior housing. Furthermore, we’re making it possible to live at Riverwalk without relying on a car. We’re creating a new trolley station on site and developing a mix of uses, which includes retail and office space. We’re positioning Riverwalk to create economic opportunity. In addition to its live-transit-work-play options, we intend to provide good jobs and, potentially, job training programs for a broad range of people.

What is your long-term vision for San Diego?

Our LPL Tower, with its onsite energy generation capabilities, and Riverwalk, with all of its strategies for loosening our reliance on cars, demonstrate our firm’s commitment to responsible planning and development and creating projects and places to foster social mobility. We even have an ‘Office of Innovation’ that tracks and studies new technologies. Going forward, Hines will develop additional high-quality, large-scale, game-changing projects that will positively impact our region.

Can you tell us more about your San Diego team?

Our team is relatively young. We’re raising families and balancing careers. We’re embracing alternative modes of transportation and have located our office so our employees can use transit, which I do nearly every day. We recognize that we’re in a unique position to affect many of San Diego’s quality of life issues for our generation and others. We take that responsibility very seriously.

That doesn’t mean we don’t make time for fun, though. We work hard and play hard, realizing that spending social time together makes work more enjoyable and strengthens employee retention. Most recently, our business generation team challenged ourselves to surf and ski in Southern California in one day…which we did!

Investor Spotlight: Aerotek


San Diego Regional EDC welcomes new investor Aerotek to its membership of more than 180 companies in the region. Headquartered in Maryland, this privately-owned staffing company has more than 230 integrated offices throughout the United States and Canada. They have had a presence in San Diego County for 25-plus years, currently operating out of San Marcos, Scripps Ranch, and Kearny Mesa. In 2018, Aerotek grossed $6.6 billion in revenue and they continue to maintain more than 100,000 active contract employees weekly.

Aerotek’s mission is to bring great people and great organizations together, which functions well in San Diego’s diverse and robust economy. This has also allowed them to serve many people throughout different professional industries. Additionally, Aerotek has benefited from San Diego’s deep talent base and strong economic prowess, and of course from the features that make San Diego so Life. Changing. From the beautiful beaches and Petco Park to Old Town’s rich and historic culture, it is easy to see why Aerotek chose to open offices in San Diego.

Investor Spotlight: Silvergate Bank

This week, we sat down with Dino D’Auria, executive vice president and chief banking officer at Silvergate Bank. One of EDC’s newest investors, Silvergate Bank is a San Diego-based community bank that serves individuals and businesses across industries including manufacturing, defense, property management, real estate investment and many more.

1) Please tell us what your company/organization does.

Silvergate Bank has four main lines of business: Mortgage Warehouse Lending, Correspondent Mortgage Lending, Real Estate Construction and Investor Financing, and – my division – Business Lending and our Branch network. We also have an on-line portal that serves our Fintech clients for Treasury Management services.

In our Business Banking group, we primarily serve growing, privately held companies or Community Service Organizations (Not for Profit) by helping them position their balance sheets for growth and assist them in efficient and cost effective cash management.

Many of our clients come to us after having trouble working with larger banks, because they did not fit. We take the time to teach clients how to properly report their financial statements and communicate in “banker-speak” to enable them to get the financial services needed to grow. Some examples of our work:

  • A privately held company that rents film production equipment was piecing together many small loans at typically high rates of interest to finance their 25 percent year-over-year growth. Silvergate Bank was able to consolidate these loans into two loans at a more favorable interest rate and reduce the monthly debt service by 25 percent. This allowed more working capital to be preserved in the company, which can be leveraged to support his continued growth.
  • A privately held company that sells packaging material was using UPS to finance its shipments of product. By coaching the company on maintaining supporting net worth in his company, we were able to replace this expensive funding source with a Formula Line of Credit cutting his financing costs by 50 percent and setting him up to grow his business.

2) What are some advantages to being located/doing business in San Diego?

San Diego is a close-knit business community. Our team is able to bring other professionals as resources for our clients through our networking activities. The economy is diverse and provides a stable base for entrepreneurs to grow their companies and have the confidence that things will be good in the future.

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.

Gap Intelligence is a dynamic marketing research company that is very progressive in using technology and creating a positive dynamic culture.

4) What do you anticipate for your company in five years? What do you anticipate for San Diego?

We expect to grow Business Banking to be an equal share of our balance sheet as our other lines of business. We also plan to expand into Orange County, Los Angeles and the Inland Empire so there are plenty of growth opportunities at the bank.

San Diego will continue to positively progress as it has over the last 20 years.