EDC welcomes Jennie Brooks as new board chair

As San Diego Regional EDC continues to drive an inclusive growth and recovery strategy for the region, outgoing Board Chair Julian Parra passes the gavel to Jennie Brooks, Senior Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton.

“After five years on the board, I look forward to taking on this new role and working even more closely with EDC’s team. Our mission is to drive greater inclusion, resilience, and innovation across San Diego—aimed at empowering and supporting our region and its people,” said Jennie Brooks, Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton and leader of the firm’s regional office, which employees more than 1,200 San Diegans. 

While San Diego’s innovation economy has more than rebounded, local small businesses, tourism and service jobs, lower income communities, and people of color continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic; and the goalposts outlined in the Inclusive Growth Initiative are now farther from reach. It is imperative the region create more skilled talent, economically-stabilizing jobs, and thriving households, or San Diego’s competitiveness is at risk.

“I am proud to pass the gavel to my colleague and friend Jennie Brooks,“ said outgoing Chair Julian Parra of Bank of America, who led EDC through the pandemic, in directly supporting more businesses than ever before. “The necessity of economic inclusion has never been more clear; I have full faith Jennie will continue this important work for the betterment of our region, its people, and its employers.”

As chair, Brooks is supported by four officers: Vice Chair, Rob Douglas, President & COO, ResMed; Vice Chair of Inclusive Growth, Lisette Islas, EVP & Chief Impact Officer, MAAC; Treasurer, Tom Seidler, SVP Community & Military Affairs, San Diego Padres; and Secretary, Barbara Wight, CFO, Taylor Guitars.

Along with the election of a new chair, EDC’s board also elected eight new board members: Debora Burke, Vice President and General Counsel, General Dynamics NASSCO; Kimberly Brewer, Senior Vice President, Development, URW; Cliff Cho, SVP and Market Executive, Bank of America; Kelly Davis, Chief Strategy Officer, SVP of Operations, Sony Electronics; Ingo Hentschel, Senior Vice President, Cox Communications; Jason Jager, Senior Partner & Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group; Tracy Murphy, President, IQHQ; Deborah Nguyen, Site Head & Vice President, Head of GI / Inflammation Drug Discovery Unit, Takeda San Diego; and Karen Reinhardt, Head of U.S. HR, ASML.

EDC is a membership-based non-profit organization that mobilizes government and civic leaders around an inclusive economic development strategy in order to connect data to decision making, maximize regional prosperity, enhance global competitiveness and position San Diego effectively for investment and talent. The organization’s nearly 200 investors range from growing startups like SkySafe, to the region’s largest employers like Qualcomm and SDG&E, to the leading anchor institutions such as universities, hospitals, and sports franchises, among others.

EMPLOYER LED, DEMAND DRIVEN, OUTCOMES BASED
With nearly 200 members, EDC represents just a small fraction of the region’s employers. It is only with and through a broader group of stakeholders that the following Inclusive Growth goals will be met:

  • 100,000 new quality jobs in small businesses
  • 20,000 skilled workers per year
  • 75,000 newly thriving households

As such, EDC will continue to enlist the endorsement and support of key regional partners and employers committed to using the Inclusive Growth framework to inform their priorities, tactics, and resource allocation.

“As a senior leader of a major consulting and technology employer in San Diego, Jennie is perfectly positioned to lead EDC in this unique moment in time,” said Mark Cafferty, President & CEO, San Diego Regional EDC. “With a pandemic still not behind us, Jennie’s leadership, commitment, and deep understanding of San Diego’s strengths and opportunities are exactly what the organization needs as we continue to make the business case for inclusion.”

Learn more at inclusiveSD.org

A note on Annual Dinner from Mark

Honoring the most ‘Life Changing’ among us

For the first time in almost three years, San Diego Regional EDC will welcome investors, board members, and community partners to our Annual Dinner.

This year’s event—hosted under the night sky at Petco Park—will feel a bit like a family reunion for us, having had so much time pass since we have been able to gather with the region’s broader economic development community to celebrate our work and our relationships. Alongside sponsors who represent an amazing cross-section of our economy and our work, there are two special relationships we will be taking time to recognize on June 9 with the 2022 Life Changing Awards:

The first is The San Diego Foundation. For almost 50 years, The San Diego Foundation has served as our primary community and philanthropic foundation, supporting a wide range of causes and organizations throughout our region. But never has its work been more important or its resources more critical to San Diegans than during the many months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the region’s healthcare systems and public health officials grappled with an unprecedented crisis and managed new and changing regulations, threats, and policies emerging around us, The San Diego Foundation sprang into action, starting the COVID-19 Community Response Fund to get resources directly to those hit hardest by the pandemic—individuals who were out of work, families who needed to put food on the table, elderly residents who were shut off from services and support, and more. The Foundation raised and distributed more than $65 million to more than 250 non-profits and community-based service providers in the first 15 months of the pandemic to help ease the suffering, uncertainty, and fear felt across San Diego.

We will also be recognizing the most visible heroes of the pandemic—our region’s healthcare professionals and systems. For more than two full years, the individuals who work within and lead our hospitals, clinics, medical practices, and healthcare access points throughout the county have supported, treated, and healed countless local and neighboring patients and families.

From testing, to vaccinations, to life-saving care, to mental health and emotional support, and much, much more, words cannot possibly express what we know they have been through nor what they have meant and continue to mean to our community. Thanks, awards, and accolades seem insignificant in the face of true heroism, selflessness, and service. But as an economic development community, we will pause to remember, celebrate, and thank our region’s healthcare professionals for being the very best of who we are through the most difficult times we may ever know.

So please join us for this special evening, in a special place, surrounded by special people, who all play their part in making San Diego the ‘Life Changing’ place we continue to know and love.

join us june 9

Mark

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

President & CEO

A note on progress from our Senior Director

“The Obstacle Is the Way”

This is the title of a book I recently started reading about applying stoic philosophy to everyday, modern life. The core teaching is to turn adversity into advantage. Obstacles, both predictable and unforeseen, are not an impediment to growth or progress but rather the path to achieving our goals—it’s a matter of perspective.

EDC and a steering committee of the region’s largest employers determined that for our region to continue to grow and remain competitive, by 2030, San Diego will need:

  • 50,000 quality jobs in small businesses,
  • 20,000 skilled workers per year, and
  • 75,000 newly thriving households.

However, to do so, inclusion needs to be our focus. To achieve these goals, we must invest in and support the segments of our community that have been historically and systemically excluded from growth and prosperity—not simply because it’s the right thing to do,  but because it’s an economic imperative.

Small businesses employ 60 percent of San Diego’s workforce but struggle to compete for new customers and talent. On top of that, supply chain disruptions have impacted nearly every industry in our region. Connecting local small businesses to big, institutional buyers builds resiliency for both sides.

To keep pace with the demand for talent, we must double the production of skilled workers in our region. If San Diego’s Black and Hispanic youth were prepared for post-secondary education at the same rate as White youth, our talent shortage would become a talent surplus.

San Diego is now the most expensive major metro in the country. The rapidly rising cost of living is impacting employers’ ability to attract and retain talent. Investing in the infrastructure needed to support working families ensures that the region remains an attractive place for people to work and businesses to operate in.

That is the scale of our challenge. It is also the size of our opportunity.

Even the pandemic itself, a once-in-a-century global health crisis that has claimed the lives of nearly one million Americans, has paved a new way forward. It taught us that how and where we work can be different and better. It reaffirmed that small businesses are not just places of employment but also part of the fabric of our community. It reminded us that no matter how much technology we have at our fingertips, it is the human spirit that drives the life-changing and life-saving innovation in our region and world.

During last week’s Report to the Community, I shared that four years later progress toward these goals remains elusive. Yet, the more than 200 people in attendance reminded us that our collective commitment toward these goals will drive the region toward success.

San Diego’s future growth and competitiveness could be undermined by the inequities we currently face; or, the next wave of innovation and prosperity could be fueled by greater inclusion. It’s a matter of perspective. The obstacle is the way.

Take care, Eduardo

Eduardo Velasquez
Eduardo Velasquez

Sr. Director, Research & Economic Development

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

EXPLORE THE PROGRESS REPORT

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A note from our COO

Together at last. 

EDC’s team, investors, and partners do our best work when we are together; this reflects our values of collaboration and inclusion and is core to our mission. But it’s been a minute…

While we safely begin to gather again, we recognize many things are different. Whether you have trepidation about returning to in-person gatherings or are eager to get from behind the Zoom screen, EDC will meet you where you’re at—offering opportunities for both interactions in the months and year ahead. Hearing from and being with our investors and partners in either setting is essential.

Last week, we hosted a two-day retreat with 40 leaders from industry, academia, nonprofits, and government to share complex data unpacking the pandemic’s impact on the 2030 Inclusive Growth goals. The common thread: inclusion is an economic imperative and thus, requires shifts in our regional priorities.

And this week for the first time in two years, EDC’s Chairman Julian Parra led an in-person board meeting with 60+ leaders across the region. Julian took the gavel in June 2020 and never imagined his term would largely be served virtually; however, he has continued to drive the inclusive economic development strategy with the same fervor as instilled by past EDC Chair Jim Zortman in 2017.

For the region to fully emerge from this global pandemic, it must reconcile an economic recovery that is full of contradictions. The region is simultaneously experiencing strong job growth and record venture capital inflows, along with a fierce battle of seemingly unavailable talent, small business closures, and the most expensive housing market in the U.S., with the brunt of these impacts incurred most by low-income earners and people of color. To get this recovery right, the San Diego region must double down on the goals for quality jobs, skilled talent, and thriving households.

That’s why we hope you will join us on April 8 at EDC’s Report to the Community, where we will unveil data on the region’s progress towards these goals and hear commitments from regional leaders.

Here are other opportunities for engagement with us in the months ahead:

  • This Friday, March 11, at our quarterly Economic Development Committee meeting, hear how San Diego companies are re-evaluating talent attraction techniques to see success in a new world of hiring challenges. Register now with password EcoDev2022.
  • On March 23, join the virtual Global Competitiveness Council meeting to hear an update from Congresswoman Sara Jacobs (CA-53) on the devastating conflict in Ukraine, followed by an update on the state of global aviation from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
  • In May, EDC will host another investor reception—stay tuned for the date and location. If you missed any of our recent gatherings, we hope you are able join us.
  • On June 9, EDC celebrates the return of its Annual Dinner—this year at Petco Park. Together with 900+ friends and colleagues, join us for a special night honoring the region’s healthcare providers for their unwavering care and The San Diego Foundation for its essential community investments throughout the pandemic. If you would like to sponsor, please contact Jennifer Storm.

For two decades I have had the pleasure of being a part of the team at EDC. Never have I been more certain of our value proposition than right now. To our investors, my sincere gratitude for your support—especially these past two years. There is critical and challenging economic development work ahead, but with and through all of you, we can ensure our regional competitiveness and create better futures for more San Diegans. As our past EDC Chair Janice Brown reminded us, when Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the score for Hamilton, the lyric wasn’t “on the Zoom, it was “in the room where it happens.” Somewhere on the journey ahead, I look forward to being in the room alongside you.

With regards,

Lauree

Lauree Sahba
Lauree Sahba

Chief Operating Officer

READ EDC’S MONTHLY REPORT

A note on talent from Bree

It’s not you—it’s all of us. 

The long talked about ‘war for talent’ is more competitive than ever, with established firms upending whole hiring systems to meet the demands of today’s applicants—and still, not getting enough. You are not alone; this is not a one-company problem. In our countless conversations with HR leaders and executives, it’s clear firms across industries and size are struggling to fill their open positions (EDC included).

In a survey of 200 local businesses, hiring difficulty reached a new high in December. That same month, local San Diego employers posted more than 158,000 unique jobs—nearly half of which were new positions and predominantly in STEM. And yet, there are just 61,000 people currently unemployed in the region.

Flexibility. Remote work. Mission. Culture. Inclusion. The pandemic flipped the script on workforce demands with companies across the country being stretched to meet the needs of prospective recruits. Established firms can’t compete with the benefits offered by startups from salary to signing bonus to equity. Startups can’t offer the structure or safety net available at large corporations. Yet San Diego is uniquely positioned to compete.

The region stands apart with its thousands of mission-driven companies, its unparalleled quality of life, and its collaborative ecosystem. These are the stories we tell in San Diego: Life. Changing., and the connections we drive through Advancing San Diego.

EDC can help:

  • Lean into the San Diego story in selling your business to recruits using these tools;
  • Engage with us to mold student curriculum to meet your industry needs;
  • Apply for interns paid for by EDC’s foundation;
  • And share your open roles for promotion across our channels.

And above all, turn inward to upskill and promote your existing workforce and consider rethinking existing job requirements which may be inadvertently excluding qualified San Diegans. Pandemic-induced challenges aren’t going away soon, and the battle for talent may endure, but with San Diego as your homebase, we’ve got you covered.

All my best—Bree

Bree Burris
Bree Burris

Director, Marketing & Communications

READ EDC’S MONTHLY REPORT

A note from Dr. Clarke

Goals for 2022

Like we do every year, our team spent the last few months of 2021 working with EDC’s executive committee, board, and investors to establish annual goals that are informed by current economic realities, led by employers, and have measurable outcomes that contribute to prosperity and competitiveness across the binational region. As San Diego emerges from a global pandemic to an economy full of contradictions—strong job growth, eye-watering VC numbers, and massive capital investment as well as widespread labor shortages, small business closures, and housing prices almost 30 percent higher than 2019—it is abundantly clear that smart economic development is inclusive economic development.

In 2021, EDC reframed our organizational goals around these fundamental building blocks of a strong economy—quality jobs, skilled talent, and thriving households—and committed to working with and through our investors to accelerate progress towards these Inclusive Growth goals. In 2022, resilience means connecting more people to innovation industries; competitiveness means more San Diegans have the skills the economy needs; and prosperity means that working families can afford to live here. Please find EDC’s 2022 goals outlined below.

JOBS

Goal: The region needs to create 50K quality small business jobs by 2030.

EDC will contribute to this goal in 2022 through:

  • Industry Insight: Track regional business sentiment and economic resilience via regular research publications, and complete AI industry series.
  • Business Services: Execute 250+ business expansion, attraction, and retention projects and support major mixed-use projects, leading to 5,000 quality jobs. Leverage the Life Sciences Task Force to establish a “one-stop-shop” framework for expansion support for Life Sciences industry and major development projects.
  • World Trade Center San Diego: Execute MetroConnect VI export accelerator program and expand the export Small Business Development Center to support 35+ export-ready companies, leading to $5M+ in new international sales. Enhance binational project support in priority industries.

TALENT

Goal: The region must create 20K degreed and credentialed workers per year by 2030.

EDC will contribute to this goal in 2022 through:

  • San Diego: Life. Changing.: Communicate opportunities for diverse, skilled talent in San Diego—especially to strategic competitive markets by enhancing Life Sciences recruiting tools.
  • Advancing San Diego: Maintain employer working groups and network of 40+ Preferred Providers for high-demand occupations, update and release regular talent demand reports, and place 80+ Healthcare and Life Sciences interns.

HOUSEHOLDS

Goal: The region must create 75K newly thriving households by 2030.

EDC will contribute to this goal in 2022 through:

  • Anchor Collaborative: Set shared regional procurement goals for region’s largest purchasers, identify $100 million in new small business spend, and create supplier navigation map.
  • Global Identity: Advance San Diego’s global agenda, support investments in critical infrastructure, and lead Mayoral Thriving Cities trade mission to international market.
  • Inclusive Growth: Create regional alignment on Inclusive Growth goals, launch downtown research and policy collaboration at UCSD’s Park & Market, and execute demonstration project on infrastructure needs.

EDC programs have real, measurable outcomes—supporting thousands of quality jobs, placing hundreds of interns and job seekers, and creating opportunities for millions of dollars of new contracts for small businesses. But ultimately, even the most driven and passionate team won’t substantially move the needle on these ambitious regional goals; we do not ourselves create jobs, train workers, draft policy, or build roads, high-rises, or housing. You do.

EDC can draft the roadmap, but you all—our region’s largest employers—are the only ones who will get us there, through working collaboratively and creatively to accelerate progress towards our regional 2030 goals. That is what “with and through” our investors means, and we at EDC can’t wait to get started.

– Nikia

Nikia Clarke
Nikia Clarke

Senior Vice President; Executive Director, WTC

READ EDC’S MONTHLY REPORT

READ EDC’S 2021 ANNUAL REPORT

SEE SAN DIEGO’S GOOD NEWS OF THE YEAR

A note of reflection from Mark

“May you live in interesting times.” 

I was always told growing up that this phrase was a “Chinese curse.” Turns out that isn’t true. There is actually no real evidence to indicate that any ancient Chinese curses could have even be mistaken for this phrase. But there are a few blessings—in a few different cultures—that may likely be the origins of the statement.

The last year has certainly been interesting. Depending on who we are and where we sit, it may have seemed like a curse, a blessing, or anything in between. But without a doubt, it will all be behind us in a few weeks as we usher in the new year—full of new opportunities and new possibilities.

At some point in the years ahead, we will all look back on 2021 (and 2020 that in many ways is bundled in) and relive its ups and downs—its starts and stops. We’ll remember where we were and who we shared this year with. Beyond my closest friends and family, I will remember sharing this year with all of you, on screen or otherwise. And as we look back, the joys, successes, hardships, losses, opportunities, and challenges will likely have new perspective and clarity that only time can provide. But unmistakably—in the moment—I want to express my sincere gratitude for all of it, and for all of you.

Here you will find some highlights of the team’s work over these last few weeks and some information on events/opportunities still on the horizon; see also our Year in Review and Good News of the Year for a wrap-up of our biggest wins and headlines of the year. And as we continue to live and work in interesting times, take stock of who you are living through them with, and consider each relationship and each opportunity the blessing that it truly is.

Happiest of holidays seasons to everyone, and thank you (as always) for your continued leadership, dedication, and support.

Mark

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

President & CEO

Read EDC’s Monthly Report

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

A note from Mark…

Life Sciences innovation is at center stage of San Diego economy

As my mind continues to focus on the health of our community and our economy, I find so many of my conversations centering on the work of San Diego’s Life Sciences industry. Long an anchor of our region’s innovation economy, the Science and Biotech sectors are taking center stage in more ways than ever before—leading in vaccination and testing innovation, and in inbound financial investment and commercial real estate demand.

A key finding from our Q3 Economic Snapshot reveals that our local Life Sciences industry attracted nearly $1 billion in funding during the quarter—nearly 70 percent more than the amount received in the same quarter last year. Just last month, San Diego’s elected leaders were at the center of a deal to reduce prescription drug costs, while also supporting the funding model for scientific research and innovation that enables life-changing drugs, therapeutics, and cures to find their way to market—many from right here in San Diego.

With all of this swirling around us, it is no surprise that a great deal of EDC’s work continues to focus on the growth and support of the skilled workers and quality jobs that power San Diego’s Life Sciences industry, including the work summarized below:

  • Advancing San Diego‘s recently released Talent Demand Report outlines key talent needs in the Life Sciences industry, as determined by employers. The program is currently accepting applications for Preferred Providers of Life Sciences talent here.
  • EDC’s Life Sciences Task Force is working to build a strategic economic development framework for industry support in order to enhance the ability of Life Sciences companies to discover, grow, and thrive in the San Diego region. To complement this work by EDC’s economic development team and further support talent attraction and retention in the industry, San Diego: Life. Changing. will be pivoting its focus to primarily feature scientific innovation and opportunities for talent.
  • Current MetroConnect V finalist White Labs, along with three other diverse companies, will compete for an additional $25,000 in funding towards their international expansion strategies during MetroConnect’s virtual Grand Prize PitchFest on November 15, 2021. Register here to cast your vote—and apply HERE to be part of MetroConnect VI and take your company global with us.

With gratitude and optimism,

Mark Cafferty

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

President & CEO

Read edc’s monthly report

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