Meet our Board: Zach Hammond

What does it take to move cross-country for your job? So you packed your home and family and moved from one coast to the other. Sunsets instead of sunrises, warm weather year-round instead of snow days, trips to the “beach” instead of to the “shore.” Now what? Some might say it takes moving to a place you truly believe in. We got the chance to chat with a board member about just that. Check out this board spotlight with Suffolk’s San Diego General Manager, Zach Hammond.

Describe your “day job”?

I often say, “Suffolk doesn’t build buildings, we build people.” As the General Manager of Suffolk San Diego, one of my most important responsibilities is recruiting and retaining the very best talent in the construction industry so we can provide exceptional client service on our projects. I take pride in my responsibility to provide our people the strong vision and leadership necessary for them to build long-term careers at our organization and “prove impossible wrong” on our sophisticated building construction projects in San Diego.

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

I have had the benefit of many personal and professional life-changing moments. From a career standpoint, joining the Suffolk family nearly 14 years ago certainly changed the trajectory of my professional life because of the many growth opportunities this organization has offered me. One of those opportunities includes my move from Boston to San Diego to lead this incredible team of curious, innovative, and passionate construction professionals. Managing this team and our Suffolk operations in San Diego has been one of the greatest and most transformative experiences of my life and has been a game changer for my family and me. When I was offered the opportunity, I jumped at the chance. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with this place. San Diego is one of the most beautiful places in the country, if not the world, with friendly, community-driven people who are passionate about their region. I also view San Diego as a place of great opportunity for my company and me. San Diego is a dynamic and evolving city with huge potential for economic and developmental growth. I believe San Diego has an incredibly bright future, and I am very excited to be a part of it.

Of all the boards in San Diego, why EDC?

Suffolk has been a strong community partner in San Diego for many years, and there are many exciting organizations that have made unique and indelible marks on this community. We chose to partner with EDC because if provides us opportunities to lend our voice and dedicate resources toward programs, causes and initiatives that are important to us, including the advancement of an inclusive economic development strategy to help elevate San Diego’s competitive positioning for investment and talent. We believe a rising tide should lift all boats. Our partnership with EDC is important because it is an organization that shares our values and vision for the future of this community.

Favorite quote:

“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if no one cares who gets the credit.” – Harry Truman

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

EDC offers San Diego business leaders so many opportunities to collaborate and make a positive impact on the future of the region.  Suffolk leans into the chance to contribute to the region’s economic growth and development. To be an important player in this community, leaders and organizations must have an in-depth understanding of the unique needs of San Diego. EDC provides an opportunity to listen closely to other key community and business leaders from different sectors, learn from them, and gain a better understanding of how we can partner with them so that together we can create a strong and sustainable San Diego for today and the future.

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?

We are all in this together. We must remember so many of us share the same values. We must take care of each other. People above all.

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

Meet our Board: Tonya Cross

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. Below you’ll learn more about Tonya Cross, SVP of people and corporate operations at Lytx. Tonya talked to us about the importance of doing what you love, and trusting that it will take you in the right direction.

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

Born in San Diego but raised in a tiny Arizona town, I always knew I belonged in my hometown. After high school graduation, without a plan, I drove to San Diego and haven’t looked back. My 17-year-old self would’ve never imagined I’d be a lawyer turned SVP, People & Corporate Operations for an amazing company.

It’s so fun being part of the Lytx team, building a market-leading company in the video telematics space. With our technology, we help save lives on our roadways every day. Since joining, I’ve had the pleasure of helping Lytx grow from fewer than 100 employees to nearly 800 – we’re hiring.

My career journey is a winding path because I gravitate toward what allows me to do what I love. I’ve had fantastic mentors who guided me in career choices and believed in me more than I believed in myself at the time. Starting as a legal secretary, I was encouraged by Amy Wintersheimer and fellow EDC Board member, Heather Ace, to attend law school. Flash forward, I’m a USD Law graduate practicing employment law at DLA Piper.

I loved law – but hated litigation’s contentious nature. Wanting to invest my energy in moving people forward in positive ways, I turned to HR. I love HR because I get to empower others and help employees advance their careers.

To follow what I love meant having the courage to leave what wasn’t right for me – even if it meant stepping back in title or compensation.

What does your involvement in EDC mean to you?

Working with the EDC is an opportunity to give back to the community I love, particularly with my involvement as HR forum co-leader. I feel fortunate to be in this role and part of an incredible group of community leaders, especially during COVID. Our leaders guide companies and employees through this global pandemic and make difficult decisions in an unprecedented environment. We have navigated this scary time as a collective group. It never felt like we were doing it alone because we had each other.

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

I believe women will play an even more significant leadership role, not just in the community side of things but also in leading businesses. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, women have had a lot coming at them – both from a family perspective and a work perspective. I watched many women step up and lead through this uncertainty with empathy, compassion, and strength. I believe these women will carry that leadership forward into whatever fuels their passion, take on leadership roles, and drive positive change.

Share with us your favorite quote.

“Love what you do and do what you love.” – Roy T. Bennett

What advice do you have for women in business?

Find what you love and go towards it with courage and confidence. Never put limits on yourself because your possibilities are limitless, especially when you’re doing what you love. Never doubt that you’re good enough because you are. GO. FOR. IT! If you fail, you fail. Dust yourself off and get back in the game with all the learnings you gained from the journey. No doubt it’s scary but turn that fear around into drive. When you’re doing what you love, you can’t go wrong.

Follow along with Lytx on Twitter: @lytx

Meet our Board: Toni Atkins

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. Today, we have The Honorable Toni Atkins, CA Senate President Pro Tempore representing the 39th district, San Diego!

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

At my heart, I would say I am a public servant. And I didn’t choose my career—it chose me!

I grew up in Virginia, the daughter of a seamstress and a coal miner. We were working poor. At the time, I didn’t think that government nor mainstream society saw me or understood me – not until I began studying political science at Emory and Henry College. There, I found my voice, came out as a lesbian, and began to support social justice causes, feminist rights, and the rights of my LGBTQ community.

I arrived in San Diego in 1985 and first worked as Director of Services at Womancare Health Center before my mentor, former Senator and then Councilwoman Christine Kehoe, hired me on her staff. That’s when my love of public service began. I’m so grateful to Chris for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime.

I was elected to succeed her seat on the City Council in 2000. From there, I have had the privilege of serving as Acting Mayor, State Assemblymember, Assembly Speaker, acting Governor twice—the first gay Governor of California, in fact—and now Senate President pro Tempore. I am the first woman, the first member of the LGBTQ community, and the first person in almost 150 years to lead both the Assembly and the Senate. I wish my mother was here to see it all.

What does your involvement in EDC mean to you?

I am honored to serve on EDC’s board of directors. EDC is such a dynamic agency that tells San Diego’s story in so many ways. Sharing San Diego’s tech, biotech, tourism, business, and military related Good News helps raise awareness at the state, national and international level about what our region is doing.

For much of the year, my time is spent between Sacramento and San Diego, but my Special Assistant/District Policy Director Deanna Spehn ensures we stay up to date. I enjoy my annual visit with the board to recap the legislative year and look forward to the next.

This board’s leadership has always been top notch. Mark Cafferty has put together an outstanding staff that produces impactful reports and analyses on what is happening within San Diego’s economy, what it takes to do business in our region, and what the new options are for current and future companies.

EDC always inspires me to think of the possibilities ahead, not only for our region— including Baja, California—but also for our state in terms of how we can continue to grow our economy, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’m so proud to represent the 39th State Senate District, and EDC is a strong partner in amplifying the role San Diego plays.

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

There is no lack of talented women in San Diego. Women in leadership is not a new phenomenon. We are mothers, daughters, State Senate leaders, Secretaries of State, Mayors, Council Presidents, non-profit, healthcare and education executives. And our neighboring city of Tijuana, Mexico has its first woman Mayor, The Honorable Karla Ruiz MacFarland.

Together, we are working to bring out the best of our region. In five years, I expect our influence to spread across the State and our nation.

It is through our collaboration with organizations like EDC, who are committed to inclusivity and recognizing of the importance of female leaders, that will allow us to address barriers like underrepresentation in top business roles and pay inequity, that too many women in America face every day.

Share with us your favorite quote.

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

What advice do you have for women in business?

I would encourage women to continue to find ways to lead and build each other up. I am here because my mentor gave me a chance.

I want to see more women – of all communities, ages and backgrounds – included on boards, planning groups, and leading nonprofits and corporations, which is why in 2018, I served as joint author of SB 826, a bill that promoted equitable and diverse gender representation on corporate boards by requiring every publicly-held corporation in California to add women to their board of directors. Legislation is a critical component to addressing inequity in the business world, but we also need the private sector to actively recruit women and support future generations of women. I hope to do the same in encouraging more women to run for public office.

When women succeed, society succeeds – we all succeed.

Follow along with Senator Atkins on Twitter: @SenToniAtkins

Meet our Board: Laura Garrett

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. Today, we introduce Senior Vice President (SVP) of Human Resources at TaylorMade Golf, Laura Garrett—a Midwesterner turned San Diegan who reminds us to never stop dreaming of what we might be when we grow up.

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

I grew up in Ohio and still consider myself a Midwesterner at heart. Having said that, I’ve grown so attached to San Diego—its an awfully special place for far more reasons than the weather. The only thing I still can’t wrap my head around is that my kids won’t ever experience the joy of a snow day.

I currently head up the People and Culture function as SVP of Human Resources at TaylorMade Golf, which has its global headquarters in Carlsbad. As a market leader in the golf equipment and golf ball industry, we have roughly 1,300 employees worldwide.

I can’t really say that I chose my career, but rather that I chose to follow new opportunities as they came along. Despite having been on the planet for more than a half century, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Every now and then, I have a moment where I wonder things like, “Is it too late to go to veterinary school?” or “How can I keep my current job but be an urban planner at the same time?”

It used to bother me that my career path wasn’t linear, but now I’ve come to accept and even embrace it. I’ve been lucky to get to work in so many different capacities, particularly at TaylorMade where I’ve led supply chain, sales and service, manufacturing, and obviously now HR. Through that, I’ve come to the realization that I care more about who I get to work with than what I’m actually doing. Fortunately, I’m crazy about my TaylorMade team and have opportunities to laugh with them often, while also doing really meaningful work together. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now—I just need a parallel life so I can find time to be a vet too. (I’ve been making a case that we need to have a petting zoo in some excess space we have in our TaylorMade warehouse, but sadly my proposal isn’t gaining traction.)

What does your involvement in EDC mean to you?

I’m happiest when I have ways to integrate community involvement into my life—it creates such needed perspective. Being involved in EDC, especially in the inclusive growth work, ensures that I don’t lose sight of the world outside my bubble. And back to my comment about the ‘who’ being as rewarding as the ‘what’? While the work that’s being done at the EDC is certainly consequential to our region, I have to say that the caliber of the team is just first-rate; such high-quality, wonderful humans that I’m lucky to know.

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

Anything. Everything. What I can say with confidence is that we’re all better off if women are meaningfully represented in all aspects of our community. 

Share with us your favorite quote.

I realize this is where I should drop some serious wisdom, but I’m not great at serious things. Instead, I’ll lean on a quote I used in my yearbook eons ago since its one that speaks to my career evolution (not to mention my age—apologies in advance to the Gen Y and Z’ers).

“When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange who you are into what you’re gonna be. Sha na na na na na na na na. Sha na na na na.”  —The Brady Six

Follow along with TaylorMade on Twitter: @TaylorMadeGolf

Meet our Board: Sunny Cooke, Ph.D.

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, an inspiration for women and immigrants in STEM, President/Superintendent of Mira Costa College, Dr. Sunny Cooke.


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

As President/Superintendent of MiraCosta College, located in North County San Diego, I’m proud to serve 30,000 diverse students with degree/certificate programs designed to prepare them for careers and university transfer.

Defined by uncommon experiences and identities, my purpose is shaped by simultaneously being part of various “minority groups.” For example, I was raised as a Christian in India—a belief only practiced by two percent of the nation’s population.

Arriving in the U.S. during the civil rights movement with only $40 to my family’s name (Indian law permitted $8 per person), we, like many immigrant families, rebuilt our lives. I spent grades 7-12 in a very rural part of the county where my family made up the only people of color… for counties. Being forged in the crucible of life has driven me.

For my family, education is a means of empowerment in service to others. Majoring in biology, I received a teaching credential, and a doctorate in biochemistry and microbiology from Georgetown University. My post-doctoral research brought me to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Shortly after, I was hired by a community college to teach biology/biotechnology as the first faculty of color and the only woman in the sciences. Community colleges open doors for people who have not been included, and my life experiences make me steadfast in my commitment to create truly inclusive environments.

Married to a supportive and patient man for 35 years, as my greatest supporter and life partner, we are proud of the remarkable son we raised.

What does your involvement in EDC mean to you?

Workforce and economic development are central to my career in higher education over the past 25 years. Collaboration in San Diego is most evident in groups like EDC where business, education, and community-based organizations gather to build, grow, support, and sustain our community. Our recent emphasis on inclusive economic development has been critical to ensure historically marginalized communities thrive and are meaningfully connected with opportunities not yet equitably afforded to them.

Community colleges are crucial to inclusive workforce development because they serve as the gateway to educational opportunity helping individuals achieve family sustaining jobs important to our regional economy.

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

Because so many of us have been pioneers or trailblazers in areas where women were not traditionally seen, we are keenly aware of what it is like to get there. We most likely can identify with those that struggle to be seen, heard, and included, and most of us can pinpoint individuals who believed in and supported us to become leaders in our respective fields. Our mentors are individuals who have shifted the trajectory of our careers and lives. We have a duty to lift up those that come after us.

Women have had to be strong and resilient. We have learned to partner with ease and shift between leadership and followership. Oftentimes, our compassion, empathy, and desire for connectedness have been interpreted as weakness. Yet, my experience is that when we lead authentically and caringly, we set a stage for inclusive excellence. My hope is that our region empowers and collaboratively works towards the betterment of all San Diegans. Those of us who have benefitted from the encouragement, inclusion, and support of others, must bravely advocate for others who still do not have the opportunity and hope that they deserve.

I look behind me and see future leaders and community builders that I support and from whom I strive to learn each day. As a result of COVID-19, rebuilding our lives, communities, and organizations will require new leadership skills and collaborations.

Share with us your favorite quote.

Two favorites from Mahatma Gandhi:

  • “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
  • “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

What advice do you have for women in business?

You do you! Although it may be difficult in some workspaces and situations, find ways to connect to your authentic self as you lead. Do the interpersonal and intrapersonal reflection required to truly lead in an inclusive way as you address systems and structures that were not designed for the people we currently serve. Seek out allies—progressive leaders (men and women) who share your values, beliefs, passion, and positivity. For me, it’s about creating a just, equitable, and sustainable future.

Follow along with Dr. Cooke on Twitter: @MiraCostaPrez

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

A note from Mark…

One year ago, almost to the day, we decided to move our EDC board meeting online and announced to our team members that we would be closing the office for a few weeks. We decided to cancel all in-person meetings and events as well. Little did any of us know then how the next 12 months would unfold.

The past year has been difficult on everyone in immeasurable ways. To try to recap any of it would almost cheapen the challenges, loss, successes, struggles, triumphs, and trials that so many have gone through.

Yet through it all, we continue to draw inspiration from those who have been on the frontlines, supply lines, and everywhere else where citizens and workers have stepped in to do their jobs to ensure the safety and stability of those around them. We feel great pride in our healthcare systems and our scientific and technology-based companies for the roles they have played in advancing care, testing, treatment, vaccinations, and more. The “life-changing” mantra that has been such a central part of our work and messaging over the last five or six years has never seemed more fitting than now.

This economic recovery we find ourselves in will be long, challenging, and at times, heartbreaking. But it will also make us stronger, more resilient, and more mindful of our connectedness to each other. Our work may look different, and our priorities and goals will need to be constantly re-evaluated, but EDC’s mission, vision, and values remain concrete. Everything we do as a team and as an organization we do with and through all of you. We cannot thank you enough for your leadership, support, collaboration, and guidance throughout the past year.

On a different note, I want to take a moment to recognize the work our communications team has been doing this month to recognize March as “Women’s History Month.” If you have not seen the profiles they have posted, please check them out here.

As I look around at our hospitals, businesses, colleges/universities, cities, and anchor institutions, I see no shortage of amazing women who are leading and bringing about real change within our region. EDC is no exception. Our World Trade Center and economic development programs were recreated under the leadership of Nikia Clarke. Our marketing and communications work is led by Bree Burris. Our day-to-day economic development work with the business community is overseen by Ashley Swartout. Our EDC Foundation is run by Jen Storm. Our finance, IT and human resources work is spearheaded by Kathy Lu. Our organizational culture has been built in no small part by Catherine DeYoung. The list goes on and on.

But there are four women who I feel should long be remembered for building and changing the organization that I have the privilege to run every day:

  • Julie Meier-Wright, who established the foundation that so many of us stand and build upon;
  • Debbie Reed, who set EDC on a new and focused course;
  • Janice Brown, who got us all to think differently about what economic development really means;
  • And Lauree Sahba, who has been the thread running through all of them and connecting them with each other, with me, and with so many of you.

Every one of them, amazing. Each playing their own role in helping to shape our organization and our work. All of them inspiring the leader and person I will forever strive to be.

Sending all of you my very best wishes for the rest of the month and truly hoping to see more and more of you in the weeks and months ahead.

With appreciation and respect,

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.


A note from Mark…

Over the last few years, our work at EDC has shifted to focus on our full economic footprint across the county. In everything we do, we strive to implement programs, strategies, and services that will help us double our supply of skilled workers, enable our small businesses to create more competitive jobs, and increase the number of thriving households throughout the region. Now more than ever, we know that our work needs to be both meaningful and measurable to meet these goals. And we have little time to waste.


During our exploration of inclusive and effective economic development strategies, many roads led us to supporting the growth and sustainability of local, small businesses through purposeful partnerships with large businesses and institutions. Anchor institution strategies—defined procurement programs and partnerships that link local, small businesses with the region’s largest employers including hospitals and universities—have long been successful in fostering small business growth and supplier diversity. These strategies do not look to the large institutions to spend any more than they have already budgeted; they simply strive to increase the percentage of contracts and purchasing within the local economy. Small businesses, minority-owned businesses, woman-owned businesses, businesses located within specific neighborhoods or geographic regions—redirecting spend to any of these leads to more money flowing into the San Diego economy.

This month, San Diego Regional EDC released a study and a set of recommendations aimed at increasing economic opportunity and job creation through purchasing and procurement. What the report clearly outlines is how small shifts in procurement spending can have huge economic impacts in our region.


  1. Fourteen local anchor institutions surveyed spend upwards of $9.9 billion each year on a broad range of goods and services. Yet, only $247 million of the reported spending can be traced back to San Diego businesses.

  1. Only 14 percent of the overall spend is reaching small businesses and only 11 percent can be traced back to women and minority-owned businesses.

  1. If these same 14 anchor institutions and partners shifted just one percent of their construction spending to local businesses, it would result in roughly $32 million in local construction revenue, add $466 million to the local economy, and create nearly 4.5 thousand new jobs.

  1. Furthermore, if the same institutions shifted one percent in professional services (e.g. legal, administrative, etc.) to local businesses it would have a $56 million impact on the local economy and create more than 800 jobs.


As we work our way through a complicated and unprecedented economic recovery, our small businesses need more support than ever. To ensure that we reach the businesses most in need of support, preserve our commitment to inclusion and diversity, and maintain our focus on work that is both meaningful and measurable, few strategies will serve our region better than this one. The leadership and decision making is local, the impact is local, and the partnerships and practices forged will create greater, local economic resiliency for years to come.

Asking our citizens to support our local, small businesses is important and noble. But at a time when individual and family spending is strained, and small businesses continue to struggle, the leadership, engagement, and actions of our large institutions are more important than ever.

We applaud the 14 anchor institutions and partners that have stepped forward to be a part of this work with us­—including key partners SDG&EUniversity of San Diego School of BusinessCivic San Diego, and the City of San Diego—and as always, we look forward to the full weight of our EDC investors in helping to challenge, support, and steer this work in the months and years ahead.

—Mark Cafferty, president and CEO, EDC

Mark Cafferty
Mark Cafferty

President & CEO