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,

What Does it Mean for us to Build Better?

Written by Katie Janowiak, Vice President of Communications & Impact, San Diego Grantmakers and Bree Burris, Director of Marketing & Communications, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation

We are still buzzing with excitement about our recent joint announcement that San Diego Grantmakers and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) are joining forces on November 17 to host a first of its kind virtual summit. We’ve built this gathering, which brings together leaders from across sectors, to challenge thinking and inspire action toward a more inclusive and equitable economy. Our two organizations—together representing local companies, foundations, public sector organizations, educational institutions, individual philanthropists, and impact investors working to create opportunities for our region to recover and thrive—share inclusive growth as a goal and have collaborated frequently in the past. But now, with our region’s needs so stark and urgent, felt like a unique chance to bring together San Diego’s changemakers to calibrate our diverse efforts toward a clear goal. 

The pandemic and social upheaval of the past year have laid bare the wealth and health inequities across our society borne so heavily by low-income; Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC); and other marginalized groups. However, the intersecting crises of a global pandemic, its economic fallout, and a nationwide racial justice reckoning have spurred movement toward a different way of thinking. In every sector and across society, people are coalescing around the need to rethink what this economic recovery can mean: creating the conditions needed to broadly and profoundly improve community and individual well-being and resiliency. 

We discovered many approaches that could guide our own rethinking: democratic economy (as defined by our Summit partners at The Democracy Collaborative), Greenlined economy and circular economy, to name a few. Though they explore the need from different perspectives, each demands systems change, sustainability, and justice for people and planet. 

For us, the concept of an equitable economy best reflects a more ambitious and systematic approach to nurturing our local economy and society. An equitable economy has a few key attributes:

  1. It prioritizes the preservation of local economies and supports their resilience in the face of future crises.
  1. It is intrinsically linked to local and/or shared ownership, support for women and BIPOC entrepreneurs, and environmental sustainability. 
  1. It builds and propagates an infrastructure that supports communities driving sustainable economic practices and just policies. 
  1. It empowers all segments of our society to reach their full potential while protecting the environment.

At its core, building an equitable economy is about rethinking fundamental institutions and activities to better empower individuals to participate in the economy and society. To do this, we have to recenter financial power structures around community prosperity and reorient practices like investing, employment, purchasing, housing, banking, and responsible land and natural resource use to focus on community wealth building and inclusive systems. To succeed, these practices should be undertaken broadly by corporate, public, private, philanthropic, and nonprofit actors across society. And, we must all be flexible and nimble, work across sectors, and let shared prosperity and well-being guide our decisions.

An equitable economy provides an important framework as we are in the throes of crisis and recovery, and must align with inclusion growth efforts already underway. And in fact, one of the most exciting things about the San Diego/Imperial County region, and a key reason we are holding this Summit at this crucial moment in time, is that many hallmark strategies of an equitable economy are already being piloted and some have already succeeded. There’s an incredible array of San Diego businesses, impact investors, government leaders, civic groups, and philanthropy/nonprofit actors embracing collaboration and innovations, which are moving us closer toward this goal. The Summit gives us an opportunity to learn from these partners, colleagues, and neighbors. 

But we aren’t there yet. Together we need an even better understanding of how the systems that hinder and even harm our communities are designed, so that we can determine a path forward for redesigning them with equity and community at the center. This is what we hope to accomplish at the Build Better Summit on November 17. Let’s jumpstart the movement to transition to an equitable economy. Let’s set out concrete steps that we can take together to move the San Diego region toward shared prosperity and resilience. Let’s listen, learn, and act to address the immediate effects of vast inequities, as well as the systems changes that must be undertaken. 

We have the opportunity now to align our efforts and build new foundations upon which our communities and economy stand. Let’s build better, together.

Learn more about how we’ll get this recovery right

Register now for Build Better: A Bold Virtual Summit to Reimagine Our Region’s Future

San Diego’s economic recovery must be inclusive.

A note from Our board chair

In 1967, my parents fled Cuba to seek freedom and a better life in the United States. Due to travel restrictions, they were forced to move to Spain, where I was born, before finally arriving in the City of Chicago in January 1968. My parents never dreamed that within a generation, their son would become a senior executive at one of the largest financial institutions in the world. Growing up in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, I certainly never thought that the community I would find myself living and investing in all these years later would be San Diego, California. Yet here I am.

As I take on the role of board chair for the next two years at San Diego Regional EDC, I am fortunate, blessed, and humbled by the opportunities that life has given me. I also recognize that my story is not the norm for Latino immigrants in this country and that my journey thus far is not particularly common for a city kid from Chicago. I feel both an obligation and responsibility to use this time at EDC wisely, effectively, and purposefully. And as the threats and realities of COVID-19 and racial injustice continue to grip our community and our economy, like many, I feel the urgency and the need to accelerate the recovery that lies in front of us.

From the years following the Great Depression to those following the Great Recession, every recovery that the American economy has experienced has increased systemic poverty and widened the inequalities in Latino and African American communities. Too often, in a rush to restore economic normalcy for some, entire segments of our communities have been left further behind and unable to find and maintain their footing on a new and changing economic foundation. Our commitment at EDC is to do everything we can—drawing on the breadth and depth of every partnership and relationship we have—to get this recovery right.

This recovery requires us to redouble our commitment to inclusive economic growth, so that we build back a San Diego that is more resilient because prosperity reaches more people. Even in the midst of great economic uncertainty, we know one thing for sure: the innovation economy will lead us out of this recession just like it has every one before it. If the business community is thoughtful, strategic, and collaborative in this moment, we can ensure a stronger, bolder, more resilient San Diego in the years ahead.

The building blocks are clear: skilled talent, quality jobs, and thriving households.

  1. The hottest job market in a generation has become the weakest. However, there are still shortages for in-demand jobs. This means we need to do better at equipping San Diegans for the jobs of today, and those of tomorrow.
  1. Nearly 30% of small businesses have closed. And we know small businesses employ the majority of San Diegans. This means we must invest in entrepreneurship and resiliency by creating opportunities for diverse founders, and better connecting small businesses to big customers.
  1. Housing prices and unemployment are both at record highs. The economy cannot recover if people cannot afford to live here. This means we must prioritize access to and affordability of the essential infrastructure that working families rely upon—like housing, childcare, and broadband.

If past economic, financial, education, and workforce decisions have exacerbated systemic poverty and created barriers to opportunity for so many, it follows that the decisions we make now can change the future for our children and grandchildren. And with nearly 200 of the region’s largest employers, hundreds of community partners, and the proud legacies of my family and culture behind me—I plan on seeing San Diego Regional EDC through a period of historic and inclusive growth. We will get this recovery right.

—Julian Parra, EDC board chair
& SVP, Region Executive, Pacific Southwest Business Banking, Bank of America

Visit our Inclusive Recovery page for more

See Julian’s op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune

A legacy of discrimination: Redlining in San Diego

Economic inequality is a pre-existing condition. And just like in the rest of the country, a history of housing discrimination and redlining policies has burdened San Diego with decades of mounting inequities that can still be seen and felt more than 80 years later.

Less than 20 miles apart, the 1938 redlining policy presented two vastly different lending practices that have shaped our socioeconomic reality decades later.

  • La Jolla: “Residents embrace nearly all types of professions and are all white. No threat of foreign infiltration. Homes are well maintained.”
  • Logan Heights: “Racial concentration of colored fraternity. Homes show only slight degree of pride of ownership and are on the average negligently maintained.”

Scroll over the map below to visualize how redlining policies set in 1938 still impact where people live and what they earn, today.


Today, San Diego is a majority-minority region, meaning no single race or ethnic group makes up more than 50% of the total population. It is a much larger, smarter, and more diverse region than it was 80 or 90 years ago, but we are still segregated. That is the legacy of deliberate investment in some parts of our county, and deliberate disinvestment in others. So, as we talk about getting this economic recovery right, we must address the ways in which communities of color and small businesses are most impacted.  It’s no coincidence the above map mirrors that of COVID-19 impacts.

Learn more about San Diego’s economic recovery

San Diego Regional EDC welcomes Julian Parra as new board chair

EDC works toward the “right recovery” with new chair leading the way

As San Diego works to recover from a global pandemic and faces systemic race and equity issues that plague all metropolitan economies, EDC continues to drive an inclusive growth and recovery strategy as outgoing Board Chair Janice Brown passes the gavel to Julian Parra.

“While we are all facing many challenges right now, we also see opportunity. I look forward to working with EDC’s team to ensure that all San Diegan’s have access to opportunities so that we can position our region for the right recovery.” said Julian Parra, Region Executive, at Bank of America.

The right recovery is rooted in our inclusive growth work and focuses on ensuring we double down on the building blocks that make for a strong economy by creating skilled talent, economically-stabilizing jobs, and thriving households.

“There is nobody I trust more than Julian to continue this work in a time that San Diego needs it most,“ said outgoing Chair Janice Brown, founder of Brown Law Group, who spearheaded the inclusive growth initiative during her time as chair, “I believe in how EDC’s work has evolved, and will continue to support this organization and team.”

As chair, Parra is supported by four officers:

  • Vice Chair, Rob Douglas, President and COO, ResMed
  • Vice Chair, Jennie Brooks, Senior Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton
  • Treasurer, Phil Blair, President and CEO at Manpower San Diego
  • Secretary, Tom Seidler, SVP Community & Military Affairs, San Diego Padres

Along with the election of a new chair, EDC’s board also elected three new board members:

  • Tonya Cross, Senior Vice President People & Corporate Operations at Lytx Inc
  • Heather Ace, Executive Vice President of Human Resources at Qualcomm Inc
  • Sandra McDonough, Partner at Paul Plevin Sullivan and Connaughton LLP

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 small businesses like Brown Law Group, to the region’s largest employers like Qualcomm and SDG&E, to the leading anchor institutions such as universities and hospitals.


Over the last two decades, San Diego’s economy has more than doubled in size. Meanwhile, the typical household has seen its income increase at roughly half that rate. The impacts of COVID-19 have likely exasperated income inequities, disproportionately affecting the parts of the community historically disconnected from opportunities.

The right recovery means putting systems into place that ensure that as we rebuild our economy, we are doing so in a thoughtful and resilient way, that ensures all San Diegans can benefit from our region’s future growth.

“I am the first one to acknowledge that EDC has not always been focused on inclusive strategies. When Janice became chair, we were just beginning to understand how San Diego – as a region – has missed out on economic opportunity by creating racial disparities. We have an opportunity to ensure that we are pivoting programming and putting systems into place so we do not widen racial and economic inequities as our region recovers.  Nobody understands these responsibilities more than Julian,” said Mark Cafferty, EDC’s president & CEO.

To address these inequities, EDC has pivoted and launched programming aligning with the three pillars: skilled talent, economically-stabilizing jobs and thriving households. With the majority of San Diegans employed by small and medium size businesses (SMBs), San Diego has set a goal to create 50K economically-stabilizing jobs by 2030. To help achieve that goal, EDC programs such as MetroConnect and Advancing San Diego will continue in a virtual capacity, providing export assistance and paid internship programs, respectively.

We hope you’ll join us as we work to create a more equitable and prosperous San Diego, for all who live here.