Economic Development Council taps new CEO

REGION — After months of searching, the San Diego North Economic Development Council has found its next Chief Executive Officer.

Last week, the SDNEDC announced the hiring of Mike Cully, who takes over the top spot after Carl Morgan resigned in June 2016.

SDNEDC Board of Director Chairman Brian Lee of Wells Fargo said Cully’s enthusiasm and experience were big factors in his hiring. Lee said Cully beat out 150 applicants to land the job.

Mike Cully is the San Diego North Economic Development Council’s new CEO. Courtesy photo

Mike Cully is the San Diego North Economic Development Council’s new CEO. Courtesy photo

“What really stuck out with Mike was his passion for taking the job on,” Lee added. “He’s really led successful turnarounds of chambers. He talked a lot about collaboration and that’s kind one of the key attributes in the new CEO.”

Cully was a principal at MDC Global Consulting in Portland, Ore., for the past 20 months before moving back to his roots in San Diego County. He was also a founding member of car2go, a car sharing company.

In addition to those jobs, Cully’s career has centered on business management and non-profit including working with several chamber of commerce’s.

As for the SDNEDC, he said it is an opportunity to bring the stakeholders together, collaborate and turn the organization into a major player.

“I saw this as an opportunity to step into this role to redefine what this organization was doing,” Cully explained. “Make it a really viable, powerful organization. What drew me to this was all the opportunity.”

To accomplish those lofty goals, he said working with cities, the county, the San Diego Economic Development Council and stakeholders such as Innovate 78 are top priorities. He also praised the board of directors, headed Lee, as a visionary group whose goals and ideas are in line with his for moving the SDNEDC forward.

“We represent North County,” Cully added. “This is all focused on the business of attraction, retention and growth in the county and region.”

Another part, he said, is to develop strong partnerships with educational institutions and businesses to build workforce development. He said the SDNEDC is “the tip of the spear” for anyone looking to do economic development.

“We not only want to attract new business here … but make sure there is an educated workforce,” Cully added. “Our role will be to get our finger on the pulse of, not only what is happening, but what might be coming down the pipeline and being proactive in terms of seeking out those companies that would fit well in our region.”

The new CEO will lead two arms of the SDNEDC — the 501(c)(3) and (c)(6). The differences between the two entities are specific to tax purposes, but the core mission of the SDNEDC remains. The 501(c)(3) is a recent addition to the SDNEDC because it allows for corporate foundations to donate.

In just his first week, Cully is beginning to meet with economic teams from numerous cities, elected officials, chamber of commerce’s and more.

“I have 26 communities, and unincorporated communities, to meet with and I think that is a good place to start,” he said. “It’s been a whirlwind week.”

He said advocacy, such as issues and legislation affecting business will be “beefed up,” along with relevant programs bringing together community leaders and businesses. Also, he wants to partner with startups in an effort to retain those industries once they grow.

“He gave us a business plan that when you read through it, matched very much in alignment with what we were looking for,” Lee said. “We need to have better relationships with the regional EDC and the cities in North County than we previously had.”

As for North County’s area of strengths, Bio Tech and Medical is a strong industry, but Cully said tourism must be addressed more thoroughly.

“It’s not been considered a top sector and I think it has a lot of potential,” he added. “There are some emerging things in transportation and exciting things in education.”

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