CARLSBAD — It is one of the best and most respected chambers of commerce in the state.
But in January 2019, the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce will have a new leader. President and CEO Ted Owen, 77, will retire in what he describes as “the right time.”
Owen has led the explosive growth of the nonprofit, as Carlsbad is the second largest chamber in San Diego County and 10th largest in the state.
“I love this job and it’s been a great 14 years,” Owen said. “It was just the right time. I gave the board a year’s notice. I told them in January. The economy is different, the chamber’s role is different and it was just the right time.”
Former board of directors Chairman Carlton Lund recruited Owen to Carlsbad 14 years ago. At the time, Owen was president and publisher of the San Diego Business Journal, but found a new challenge.
Lund said once the chamber board, president and hiring team met with Owen, they offered him the position within 72 hours. Lund said Owen’s skillset translated perfectly to the position and the chamber has grown dramatically over the past 14 years.
“He’s a spectacularly bright, intelligent and energetic guy,” Lund said. “I said this is the last interview you will need to make. He was very, very well-qualified for doing this job and would be a tremendous asset for this chamber.”
Business from all over San Diego County call themselves members. Owen said he is proud to watch a small business join, get access to resources and then celebrate its one-year anniversary, which is a milestone for many.
However, his most crowning achievement was Military Mentoring Initiative, which assisted military members with transitioning to civilian life. It took two years to create the program, which started in 2011.
The program, Owen said, gave active service members in the last stages of their military service and their spouses the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the workforce through internships provided by participating North County businesses and organizations.
Owen, who is a retired Marine, said 250 veterans participated and 60 percent received job offers, while others went to college on the GI Bill.
Other of Owen’s accomplishments include championing the desalination plant, writing the Carlsbad noise and entertainment ordinance, supporting the new peaker plant to replace the Encina Power Plant, developing the Small Business Success Center, overseeing the Carlsbad Business Journal and creating the “North County Business in Focus” TV program.
Yet another accomplishment, Owen said, is the employees and board of directors. Like any good company, the goal was to hire smart people and get out of their way.
“We’ve been able to hire some magnificent people to work the issues for us,” Owen said. “Carlsbad is one of those cities that is financially stable. It’s a good place to work and they let you know what they want.”
Looking forward, Owen said the biggest challenge facing the chamber is the upcoming election. The city of Carlsbad is using district elections for the first time ever and Owen said the outcome could very well alter the fate of the chamber and business community in Carlsbad.
Owen noted the occupancy rate for industrial is less than 3 percent, plus dozens of other projects are in the works or underway.
“I think district elections will be the biggest change in the way we do business in Carlsbad,” he said. “Carlsbad is still economically surging, but district elections will make changes in the way we do business.”
Although he plans to retire, Owen said he will continue to lend advice or services for free in his spare time. He also plans to travel with his wife and enjoy retirement.
As for the chamber, a national search is underway with an Aug. 17 deadline for applicants.