Arizona’s Broome Named to Head San Diego’s Regional Economic Development

7/6/11Follow @bvbigelow

Following a nationwide search that considered 300 candidates, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. (EDC) today named a new president and CEO, Barry Broome, who has spent the past six years heading the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

EDC board members who participated in the four-month search process said they paid particular heed to what candidates had to say about re-energizing San Diego’s innovation economy, which has been flagging in recent years. Broome emerged as their unanimous choice.

“He goes into an area and looks at the strengths and economic drivers of that region, and then he figures out how to take advantage of those drivers,” said Debra Reed, who was recently appointed as CEO of San Diego’s Sempra Energy and has been serving as chairman of the EDC board. “He doesn’t have one [economic] model.”

Reed noted that as president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Broome worked to strengthen the area’s high-tech sector and to cultivate Arizona’s emerging cleantech industry. “He’s very comfortable working with an innovation economy,” Reed said. “That was the kind of thing we were looking for—that and someone who partners well with other organizations, such as Cleantech San Diego, Biocom, and Connect, to make sure that we’re all working together and aligned to achieve the same goals.”

After Julie Meier Wright, who led the EDC for 13 years, announced that she planned to retire, the 70-plus-member board formed an executive search committee and hired R.J. “Bob” Watkins, an executive recruiter and fellow board member, to lead the search. Wright’s last day on the job was June 30, and Broome is expected to officially begin in early August.

Barry Broome

Watkins said he was impressed by Broome’s efforts to establish a biotech innovation center in Kalamazoo, MI, after Pharmacia & Upjohn unveiled plans in 1997 to consolidate the company’s headquarters in Chicago. The move followed the 1995 merger of Sweden’s Pharmacia AB with Upjohn, which had been based in Kalamazoo for more than a century. Watkins said he talked with Kalamazoo leaders who said the region is seeing the benefits today of what Broome did there almost 15 years ago.

Broome called San Diego’s economy “pretty impressive,” saying, “If you take a look at your economy, it’s pretty much all driven by innovation.”

Still, Broome says he expects to take a new approach to economic development in San Diego, focusing in particular on helping capital-intensive organizations and in making the EDC more of a transactions-based organization that works to create and recruit new companies here.

“Sometimes we forget what we have here in San Diego,” said Stath Karras, the CEO of Cushman & Wakefield San Diego, who headed the search committee. “We talked to candidates in Massachusetts and Florida, and here in San Diego. This was viewed as the most prestigious economic development opportunity in the country, and San Diego is viewed as one of the most innovative cities in the country.”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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