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Duane Roth: The Connector Who Wired Up a Regional Innovation Economy

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bring overseas manufacturing back to the U.S. through what he called “the Connect Nearsourcing Initiative.” To produce a more-comprehensive quarterly report on the status of San Diego’s innovation economy, Roth enlisted help from the San Diego Workforce Partnership, Point Loma Nazarene University, the Legler Benbough Foundation, National University, and others.

Walton, the NBA Hall of Famer who has led San Diego Sports Innovators as a division of Connect since 2010, said Roth became a business mentor to him. In his comments Friday afternoon, Walton said Roth inspired him to be a better person, and he counted Roth among the people who had the biggest influence on his life—a list that included his own father, UCLA coach John Wooden, sportscaster Chick Hearn, author David Halberstam, and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.

Smith and Walshok also gave Roth credit for bringing a better understanding of the military’s economic importance to the San Diego region, including the role that such military innovations as unmanned robotic aircraft and the global positioning system have had in the broader innovation economy.

“Duane’s unique gift was to redefine innovation of the 21st century,” said UCSD’s Walshok. “Connect was never a trade organization. He made Connect the advocate for innovation in general, and nowhere was that clearer than in creating an advocate for innovation in Washington D.C. who had access to think tanks and Congressional leaders.”

Hale agreed. “Duane made many trips—more than probably anybody realizes—to advocate the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship on the national economy,” Hale said. “He relished the complexity of public policy, and he had the vision and determination to move it forward.”

The result, Walshok said, was that “Connect became a kind of honest broker” in Washington D.C., helping to influence the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) and in setting an … Next Page »

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  • Karina Lion

    Bruce, This is a wonderful reportage about Duane, who was a friend and mentor. Thanks for your remembrance of his great contributions to our tech and bio community. Your compassionate coverage of his legacy and untimely passing have helped us get through this tragic loss. Regards, Karina Lion

  • Mark Leibowitz

    Thanks for this compelling description of the memorial and tribute to Duane’s contributions. I found the memorial to be very inspiring and hope that it will serve to motivate the San Diego innovation community to continue Duane’s work with renewed passion.
    Take care,

  • Chris Stiehl

    I loved Duane as a friend, colleague and advisor in the work my wife and I did for CIRM. As Bruce reports here, Duane was always making connections and looking for ways for everyone to win. He gave you his full attention when you asked for his help. His response always considered all of those who may be affected by your actions, both now and in the future. One of our proudest accomplishments was having his support in our work to spread the good news about CIRM. We also saw he and Rene at charity events all over San Diego, often seeing him at two Galas on the same evening! He was a humble giant among men. He will be missed.