On July 19th, East Bay EDA hosted its third Meet the Innovators event at CoBiz Richmond, Inc., attracting a diverse and enthusiastic group of attendees. The event series is dedicated to showcasing pioneering organizations in the East Bay and celebrating the vibrant entrepreneurial spirit of a region with a rich history of innovation. This time, the spotlight was on organizations that make a significant impact on the community, particularly those that provide access to training, job opportunities, and supportive services to under-resourced populations, including youth, justice-impacted individuals, and the unhoused.

Before the panel discussion commenced, guests enjoyed mingling and listened to a captivating performance by talented musicians from the East Bay Center of Performing Arts. The event’s opening remarks were delivered by District 1 Supervisor John M. Gioia, and Caroline Love of MCE Clean Energy, with both warmly welcoming East Bay EDA to Richmond. Supervisor Gioia emphasized the importance of labor and business organizations in the area, underlining the importance of working together to address regional challenges through collaborative regional solutions. He praised the panelists for their innovative ideas and efforts to create a more equitable community.

Attendees then heard from panelists including: Kimberly Aceves-Iñiguez, Co-Founder and Executive Director, RYSE Center, Wesley Alexander, CEO, CoBiz Richmond, Inc., Kathy Chao Rothberg, CEO, Lao Family Community Development and former Mayor of San Pablo and Fred Lucero, Program Manager, Richmond BUILD. Ken Maxey, Director of Government Affairs, Comcast/NBCUniversal served as the evening’s moderator.

During the engaging conversation, Kathy Chao Rothberg shared the inspiring journey of Lao Family Community Development, which began in her family’s humble three-bedroom apartment as refugees in the 1970s. Over the last 18 years, their organization has grown exponentially, making a significant impact with an astounding 131,000 touches each year across three Northern California counties.

Kimberly Aceves-Iñiguez passionately expressed her honor and dedication to working with young people in Richmond and the surrounding communities for the past two decades through the RYSE Center. Their organization creates safe spaces grounded in social justice, empowering youth with the tools to love, learn, educate, heal, and transform lives and communities. She emphasized the unwavering innovation and resilience displayed by the young people she works with, irrespective of external help or influence.

Fred Lucero passionately shared the profound impact of RichmondBUILD on both the City of Richmond and its surrounding communities. With more than two decades of dedicated service to RichmondBUILD, he has been instrumental in creating invaluable opportunities and empowering individuals with the essential talents and skills required to thrive in the renewable energy or construction sectors.

Wesley Alexander spoke about the amenities and benefits that CoBiz Richmond has brought to this community, alongside opportunities for continued growth. Despite launching just before the pandemic’s onset, CoBiz has swiftly gained the community’s trust, emerging as a reliable and sought-after hub for professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, returning citizens, and students alike. This vibrant space serves as a valuable resource for workspaces, meeting rooms, event venues, technical support, and business incubation, fostering a thriving ecosystem of innovation and collaboration.

The Meet the Innovators event series is part of East Bay EDA’s efforts to tell positive stories about the East Bay and showcase the region’s innovation and creativity. The East Bay is home to a thriving community of excellence and this series is an opportunity to highlight these achievements and inspire others. The series includes a total of four events leading up to East Bay EDA’s  signature event, EAST BAY NOW, an evening celebrating East Bay innovation of Now and the Future at Uptown Station in Oakland on Thursday, September 14th.

Thank you  to all who joined us! We hope you will join us on August 17th  for Meet the Innovators Hayward! Information about these and other East Bay EDA events can be found here.