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  • Hourglass Project Appoints Melissa James CEO

    Hourglass Project Appoints Melissa James CEO
    James will lead the new action-oriented regional economic development organization

    Citing her proven track-record of regional collaboration, policy innovation and economic vision, the
    Board of Directors of the Hourglass Project has named Melissa James as the organization’s first
    President and Chief Executive Officer. Under her leadership, the new organization will develop and
    launch short- and long-term actions that bring high-quality jobs and a new era of economic prosperity
    to San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties.

    “Over the past few years, Melissa has inspired and rallied our community to embrace a new
    collaborative approach to economic development across the Central Coast Super Region,” said
    Hourglass Board Chair Ty Safreno, who is CEO of Trust Automation. “Melissa’s tenacious commitment
    to uniting our region has been a driving force in our community. It was obvious to the board that she is
    the right person to lead our efforts going forward,” Safreno added.

    James, a Cal Poly graduate and native of Sacramento, has extensive public policy and strategic
    communications experience in both the public and private sectors. She served the Central Coast in the
    California State Senate, as Capitol Director for former State Senator Sam Blakeslee, and later as an
    Account Executive for a nationally recognized public affairs, media and polling firm in Sacramento,
    where she worked with Fortune 500 companies and trade associations to navigate complex public
    policy debates.

    She gained start-up experience as a core member of the team that founded the Institute for Advanced
    Technology and Public Policy, a nonpartisan think tank at Cal Poly that developed, deployed and scaled
    technology-based innovations to impact real world problems. She led regional economic development
    initiatives for the Economic Vitality Corporation and later the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce,
    where she developed and championed initiatives related to housing, infrastructure planning, the
    closure of Diablo Canyon and civility.

    The Hourglass Project was launched by a core group of regional leaders who recognized the need for
    substantive action to reinvigorate our regional economy. The Founding Board includes members of
    four Central Coast Chambers of Commerce, Visit SLO CAL, Cal Poly and private industry.
    Glenn Morris, Hourglass Board member and CEO of the Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce said, “The
    region’s chambers know we can accomplish more on behalf of our members and residents by working
    together, and the Hourglass Project creates a region-wide platform to make that collaboration

    Gina Fitzpatrick, Hourglass Board member and Immediate Past Chair of the Central Coast Coalition of
    Chambers, added, "With Melissa at the helm, we are confident we will all succeed together.”
    “I greatly appreciate the Board’s confidence in me, and I’m excited to step into this role,” James said.
    “In many ways, the Hourglass mission is personal for me. I went to school here, and built my career
    and family here. I know too many hard-working people on the Central Coast who are struggling to get
    by, let alone get ahead. I want to see more people – including my two daughters – have the
    opportunities to build a life and future here on the Central Coast.”

    • Ty Safreno, Founder & CEO, Trust Automation, Board Chair
    • Ryan Caldwell, CEO, Wacker Wealth Partners
    • Chuck Davison, CEO, Visit SLO CAL
    • Gina Fitzpatrick, CEO, Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce
    • Ed Halpin, Former Chief Nuclear Officer and SVP Generation, PG&E
    • Ermina Karim, Former CEO, San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce
    • Derek Kirk, CEO, Atascadero Chamber of Commerce
    • Bob Linscheid, Senior Advisor for Economic Development, Cal Poly
    • Glenn Morris, CEO, Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce
    • Clint Pearce, CEO, Madonna Enterprises

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