Q&A: Kate Roberts on What You Need to Know About MBEP
By Sara Isenberg
Founder, Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, Santa Cruz Tech Beat
(Photo: Kate Roberts, above, shares her goals over the coming months for MBEP. Source: LinkedIn)
September 23, 2015 — Santa Cruz, CA
Last week, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP ) named Kate Roberts as their new president. This week, I had the opportunity to hear what’s coming up at MBEP directly from the new pres. In this Q&A session, Roberts shares some goals, upcoming events, and a bit about her background.
SCTB: The Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) recently announced that you’re their new President. (Woot!) For those readers who are unfamiliar with it, what is MBEP? How much of MBEP’s focus is on Santa Cruz vs Monterey?
KR: Thanks, Sara! Very excited about the opportunity. MBEP is a regional nonprofit membership organization consisting of public, private and civic entities located throughout the counties of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz. Our mission is to create a thriving region with quality jobs, excellent education and health care, and a high quality of life for all residents while preserving the natural beauty and healthy lifestyle we all want. We have members from all over the region. At MBEP we are all about amplifying the collective impact of our member’s voices, making connections, and helping people to collaborate. So often there are good things happening that could be easily leveraged by others, and “lessons learned” that can be shared to avoid mistakes. We want to be sure those connections are being made.
SCTB: As the new “pres,” what are your immediate 2 – 6 month goals? Long term 1 – 2 year goals? Biggest challenge in accomplishing those goals?
KR: Well, I think I’m on Day 12, so I’ve been busy coming up to speed on everything that’s going on! My immediate goal is for us to do a better job of communicating our value to the community. We’ve had great progress on our key initiatives and have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. We chose two areas of focus: creating a strong regional tech ecosystem and, related to that, helping connect the dots between industry, graduates and job seekers to ensure we are doing everything we can to enhance workforce development efforts in the region.
Some recent accomplishments include working with county and city electeds and staff to enact broadband policies to ensure that de facto “dig once” policies are adopted regionally, and to push for broadband fiber projects to be completed to enhance the competitiveness of our region. In partnership with the SC Community Foundation, SCBC, UCSC and Cabrillo, we are helping create a regional Monterey Bay Internship Portal that will make it easier for organizations to find qualified interns and for those individuals to gain valuable work experience.
We believe that good data is essential for good decision-making, so we have a ton of great data on our website that provides relevant and useable datasets, reports, and interactive maps and tables for local companies and organizations, job seekers, or anyone interested in the key regional industries and other demographic data that are an important part of our economy.
Longer term, I see us continuing to aggregate and visualize relevant data, and continuing the momentum in our focus areas by facilitating the creation of co-working spaces, increasing access to capital for startups, and developing informal leaders necessary for a vibrant tech ecosystem. As we grow we will add additional focus areas based on the needs of our region and the input from our members.
SCTB: MBEP has a big event coming up. Tell us about it. Who are you hoping will attend?
KR: We are getting ready for our inaugural State of the Region Conference coming up on November 4th at the Chaminade Conference Center. We have an amazing lineup of speakers on a diverse set of topics including affordable housing, infrastructure, workforce, the environment, public safety and health care — all the things that are important to a great quality of life. We are working to ensure that all sectors will find value in the discussions and in the opportunities to network, collaborate, and discuss how we can work together to make a positive impact in our region.
SCTB: Tell us about yourself. What attracted you to accept this position at MBEP?
KR: My husband and I relocated to Santa Cruz 4 years ago. We always enjoyed visiting Santa Cruz, and so when it came time to make a change, we were all in for relocating to the Monterey Bay! I’ve traveled all over the world and, IMHO, it’s the best spot on the planet.
I spent the last 7 years running my own independent management consultancy, and before that over 20 years in the high tech industry where I held leadership positions in sales, marketing, partner management, and corporate social responsibility. I was at Cisco Systems, Inc. for a decade leading strategic initiatives and creating successful partnerships with the United Nations, USAID and other global partners to further tech education and workforce development in the developing world. So when this opportunity came up, it seemed like a really good fit for my interests, experience and skills. I also care deeply about our community and about issues that affect the underserved. I have served on several local boards, and for the last 3 years I’ve produced the annual One Billion Rising Santa Cruz, which brings together local nonprofit organizations working to end violence against women.
I feel there is so much potential in the future of MBEP and in what the visionary founders, Bud Colligan, Mary Ann Leffel, Ray Corpuz, Claude Hoover and Rene Mendez, set out to do. I have lots of ideas, and think we are on a path to accomplish great things.
SCTB: What do you want local readers in the tech community to know about MBEP?
KR: I want them to know that we are working hard to amplify “the good” and avoid pitfalls by learning from each other — bringing people together to find solutions is what we do really well. And I want them to know that we are looking to add to our diverse and growing membership base representing many leaders from throughout the region. We want companies, cities and nonprofits to join in the rich conversation about how to thoughtfully and holistically address the issues that affect our quality of life here in the Monterey Bay region.
SCTB: Finally, tell SCTB readers something that we don’t know about you.
KR: Hmmm. Well, I speak four languages (English, German, French and Dutch) in varying degrees of competency. And I love to knit. Oh, and I’ve been a long-time 49er’s fan … through thick and thin! Go Niners! 🙂