Five Cities Join Sunstone Economic Development Challenge @ USC Price

IRVINE, Calif. – (September 21, 2023) – Five Southern California cities have signed on as partners in the second annual Sunstone Economic Development Challenge @ USC Price.

The Challenge partners student teams from the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy to consult through the year and create new strategies to leverage startups and workforce development to drive economic growth. Sunstone Management’s sponsorship includes a $5,000 prize to the winning team through the Sunstone Community Fund.

This year’s participating municipal governments are Culver City, Lomita, Pasadena, San Bernardino and Torrance. The inaugural program resulted in economic development proposals for Long Beach, Irvine, El Segundo, and Garden Grove.

“Torrance is excited to participate in the second Sunstone Economic Development Challenge at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy,” Fran Fulton, Torrance’s Economic Development Manager, said. “We have a long history of working with USC students for their capstone projects. We’ve always had a great experience. Having the connection with Sunstone and the added incentive for the students really steps it up a notch.”

Brianna Rindge, Director of Community & Economic Development at Lomita, said her city was looking forward to the experience.

“I’m excited to invite the students from USC Price School of Public Policy to ‘The Friendly City’ of Lomita to further our economic development efforts relating to entrepreneurship,” she said. “A large portion of our businesses are developed, constructed, owned, and operated by our own Lomita residents and, in addition, Lomita frequently takes home the top prizes in the National Lemonade Day competition for youth. Momentum for such improvements within Lomita is budding, and we can’t wait to see how the students can leave a positive impact on our small but passionate community!”

This unique partnership of public policy students (mostly graduate students) and government economic development officials was sparked by the USC City/County Management Fellowship (CMF) and John Keisler, who is the CEO and managing partner at Sunstone Management, a USC Price School graduate and a member of the fellowship.

“This program is a great example of the power of partnerships,” Keisler said. “Cities work with educational institutions, with support from the private sector, resulting in stronger job creation for their communities.”

That partnership is exciting, according to Elaine Warner, Director of Economic Development at Culver City.

“The City of Culver City is thrilled to participate in the Sunstone Economic Development Challenge at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy,” she said. “We are excited to explore new and innovative strategies to expand our creative economy and encourage emerging tech businesses to choose Culver City. We are grateful for this opportunity to work with Sunstone Management and the USC City/County Management Fellowship Program and look forward to the collaborative work ahead.”

Relationships built through this event will last far past the coming year, Pasadena Economic Development Director David Klug added.

“We are immensely grateful for the opportunity to participate in this challenge,” he said. “Building relationships with community-minded investors like Sunstone and emerging talent at higher education institutions like USC has great value to our work in economic development. We’re excited to see what solutions the bright minds at USC propose for strengthening our complex and challenging entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pasadena.”

A chance to work with students and improve the community convinced San Bernardino to participate, according to Amanda Hernandez, Economic Development Division Manager.

“The City of San Bernardino is honored to be chosen as a participating city for the Sunstone Economic Development Challenge @ USC Price,” she said. “We look forward to working with the next generation of leaders and innovators to serve as a catalyst for our community’s growth and create an ecosystem for startups to flourish in San Bernardino.”

There already has been an orientation session for students interested in participating in the challenge – the deadline to apply to be part of the challenge is Friday, Sept. 29. Teams will be formed and work started later this fall. For details about the program, visit the Challenge website or email Ryan Phong at

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More About Sunstone Management
Sunstone Management is a diversified private capital sponsor firm located in Southern California that invests in diverse early-stage technology entrepreneurs who seek to build great companies. We believe in the aspirational power of the American economy to attract and inspire investors and entrepreneurs from throughout the world. We deliver new and exciting opportunities for economic growth through the creation of innovative public-private partnerships, and our unique experience across government, education, and private sectors. Identified by Financial Times as one of America’s Fastest Growing Companies three years in a row. Ranked 18th in the United States on the list of most active venture capital firms by PitchBook. 

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About Sunstone Community Fund

The Sunstone Community Fund is a key component of the Sunstone Management vision to advance public benefit programs that support the development of inclusive and vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems. A Donor Advised Fund managed by the National Philanthropic Trust, the SCF supports a network of universities, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies that develop and implement entrepreneurship programs, early-stage tech accelerators, and advance local economic development.

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