Sunstone Economic Development Director Eric Romero elected to CALED Board of Directors

Sunstone Economic Development Director Eric Romero elected to CALED Board of Directors

IRVINE, Calif. (PublicCEO) – Eric Romero, Sunstone Management’s Director of Economic Development, was appointed to the Board of Directors for the California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) – a statewide organization devoted to economic development education, advocacy, and networking – at its annual training conference in June.

Romero is one of four people representing a private company on the 20-person board of directors (there are several others on the organization’s advisory board). He is unusual in that he served for years in the public sector before transitioning to the private sector.

“As an undergrad studying Sociology, I started to learn that at the center of many societal disparities was access to economic opportunity,” Romero said. “It underlies many of the other issues, such as housing, healthcare, and safety. So, in graduate school at UCLA Luskin’s Urban and Regional Planning Program, I decided to dive deeper into learning strategies to mitigate urban issues and gained a greater interest in economic development.”

Romero started his professional career in the City of Long Beach in 2015 as a member of the internal task force working on implementation of a Bloomberg Innovation Team Grant for the City. Their first priority area was economic development. He says he decided to join CALED shortly thereafter to build his network in the economic development field and for the continuing education the organization offers.

That process led to Romero becoming an Accredited California Economic Developer in 2021. In part due to training he received from CALED, he moved up to become Long Beach’s Business Development Officer in the Economic Development Department. In that role, he oversaw the City’s Revolving Loan Fund, Business Improvement District Program, small business grant and technical assistance programs, and much more.

In June 2022, Sunstone Management CEO John Keisler came calling. Romero worked for Keisler in Long Beach – Keisler was the Director of Economic Development during Romero’s tenure there. On July 11, 2022, Romero joined Sunstone as Director of Economic Development, and has since taken on creation of Sunstone Development as a separate division.

“Economic development has always been a public-private partnership,” Romero said. “I’ve been fortunate to have experience in both sectors. That helps me create a bridge between the two. It allows me to offer a different perspective.”

CALED was formed in 1980 and now has more than 800 members. It offers a series of economic development training for both professionals and elected leaders, provides a legislative watch and advocacy on the state level, creates and maintains a wide range of economic development resources and more.

It also hosts an annual economic development conference, with educational workshops and networking opportunities. The 2022 conference was in Long Beach, and Romero helped coordinate that event as he began working more closely with the CALED leadership.

Once he transitioned to Sunstone Management, Romero made presentations for CALED online and in-person, including providing information on the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, which brings investment from overseas to commercial development projects via people interested in immigrating to this country. American Lending Center, Sunstone Management’s affiliate company, is an established and respected player in the EB-5 Program.

“I always saw the value in CALED,” Romero said. “It uplifts economic developers through training programs, such as the Introduction to Economic Development Certificate Program and the Advanced Institute for Economic Development, and champions economic development across the Golden State. I felt that it was time to give back, to contribute to the cultivation of the next generation of California economic developers. So, I applied to be on the board and am incredibly honored to have started my first term on July 1. I am grateful to the CALED staff and Board for their vote of confidence in me”

That was a six-month process, from the application in December 2022 through the interview with the Board’s Executive Committee to the Board election in June 2023. Romero began his first three-year term on July 1, 2023. Board members can serve two consecutive terms.

“Eric is a great addition to CALED’s leadership – not only because of his public-sector economic development experience, but also because of his focus on working with communities in creating support systems to advance innovation and economic mobility for California entrepreneurs,” Gurbax Sahota, President and CEO of CALED, said.

Romero still lives in Long Beach with his wife and two sons, ages 4 and 9. He commutes to the Sunstone Management headquarters in Irvine when not traveling for business.

“Long Beach is a big city with complex, dynamic issues,” Romero said. “I gained a lot of valuable experience while working for the City, and I’m hoping to impart some of my experience to economic developers in other towns and cities. I also cannot wait to learn from others in the field, including the esteemed CALED staff, board members, and advisors, that have accomplished so much for our State.”

© Sunstone Management Inc.


About Sunstone Management

Sunstone Management is a diversified private capital management firm with headquarters in Southern California that provides a range of early-stage venture capital, real estate, and fixed income to qualified and accredited investors. The firm delivers new and exciting options for economic growth through innovative public-private partnerships, making use of its 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. Connect with Sunstone Management at:
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