Melissa James Hourglass ProjectCiting 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 happen.”

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.”

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About Hourglass Project

The Hourglass Project was formally launched in November 2018 with the support of a broad-based coalition of regional business and civic leaders determined to unify the Central Coast Super Region to forge a stronger, more resilient regional economy. The Super Region includes nearly half a million residents, 10 cities, 2 counties and dozens of community service districts, stretching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County, through San Luis Obispo County to Camp Roberts in southern Monterey County.

The Hourglass Founding Board Members Include:
  • 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
The Hourglass Champions include:
  • Jeffrey D. Armstrong, President, Cal Poly
  • Mike Bouquet, Managing Partner, Santa Maria Honda
  • Tony Guy, Executive VP and General Manager of Safran Cabin Santa Maria
  • Dee Lacey, Cattle Rancher, Lacey Livestock
  • Eric Schwefler, Partner, Caliber Accounting Group
  • Rick Stollmeyer, Founder and CEO MINDBODY
  • Nick Tompkins, CEO, NKT Commercial
  • Kris Yetter, President and General Manager, Promega Biosciences