News & Updates

Member Spotlight: Coffee Ambassador

Coffee Ambassador was established almost 50 years ago with one goal in mind – to provide the best complete coffee delivery and breakroom service to make coffee in your office an enjoyable experience.

Their clients are as diverse as San Diego itself and include leading hospitals, high-technology businesses, law firms, manufacturing and biotechnology institutions.

Companies count on their expert coffee services, from traditional drip brew makers to customized whole bean grind and brew systems, to lift their employee experience in the breakroom. They even have a showroom conveniently located in Sorrento Valley where you can try out the large variety of brewers available.

The challenges of COVID has caused necessary shifts that need to take place to ensure employees can comfortably drink and dine while in the workplace. Coffee Ambassador has been identifying the best ways to operate a break room while still staying safe and hygienic. This includes new single use items, touchless brewers and sanitation sprays.

To find out how Coffee Ambassador can help provide you with the best enjoyable and safe breakroom experience, contact them here.

DHS Announces Changes to the H-1B Visa Program

The Department of Homeland Security announced changes to the H-1B nonimmigrant visa program effective March 9, 2021 which include:

  • Replacing the random lottery system currently in place used to issue the annual quota of 85,000 new visas with a selection system that would favor petitions with higher salary offers.
  • All H-1B registrants would first go through the new process to fill the 65,000 standard openings and the remaining unselected registrants with advanced US degrees would be run through the 20,000 Master’s Cap allotment, which uses the wage-based process.

The Final Rule could be suspended, congressionally overturned, or challenged in federal court before changes are implemented.

Nonimmigrant visa programs, such as the H-1B, support skilled workers, research, and investment while allowing employers to fill gaps in their workforce and remain globally competitive. The Chamber continues to advocate in support of nonimmigrant visa programs highlighting the positive impact they have on our local and national economy.

Border Travel Restrictions Update

The temporary restrictions on non-essential travel across shared ports of entry between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico have been extended for an additional thirty days to February 21. These restrictions continue to impact our region’s retail and tourism, industries already critically hit by the pandemic. The Chamber has called for the restrictions to be lifted as businesses across our region have shouldered the bulk of the impact and an increasing number of small businesses are closing their doors permanently. An effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 across our borders is a coordinated binational effort around social distancing and mask wearing.

In addition to restrictions at our land ports of entry, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an Order that requires travelers entering the U.S. by air to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding. This Order applies to all air passengers, 2 years of age or older, including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

The special medical “fast lane” at the San Ysidro Land Port of Entry has been relocated to the far-left side of the port traveling northbound. The program, operated by Mexican authorities, was originally created to boost medical tourism and expedite the return of U.S. visitors after receiving medical care in Mexico. The new access is also available for business purposes, and single-use passes can be acquired through authorized medical offices and chambers of commerce in Baja. For additional information, please visit the City of Tijuana’s FastLane website.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released its Strategy 2021-2026 which introduces the agency’s new mission and vision statements while providing an overview of its priorities and strategic objectives. These objectives cover: secure and compliant trade; biometric identification; IT infrastructure; partnerships; counter network; awareness and enforcement; targeting and vetting; stakeholder experience; talent acquisition and workforce development; wellness and resilience; data and analytics; and intelligence. We look forward to continued collaboration with CBP on regional priorities that facilitate cross-border commerce and ensure a secure, reliable, and efficient border.

U.S.-Mexico Economic Partnership Act

The United States-Mexico Economic Partnership Act (H.R. 133) was signed into law just before the New Year. Authored by Rep. Cuellar (TX), the bill directs the Department of State to develop a strategy to further support economic ties between the U.S. and Mexico through academic and professional programs.

In specific, H.R. 133 will:

  • Encourage more academic exchange programs at the secondary, post-secondary, and postgraduate levels;
  • Encourage academic institutions and businesses to collaborate to support entrepreneurs and joint business initiatives;
  • Promote energy infrastructure coordination through vocational-level education, internships, and exchanges; and
  • Require the State Department to assess the feasibility of facilitating partnerships between universities and medical and nursing programs in both countries.

California Returns to Tier Coronavirus Management System

Businesses are returning to familiar territory, as Governor Newsom lifted the stay at home order on Monday, indicating that the state’s numbers were beginning to decline. While this does not result in a total reopening, it does allow for San Diego to break off from the regional decision which tied our local fate to COVID rates in Los Angeles and Imperial Counties.

In San Diego County, the transition to the widespread, purple tier include the reopening of outdoor dining and indoor operations for personal care services as well as an increase of capacity for other retail outlets. Visit San Diego County’s website for more information.


Governor Unveils Budget

The state had a surprisingly good year financially, stunning the public when the Governor announced that not only was the state in the black, but it would be in a position to make significant investments into rainy day funds. More specifically, the Governor included an economic recovery package which he asked the legislature to approve with urgency. That package runs the gamut from including funds to reduce and ultimately eliminate gas-powered cars, but also to expand hiring tax credits, expand the CalCompetes program, and provide a direct $600 payment to all eligible Californians. Early responses from the legislature indicate that the proposal in general was received positively and will begin to move through the legislature.

Asm. Burke Introduces Legislation to Address PPP Loan Deductibility Conformity

A Chamber-led coalition is working to support legislation authored by Assemblymember Autumn Burke that will address new questions around the PPP loans. In short, the issue is that PPP loans were used to pay for expenses that are traditionally deductible at the state and federal levels. Federal guidance has confirmed this to be the case but the state passed legislation last year that would not allow for those expenses to be deductible. As a result, conforming legislation is necessary. Stay tuned for additional information, but for now, the vehicle that is being held to address the issue is AB 281.

LEADers On The Move

We enjoy seeing what our graduates are doing and how they are making an impact on the world. Share your good news with us via email:

The following LEAD graduates have been (re)elected to serve in office: 

Scott Peters (95) – reelected to Congress

Nora Vargas (06) – elected to County Board of Supervisors

Colin Parent (19) – reelected to La Mesa City Council


The following LEAD graduates are now serving on the LEAD Board & SDYL Board:

Karen Higareda (19) – new to LEAD & SDYL Boards

Rosa María Hernández (20) – new to LEAD Board

Melanie Cohn (18) – SDYL

Katharine LiMandri (18) – SDYL

Jordan Marks (19) – SDYL

Ryan Maxson (15) – SDYL

Javier Metoyer (18) – SDYL

Melissa Peterman (19) – SDYL

Lauren Rowley (18) – SDYL

Jim Woods (17) – SDYL


The following LEAD program graduates have recently taken on a new title:

Paola Avila (20), Chief of Staff, Office of Mayor Todd Gloria, City of San Diego

Alexandra Berenter (18), Senior Water Policy Manager, Office of Mayor Todd Gloria, City of San Diego

Kirby Brady (18), Chief Innovation Officer, City of San Diego

Gil Cabrera (01), Board Member, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

Matt Cobas (20), Trustee, Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego

Denice Garcia (10 & 19), Chief of Staff, Office of Supervisor Nora Vargas, County of San Diego

Vicky Joes (12), Chief of Staff, Office of Councilmember Joe LaCava, City of San Diego

Griselda Ramirez (18), Director of Community Engagement & Partnerships, Office of Supervisor Nora Vargas, County of San Diego

Mario X. Sierra (94), Assistant Director, Building Services, Facilities Management, UC San Diego

Michael Simonsen (09), Chief of Staff, Office of Councilmember Raul Campillo, City of San Diego

Joe Stuyvesant (09), President & CEO, Port of San Diego


The following LEAD program graduates have been named to the San Diego Business Journal’s 500 Influential Business Leaders:

Jason Anderson (07), President & CEO, CleanTech San Diego

Sam Attisha (11), Senior Vice President & Region Manager, Cox Communications

Kimberly Becker (19), President & CEO, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority

Phil Blair (83), Executive Officer, Manpower San Diego

Gordon Boerner (93), Senior Vice President / Western U.S. Region Private Banking Manager, U.S. Bank

Betsy Brennan (06 & 18), CEO, Downtown San Diego Partnership

Dan Broderick (05), President, Western Region, Cushman & Wakefield

Peter Callstrom (98), President & CEO, San Diego Workforce Partnership

Reid Carr (11), CEO, Red Door Interactive

Kurt Chilcott (92), President & CEO, CDC Small Business Finance

Nikia Clarke (16), Vice President & Executive Director, San Diego Regional EDC/World Trade Center

Steve Cologne (12), Managing Partner, Higgs Fletcher & Mack

Michael Cunningham (15), Chancellor, National University System

Natalie Dahl (18), Managing Director, CBRE

Carol Dedrich (17), CEO, Girl Scouts San Diego

Rob Douglas (16), President & COO, ResMed

Paul Downey (96), President & CEO, Serving Seniors

Barry Edelstein (17), Erna Finci Viterbi Artisitc Director, The Old Globe

Jane Finley (15), Senior Vice President & Area Manager, Kaiser Permanente

James Floros (13), CEO, Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank

John Frager (16), Executive Managing Director, CBRE

Marilyn Hannes (17), President, SeaWorld San Diego & Aquatica

Melissa Hayden-Cook (16), President & CEO, Sharp Health Plan

Jo Dee Jacob (03), Retired CEO, Girl Scouts San Diego

Stephen Jennings (16), Senior Vice President, Executive Director, Foundation, Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego

Rudolph A. Johnson, III (94), President & CEO, Neighborhood House Association

Stath Karras (94), Executive Director, Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate, University of San Diego

Sara Katz (89), Founder & CEO, Katz & Associates

Tim Keane (20), Dean, School of Business, University of San Diego

Susan Lew (87), Founder & CEO, S. Lew & Associates

Alessandra Lezama (19), CEO, TOOTRiS

Jim Madaffer (89), CEO, Madaffer Enterprises

Nancy Maldonado (17 & 20), President & CEO, Chicano Federation of San Diego County

Lidia S. Martinez (11), Retired Manager, Community Outreach & Grassroots, Southwest Airlines

Sandra McDonough (16), Partner, Paul, Plevin, Sullivan & Connaughton

Michael Neal (00), President & CEO, H.G. Fenton Co.

Mark Neville (15), Executive Director, San Diego Bowl Game Association

Eric Northbrook (16), Managing Director, Voit Real Estate Services

Lisa D. Ordóñez (20), Dean, Stanley & Pauline Foster Endowed Chair, Rady School of Management, UC San Diego

Julian Parra (09), Senior Vice President & Region Executive, Bank of America

Tom Pellette (10), President, Solar Turbines

Alan Prohaska (15), Region Manager & Senior Vice President – Middle Market Bank, Wells Fargo

Garry Ridge (16), CEO, WD-40 Company

Rip Rippetoe (19), President & CEO, San Diego Convention Center Corporation

Manuel Rodriguez (19), Market President, U.S. Bank

Nathan Rogge (02), President & CEO, Bank of Southern California

Nancy Sasaki (93), CEO, United Way of San Diego County

Lori Ann Stevens (14), Design Manager, Turner Construction

Matt Thoene (14), CEO, NFINIT

Robin Toft (17), Founder & Chair, Toft Group, a ZRG Company

Tonya Torosian (13), CEO, Promises2Kids

Roxana Velásquez (11), Executive Director, San Diego Museum of Art

David Wellis (15), CEO, San Diego Blood Bank

Caroline Winn (02), CEO, SDG&E

Carisa Wisniewski (10), Partner, Moss Adams

California Relief Grant Application Deadline Extended to Jan. 13, New Webinars Available

Round 1 Application for the California Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Program Open Now

In December, Governor Newsom announced the creation of a $500 million COVID Relief Grant administered by the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA) at the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development for small businesses that have been impacted by COVID and the health and safety restrictions.

The amount of grant funding ranges from $5,000 to $25,000. Businesses are eligible based on their annual revenue as documented in their most recent tax return. Non-profits are also eligible for these grants. Round 1 for grant applications is open now and the deadline is January 13 at 11:59 PM PST.

To learn more and apply for a grant, visit  Also, this grant program is NOT first-come, first-served. You can take until the January 13 deadline to apply.

Webinars Available from San Diego & Imperial SBDC Network

The San Diego & Imperial SBDC Network is here to help make sure you can complete your application for the California Relief Grant. There are recorded webinars and live webinars, available in English, Spanish, and other languages too. Visit to learn more and to sign up for a live or recorded webinar!

Upcoming Live Webinars:

English, Live – Jan 4 at 1 pm
Arabic, Live – Jan 5 at 10 am
Spanish, Live – Jan 5 at 11 am
Spanish, Live – Jan 5 at 1 pm
Swahili, Live – Jan 5 at 3 pm
English, Live – Jan 6 at 1 pm
Spanish, Live – Jan 7 at 1 pm

Also, as a specialty, SBDC and the San Diego Foundation will have a California Relief Grant for Nonprofits webinar on January 5 at 11 am: 

Recorded Webinars (on-demand):
English, on-demand
Spanish, on-demand
Arabic, on-demand