Kate Roberts has been named California Regional Steward of the Year by the California Economic Summit. The founding CEO of the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) will receive the award next week at the California Economic Summit meeting which will be held, fittingly, in Roberts’ home base of Monterey.
“The first word that comes to mind when describing Kate is bold,” said CA FWD CEO Micah Weinberg. “Her charisma, talent and instinctive ability to put the interests of her community first make her choice as California Regional Steward Leader of the Year richly deserved.”
Roberts has grown the MBEP into one of California’s truly impactful regional organizations which has made progress on key initiatives of housing, workforce development, broadband access and climate change.
“We founded the Monterey Bay Housing Trust which has leveraged $1.4-million into $24-million for local affordable housing projects in partnership with Housing Trust of Silicon Valley. We’ve also helped create hundreds of new farmworker family housing units, brought more local and state resources to our region, and have been a key player in creating new land use policies to unlock more sites for farmworker housing. And we’ve created 17 project-specific campaigns that have led to the approval of over 2,400 new units serving residents of all income levels,” she said.
In broadband, MBEP has been a key part of establishing a regional broadband standard of 100 Mbps down/20 up, and it recently launched the Equal Access Monterey Bay fund with the Community Foundation of Monterey County to provide gap funding for broadband infrastructure projects that would otherwise not pencil out.
Roberts was nominated by Bud Colligan who has been her Board Chair and helped found the MBEP. He described her as an “exemplary leader” and noted the progress made on the key regional issues.
Roberts, who is retiring at the end of the year, was also nominated by the MBEP Chief Operating Officer Freny Cooper who noted how the membership base has grown consistently during Roberts’ time at the helm of the organization.
“Kate is an inspiring leader who has brought MBEP from its infancy to a well-known and respected organization,” said Cooper.
We wondered why Roberts who had a successful career in the private sector was drawn to leaving to start up this non-profit organization from the ground up.
“I was doing similar cross-sector work in the private sector, working for Cisco Systems as part of their Networking Academy program that taught people in the developing world basic IT and networking training to enable them to gain employment as IT professionals,” she recalled. “The impact of this work was truly life and community changing for these students. I came to understand firsthand that intelligence is distributed equally, but sadly, opportunity is not.”
So, when Bud Colligan approached her in 2015 to be part of the MBEP, she said the decision to leave the security of the private sector for the challenge of a regional economic startup was easy.
“I knew that I could apply the skills I had gained in decades of high-tech sales, marketing, relationship building and cross-sector problem solving in the international world, to my own community here in the Monterey Bay region. It’s been an amazing journey. Leading MBEP has been the best job in the world,” she said.
The California Economic Summit will be held in Monterey November 9-10. The Summit’s bipartisan network of business, equity, environmental and civic organizations is unique in championing solutions that meet the triple bottom line — balancing equity, environmental sustainability and economic growth.
For Roberts, being presented the Regional Steward Leader award with many of her peers in attendance is exciting, and for her many admirers, very fitting. She joins an impressive list of winners.
“I’m just so honored to receive this award, following in the footsteps of some of my heroes like Bud Colligan and Paul Granillo who all are previous recipients,” she said. “To be in the company of these leaders who have done so much to lift up their respective parts of the state, working hard to unite public, private and civic sectors to advance equity-centered economic progress throughout the state … it’s just a bit overwhelming!”
It’s also fitting.
Congratulations to Kate Roberts, the 2021 California Regional Steward of the Year.