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MBEP 7th Annual

State of the Region

Friday, October 29, 2021 | 9:00 am – 1:00 pm | Virtual Event

When our region’s community, business, and civic leaders come together at an MBEP event, good things happen. Our 7th Annual State of the Region includes cross-sector conversations covering a range of topics from childcare to housing, systemic racial bias in our education system, and how state and federal relief funds are being deployed to benefit our region. Join hundreds of leaders from across the tri-county region and beyond to be inspired about how we can create a more inclusive and vibrant economy for all.




JoeBen Bevirt

Founder and CEO, Joby Aviation


Joby has spent more than a decade developing and testing an all-electric aircraft that can take off and land vertically, with the vision of saving a billion people an hour every day through an aerial ridesharing service. As we look toward scaled manufacturing beginning with our first production facility in Marina, we’re excited to introduce a new mode of everyday transportation that is quiet, affordable, and emissions-free.
JoeBen Bevirt Bio

JoeBen Bevirt, Founder & CEO, Joby Aviation

JoeBen Bevirt is the founder and CEO of Joby Aviation a mobility company that is building a fully electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) passenger aircraft optimized to deliver an air taxi service. The Company is certifying a 5 seat aircraft nearly twice as fast and yet 100 times quieter than a helicopter.



Susan Carpenter

Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at UC Santa Cruz

Dr. Carpenter is a trained immunologist whose research focuses on how people can protect themselves against infection from bacteria and viruses. She will cover the science behind the Covid-19 variants, the technologies utilized to track them, and how we deal with them as we continue to open up society.

Susan Carpenter Bio

Susan Carpenter, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at UC Santa Cruz

Susan Carpenter is an Associate Professor of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of California in Santa Cruz. She is an immunologist who studies novel genes involved in controlling inflammation. For more information on the Carpenter lab please visit their website.


Leanne Davis

Associate Director of Research and Policy, Institute for Higher Education Policy

Kate Mahar

Dean of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives at Shasta College
Director of SCAILE/Lumina Talent Hub


Degrees When Due (DWD) is a completion and equity initiative to help states and colleges increase degree attainment among the “some college, no degree” population. Last October, MBEP facilitated the implementation of DWD in our region. To date, participating institutions have identified over 15,000 students that left prior to being awarded a degree. We will hear an exciting update on the collective work and outcomes happening in our region at this critical juncture.
Leanne Davis Bio

Leanne Davis, Associate Director of Research and Policy, Institute for Higher Education Policy

Leanne Davis is the Associate Director of Research and Policy at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP). In this role, she handles projects and research focused on postsecondary degree completion, including leading IHEP’s Degrees When Due initiative. Before joining IHEP, Leanne spent nearly one decade as an independent college counselor, helping student-athletes and their families navigate the college recruiting and admissions process. Leanne has worked in management and fundraising positions for non-profit organizations across the U.S. Leanne served as a Naval Aviator and was a CH-46 helicopter pilot.

Kate Mahar Bio

Kate Mahar, Dean of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives at Shasta College and Director of SCAILE/Lumina Talent Hub

Kate is Dean of Innovation and Strategic Initiatives at Shasta College and is also the Executive Director of SCAILE (Shasta College Attainment and Innovation Lab for Equity). SCAILE has evolved from the work of North State Together, the Lumina Talent Hub, and the Innovation Awards at Shasta College. Its goal is to create a place where policy, practice, inquiry, and applied research come together to foster educational attainment and innovation and reduce equity gaps; with a spotlight on the changing dynamics of rural communities.


Dr. Carissa Purnell

Director of the Alisal Family Resource Centers Network
Regions Rising Together Salinas is an inclusive economic development initiative that seeks to achieve inclusivity and prosperity for ALL residents in the Salinas Valley, by synchronizing and leveraging existing efforts, empowering communities through the co-creation of investment plans, and demonstrating that we are investment ready and investment-worthy. Dr. Purnell will give an overview of the nearly two-year effort that culminated in the final investment blueprint, and a peek into new legislation that will be a funding source for this work going forward.
Dr. Carissa Purnell Bio

Dr. Carissa Purnell, Director of the Alisal Family Resource Centers Network

Dr. Carissa Purnell, Director of the Alisal Family Resource Centers Network, was named State Senate 12th District Woman of the Year by State Senator Anna Caballero. The award was presented in a virtual ceremony on March 15, 2021.

Dr. Purnell has been at the helm of the Family Resource Centers since 2015. Under her leadership, a team of 25 staff members provides support to thousands of families in the Alisal, historically one of the most neglected areas in Salinas and Monterey County. Like most operations during the pandemic, the Center’s staff continued meeting community needs online. 

Under her leadership, the Family Resource Centers have increased the services provided to Alisal families. In addition to ESL programs and Plaza Comunitaria, the center provides parenting courses and online parent groups; information and referral services; referrals to financial assistance; wrap-around services such as home visits, coordinating delivery of desks and chairs to students; and delivering meals to thousands of families. For a complete list of services, click here


Robert Rivas

30th District Assemblymember, California

Assemblymember Robert Rivas will report on the initial findings from the State Assembly Housing Working Group Tour across California in early October which includes a visit to the Salinas Valley and Big Sur. This tour and related strategy sessions are expected to be the basis for the State’s Housing Package for 2022 aimed at increasing housing production.

Robert Rivas Bio

Robert Rivas, 30th District Assemblymember

Assemblymember Robert Rivas has represented California’s 30th Assembly District since 2018. While still in his first term, in the Fall of 2020, he was appointed as Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee and elected as Vice-Chair of the influential Latino Legislative Caucus. A lifelong resident of the district, Rivas served two terms on the San Benito County Board of Supervisors prior to becoming an Assemblymember.


Michael Applegate

Data and Research Partnership Manager at the Bright Futures Education Partnership for Monterey County
How might measuring systemic inequities support more equitable opportunities for children and youth of color in our community? Bright Futures, a cradle-to-career partnership of more than twenty local organizations, has identified startling data to help measure and coalesce community efforts around goals to reduce systemic racial inequities in education. This important research is gaining nationwide attention showcasing why it’s critical to quantify systemic inequities in order to effect systems change.
Michael Applegate Bio

Michael Applegate, Data and Research Partnership Manager at the Bright Futures Education Partnership for Monterey County

Michael Applegate currently serves as the Data and Research Partnership Manager at the Bright Futures Education Partnership for Monterey County where he has worked for more than five years. He leads innovative work researching and measuring local systemic inequities as well as the Partnership’s Racial and Ethnic Equity Task Force, working with several community leaders to deepen and strengthen Bright Futures’ work on racial and ethnic equity. In addition to local work, in partnership with StriveTogether, a national organization leading change work in education, he recently supported the development of a guide on measuring systemic inequities and also co-facilitates a learning group across several states to support cradle-to-career partnerships in community engagement and quantifying and addressing systemic inequities.


Galiano Tiramini

Founder, Boxabl
Boxabl is a construction technology startup that seeks to revolutionize the way houses are built by using its patented shipping and factory production technology.
Galiano Tiramini Bio

Galiano Tiramini, Founder, Boxabl

Galiano Tiramani is the founder of Boxabl. Boxabl is a construction technology startup that seeks to revolutionize the way houses are built by using its patented shipping and factory production technology.



John Laird

California State Senator

Jimmy Panetta

From American Rescue Act funds, to state budget surplus monies, millions of dollars in relief funds are flooding into our region. But how will they impact our communities and reverse the damage done by the pandemic? How do we use this unprecedented amount of capital to make the most impactful investments in the economic recovery of the region? Come hear how and where the millions of dollars of federal and state recovery funds are being allocated.

John Laird Bio

John Laird, California State Senator

John Laird was elected to the State Senate on November 3, 2020, carrying all four counties in the district with a combined margin of over 145,000 votes, and was sworn in to represent Senate District 17 on December 7, 2020. In the State Senate, Laird chairs and serves on a broad array of committees: Chair, Senate Budget Subcommittee #1 (Education), Vice-Chair, Joint Legislative Audit Committee, Member, Appropriations Committee, Member, Budget & Fiscal Review Committee, Member, Joint Legislative Committee on Budget, Member, Judiciary Committee, Member, Labor, Public Employment & Retirement, Member, Natural Resources & Water Committee, Member, Rules Committee, Member, Joint Legislative Committee on Rules.

Jimmy Panetta Bio

Jimmy Panetta, Congressman

Congressman Jimmy Panetta is dedicated to public service and proudly serves California’s 20th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.  His district includes Monterey and San Benito Counties, and parts of Santa Cruz and Santa Clara Counties.  First elected 2016, he is serving his second term in Congress.  He currently serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, the House Committee on Agriculture, and the House Committee on Armed Services.  He also serves as an Assistant Whip in the 117th Congress.

Having grown up on the central coast of California, Congressman Panetta understands the importance of giving back to the community and country that gave him and his family so much.   He was instilled with a sense of public service and its importance to our democracy and has made sure that his work is reflective of the values of the people who entrusted him to be their voice in our nation’s capital.

During his time in Congress, he has fought for immigration reform, the continued protection of our pristine coastline and environment, affordable and accessible health care, to ensure that our agriculture industry and its farmers and farmworkers are taken care of, to reduce gun violence, for our military installations which are an integral part in our community and our country’s national security, and for our veterans to receive the benefits that they were promised and deserve.  Through policy implementation in Congress and service to constituents, he remains committed to being that bridge for the people of the Central Coast to the federal government and its resources.

Prior to being sworn in Congress, Congressman Panetta served his community as a deputy district attorney for Monterey County, which includes the city of Salinas.  In this role, he prosecuted violent gang members to pursue justice for victims, protect families and make communities safer.

In 2007, Congressman Panetta volunteered for active duty and was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.  He worked with Special Forces units and as a result of his meritorious service in a combat zone, Congressman Panetta was awarded the Bronze Star.  Upon returning home, he served as a board member of the Veterans Transition Center where he focused on ending veterans’ homelessness and improving resources for his fellow veterans and their families.  He was also instrumental in the opening of Monterey County’s first Veterans Treatment Court to ensure veterans receive the services they earned.  Moreover, he worked with local leaders and veterans to establish the Central Coast Veterans Cemetery on the former Fort Ord. He was honored to be named a Monterey County Veteran of the Year in 2015.

Growing up in Monterey County, Congressman Panetta attended Monterey Peninsula College and the local public schools.  He graduated from the University of California at Davis with an undergraduate degree in International Relations and earned his law degree from Santa Clara University.  His wife, Carrie McIntyre Panetta, is a Superior Court judge in Monterey County, and they have two daughters, Siri and Gia.



The lack of access to quality affordable child care has led to ripple effects that have impacted all industries. Hear from regional experts about innovative models that work for the economy, for early educators, for parents, and for children.

Paul Farmer, CEO

Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce
Paul Farmer Bio

Paul Farmer, CEO Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce

Paul Farmer has been the CEO of the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce since 2012.

Fluent in three languages and conversant in three more, Paul Farmer has traveled extensively and enjoys leading international vacation trips on behalf of the Chamber. Paul has worked in high-tech in Silicon Valley and has founded a couple of local small businesses. He is an energetic volunteer, active Rotarian, and graduate of several leadership programs. 

In 2019, Paul was one of only 7 people nationwide to earn the “Certified Chamber Executive” credential from the national Chamber Association. He has led the Salinas Valley Chamber to be recognized with national awards for programs, two out of the last three years.

Andy Stone, Director

Santa Cruz County Workforce Development Board
Andy Stone Bio

Andy Stone, Santa Cruz County Workforce Development Board Director

Andy Stone has been Santa Cruz County’s Workforce Development Board Director since 2015.  He has over 14 years of experience designing comprehensive workforce solutions, helping workers develop in-demand skills, and providing businesses with a skilled workforce.

Sonja Koehler, Director

Bright Beginnings Early Childhood Development Initiative
Sonja Koehler Bio

Sonja Koehler, Director, Bright Beginnings Early Childhood Development Initiative

Since 2020, Sonja Koehler directs the multi-sector Monterey County Bright Beginnings Early Childhood Development Initiative. She brings 25+ years of international experience in facilitating community-driven systems change. Since 2006, she has based her consulting business out of Monterey County. Prior, she worked in Chicago in public relations for public policy, urban planning, and economic development. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Master of Public Administration in Global and Local Development.

Francine Rodd, ExecutiveDirector

First 5 Monterey County
Francine Rodd Bio

Francine Rodd, Executive Director for First 5 Monterey County

Francine Rodd has been the Executive Director for First 5 Monterey County (F5MC) since January 2004. Prior to returning to the Monterey Peninsula, where she grew up, she worked in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean (including 5 years in Haiti as the Peace Corps Country Director). Bringing home the experience of co-creating solutions with those most impacted by systems failures, she has advocated for innovative short-term and long-term changes in child care and early childhood development policies, practices and resource flows. She serves in leadership positions at the state level for the First 5 Association and on several local boards including, the Child Care Planning Council, the Monterey County Children’s Council, and the Community Foundation for Monterey County.