Jul 30, 2014
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Meet San Leandro's Evangelist For Innovation

Deborah Acosta has been hired to help promote the Lit San Leandro fiber optic loop and attract high-tech, biotech and advanced manufacturing companies.

Meet San Leandro's Evangelist For Innovation


The City recently hired an evangelist to help promote the Lit San Leandro fiber optic loop and, in so doing, attract high-tech, biotech and advanced industrial companies to town.

Deborah Acosta holds the title of Chief Innovation Officer, a position created at only a handful of other cities.

The impetus for her hiring is Lit San Leandro -- the ring of fiber cables being run through the city's industrial zone.

The theory is that fiber optic cables are, to modern industry, what the railroads were to heavy industry a century ago -- throughfares and magnets of commerce.

That's what local software entrepreneur Patrick Kennedy was betting when he invested $3 million of his own money to install enough fiber optics to make San Leandro one of the most wired cities in the world.

Acosta's job will include making sure that local tech companies know that San Leandro is getting up to Internet speed, and has industrial and commercial land available west of Interstate 880.

For this she will earn $125,000 a year. THer salary will be partially paid by Kennedy, who will underwrite 75 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent, respectively, over the next three years.

"By then it's assumed I'll be paying my own way," Acosta told Patch.

She outlined her approach to a job that will evolve with direction from the council, city manager, fellow staffers and citizens. But it is likely to include:

  • accompanying landowners on sales calls when they hunt for high tech tenants.
  • playing a role in efforts to bring higher-density housing to the downtown areas close to BART.
  • helping strengthen the local tech ecosystem. In the high-tech context this includes everything from rapid transit to restaurants to hip hang outs.
  • helping to steamline the permit process so that when developers do get a solid bite, the city can reel it in.

"We want to get the word out that San Leandro is open for business," she said.

Acosta is a U.C. Berkeley graduate with 12 years banking experience in San Francisco, and another 12 years as International Trade and the Innovation specialist with the City of Oakland Economic Development effort.

She has worked with companies including Pandora, Skytide, Sungevity, Lucid, Obscura Digital, Digital Realty, SKS Investments, Swig Co. and the San Francisco Regional Center.

She has been a co-Chair and co-founder of 2.Oakland, a group of Oakland technology companies working to cultivate a healthy tech ecosystem in the East Bay. 

Acosta describes her vision for San Leandro's innovation ecosystem in a Patch video.

Read more about local cutting edge companies in Patch's TechLeandro Archives.

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