President & Chief Executive Officer, CALED
Executive Director, CA Academy For Economic Development
Gurbax Sahota is an experienced association professional who believes in the importance and need to collaborate and create meaningful partnerships in order to accomplish the goal of creating healthy, wealthy communities. She turns this belief into action by bringing together and leading multiple organizations aligned with the goal of helping businesses thrive in California. Gurbax holds senior positions with CALED, the California Academy for Economic Development, and the California Enterprise Development Authority. Gurbax is using her commitment to thoughtful leadership, knowledge of organizational studies, and her communications background to deliver on the missions of these organizations, to ensure their operations are thriving and sustainable, and to build a high-performance team at CALED.
As President & CEO of CALED, she is focused on creating strategic partnerships to promote the value of economic development and create a stronger voice for economic developers at the state and local level. Additionally, having raised funds and created sustainable financial practices for all three organizations, she has laid a strong foundation for CALED so we can continue to provide services and benefits to economic developers across the state.
Having worked her way up through CALED, Gurbax has either worked on, created, or had a significant role in most of our successes over the past sixteen plus years. Some of her direct achievements include:
- Invigorated the California Academy for Economic Development (The Academy) from its minimal role a pass-through funding organization to a vibrant non-profit that has an active mission to support education, research and innovation in economic development and a budget to deliver on the goals approved by the Academy’s Board of Regents.
- Fostered the growth of the California Enterprise Development Authority (CEDA) by building and maintaining relationships with strategic business partners, as well as investing in the right support team to take advantage of new business opportunities as they become available, such as the development of CEDA’s Commercial PACE program.
- Originated and implemented the creation of meaningful publications to support economic development in California, including:
- Growing Thriving Rural Economic Development Corporations
- Primer on California’s New Tax Increment Financing Tools
- California Rural Infrastructure Financing Guide
- Led the development & launch of a California-specific Economic Development Certification – the Accredited California Economic Developer Certification (ACE)
- Developed & identified funding for the Academy’s Memorial Scholarship Fund program.
- Brokered a partnership to create and share an economic development focused quarterly California economic snapshot
- Revived CALED’s advocacy role through the adoption of a board Legislative Action Policy, creation of a Legislative Action Committee, and by contracting with a knowledgeable advocacy partner to create a strategic and effective approach that has led to multiple legislative successes since she was named CALED’s CEO.
Gurbax’s ability to build relationships has put CALED at the table to ensure California’s economic developers voice a role at the federal, state and local levels. She is happy to be part of the CALED team and a member of California’s economic development network.
As Program Manager, Helen contributes to CALED’s team by managing the organization’s training programs such as the Keys to Economic Development and Advanced Institute training programs as well as the Accredited California Economic Developer (ACE) program. Helen also ensures that the joint powers authority, California Enterprise Development Authority (CEDA), complies with policy and government requirements. Helen brings a mix of local non-profit and private sector experience to her role from her prior positions within a large technology company and supporting local economic development as a senior researcher within a regional economic development corporation.
Michelle is the Program Director for CALED and its affiliates. As the Program Director, she is the in-house economic development practitioner for CALED and the lead for the Rural Economic Development Exchange and the Economic Development Finance & Real Estate Committee as well as CALED’s federal grants. She also promotes CALED’s economic development finance tools including the Statewide Revolving Loan Fund and the California Enterprise Development Authority.
After completing her Master’s in Community & Regional Planning at the University of Texas at Austin, Michelle interned with the International Economic Development Council in Washington DC before moving back to her native California to work on improving the economic opportunities for communities.
Assistant Program Manager
Alphonse Wilfred is the Assistant Program Manager for the California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED). In this role, Alphonse supports CALED’s Legislative Action Committee (LAC) and provides communication and outreach to CALED members and the public. For the LAC, Alphonse provides help and support on policies and issues that aligns with CALED’s legislative priorities. For communications and outreach, Alphonse shares information with CALED members through social media and other communication vehicles that highlight CALED’s successes, educational materials, and other work that CALED has been doing throughout the years.
Alphonse has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and minor in Political Science from Temple University in Philadelphia. He has experience in business management, financial planning, and nonprofit work. Prior to joining CALED, Alphonse worked for the Sacramento Promise Zone as the Team Coordinator for the Jobs & Economic Development Teams. He was tasked with marketing and outreach support to businesses and residents about the workforce and small business resources in their community.
As Membership/Events Coordinator, Laura maintains CALED’s membership operations and outreach, and coordinates specific events for the benefit of the membership. Laura brings a wealth of experience in local economic development having served as executive director and a consultant for cities, non-profit foundations and downtown associations for more than 30 years.
As the office assistant, Patty is responsible for supporting office operations and administration to ensure the success of CALED, The Academy, and CEDA. She also helps deliver our mission by assisting with CALED’s Annual Training Conference, maintaining vendor relationships, and, if you happen to visit us, hers will be the first smiling face you see. Patty has years of customer service experience and uses those skills at CALED to support our members and our staff.