June 9, 2022
Our team at RSG is ecstatic to announce the recent addition of a brilliant new member: Kevin Ham, Director! Kevin joins RSG as a seasoned economic developer after leadership roles in economic development and transportation for the cities of Vista, Coronado, and a transportation partnership of several cities in North San Diego County.
“I firmly believe relevant experience with a positive outlook can win the day. I appreciate the differences that make each community unique and look to foster and amplify those qualities for their benefit. Find your strengths and share them with the world!”
Kevin’s 35+ years of experience in local government, state government, nonprofits, and the private sector has been in multiple fields including transportation, health care, insurance, retail, importing, economic development, redevelopment, and community development. Try saying that five times fast!
Kevin’s work in economic development is nothing short of impressive, and he joins a strong economic development team at RSG, all with deep roots in California. He has served as the past Chair of California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) and is the current Treasurer and Secretary for the California Academy for Local Economic Development (The Academy). In fact, just yesterday Kevin attended the Academy’s retreat to help set the Academy’s workplan for the next fiscal year. Many of you may know the Academy for their Introduction to Economic Development and Accredited Economic Developer (ACE) training course. Additionally, Kevin also teaches college level courses in planning and economic development, and he has been recognized with multiple awards including the prestigious International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) Jeffrey A Finkel award.
With all this economic development talk, let’s dive in a little deeper on some recent accomplishments Kevin spearheaded to explore his creativity and innovation at work.
During Kevin’s tenure in the City of Vista, he was involved in the downtown renaissance in the City. There were three district areas that made up the downtown: Vista Village, the Historic Downtown, and Paseo Santa Fe. Each area had different tactics and solutions deployed, and Kevin was involved in most, if not all, aspects of the rebirth of each. He also helped grow the Vista Business Park and went beyond City lines to cultivate a regional partnership in northern San Diego County.
- Vista Village was a complete ground up development which included developing a new outdoor lifestyle center. Kevin’s efforts included working with several developers, creating materials to support investment, making presentations to financial institutions, and working with planning staff, the community, and the council to create an active and attractive outdoor walkable space with inviting retail spaces and a movie theater. This center has transitioned ownership 3 times over the last 19 years and Kevin has assisted each with acquisition details and center enhancements. Most recently, the center was acquired by the Cherng Family Trust (CFT), a multi-billion dollar single-family, office, and commercial investment firm from the founders of Panda Express.
Historic Downtown Vista
- The improvement in historic downtown involved keeping its charming character while at the same time taking it from sleepy sidewalks that rolled up at 5PM each day, to an active space which has become the heart of the City. Efforts in the historic downtown included talking to longtime property owners to activate their spaces, working with regional and national developers to invest in the area, working with planning staff, the community, and the council to make the necessary improvements, and working with retailers, restaurants, breweries, and wineries to place their uses in the downtown. These efforts included the addition of residential to the area that was in keeping with the historic nature of the downtown.
Paseo Santa Fe
- Paseo Santa Fe was an older and tired commercial area that was mostly a way to get from point A to point B. City efforts in the Paseo Santa Fe included creating a new brand for the area (Paseo Santa Fe), talking to longtime property owners to gain support for public improvements, gaining interest and commitment from regional and national developers to invest in the area, working with planning staff, the community, and the council to make the necessary improvements, and working with local and national retail to place their uses in the area. The city invested over $30,000,000 in streetscape improvements, and Kevin was instrumental with gaining and keeping property owner support through all the impacts these types of enhancements have on a commercial area. Kevin was able to get the area included in the Opportunity Zone program which brought in investment and supported improvements.
Vista Business Park
- During Kevin’s tenure at the City of Vista, he helped grow the Vista Business Park from 7,000,000 square feet to 14,000,000 square feet of active rentable space with the lowest vacancy rate in the City’s history. This growth incorporated originally unenvisioned uses like corporate headquarters, biotech, high-tech, breweries, wineries, distilleries, kombucharies, and hard seltzer producers. These changes required modifications to city codes as well as input and support from multiple parties including the council, property owners, and nearby residents. Today, the Vista Business Park consists of 1,600 acres of thriving corporate activity with a unique creative soul.
- Partnerships have always been one of Kevin’s goals while undertaking projects. He believes that working together lifts all boats. Kevin’s first formal training in economic development was a certificate in community based economic development. This 8-month long training program had equity, inclusion, and partnerships at its core. With this in mind, Kevin’s efforts as a key architect of Innovate78, has led five North County San Diego cities on a partnership to support the growth and expansion of local companies for the benefit of their residents. By working together, the cities of Carlsbad, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, and Vista have proven that they can achieve more for their communities for the benefit of everyone.
Some fun facts you may not know about Kevin are that he was born in Detroit, Michigan and has spent most of his life in San Diego County. He also has owned his own computer importing and retail sales company! In Kevin’s free time, he enjoys traveling, spending time with friends and family, meeting new people, hiking, paddle boarding, pickleball, and exercise. Kevin recently completed a 6-week trip in Chile and is hoping to be in Spain for a month or more in the third quarter of 2022. He’s a lifelong Padres fan, and along with his son, he hopes the Padres will win the world series soon. Especially given the last comment, one can see Kevin is an optimist and outgoing, has a positive outlook on life, and a can-do attitude.
Kevin has directly and indirectly touched the lives of thousands of California residents by shaping and improving local communities and their built environments. Thank you for all you do and for continuing to uplift those around you to achieve collective greatness!