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Tuesday, Jun 25, 2024

CEO Strengthens Chamber in San Diego’s East County

BUSINESS NONPROFITS: Wilson Navigates COVID, Builds Membership and Reserves

When Rick Wilson started in the late spring of 2019 as president and CEO of the San Diego Regional East County Chamber of Commerce, his plan was to bring his decades of experience in the not-for-profit and business worlds in programming, marketing and social media to East County.

Rick Wilson
San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce

Wilson obviously couldn’t foresee COVID-19 or the challenges it would pose for the El Cajon-headquartered organization that looks out for more than 600 local businesses from Potrero to Lemon Grove.

But since taking over, the Imperial Beach native and graduate of UC Santa Barbara (B.A., anthropology) who later went on to get an MBA at National University, has helped the chamber to a 900% increase in reserve funds. The chamber has also seen a 20% increase in membership since the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his tenure, Wilson has become a driving force and consistent voice advocating for improving business opportunities, public policies and business resources throughout San Diego County, laser focused on the needs of East County businesses.

For his efforts, the San Diego Business Journal has honored the 52-year-old Wilson with the title of CEO of the Year in the Business Nonprofit category.

“After a short four years on the job and the 100-year pandemic in the middle of leading the chamber, Rick Wilson has accomplished a lot,” said Kyle Taylor, owner of MI-BOX Moving & Mobile Storage, who nominated Wilson. “The East County Chamber is more visible in the San Diego community, very active on social media, has more partnerships than before he started, is in the best financial state it has ever been in during the past 111 years and continues to be innovative.”

With a resume that includes six years as facility manager for the San Diego Chargers and 16 years leading the YMCA family in different managerial positions, Wilson came to his role with a busy resume.

Taylor said that behind Wilson’s efforts, the East County Chamber was the first chamber in North America to have a personal “robot assistant,” called TEMI.

“Rick continues to seek out partnership opportunities to help the entire business community throughout San Diego County,” he said. “His leadership is one that never rests on accomplishments but seeks more opportunities to help individual owners and leaders grow their business while working alongside local and state government.”

Wilson has been a part of every community he works in and that he lives in. Volunteering locally in Imperial Beach coaching youth sports, supporting local government and businesses, and volunteering at senior homes, Wilson deeply cares about all aspects of the entire community.

“In his years at the YMCA of San Diego County, he helped raise over $10 million in the community annual support campaign and assisted in raising over $10 million in capital,” Taylor said.

Wilson comes from a family with deep ties to San Diego institutions. After serving in the U.S. Navy, his father was a superintendent with Nielsen Construction. His mother was the longtime CEO for St. Paul’s Senior Homes and Services.

Wilson has served on myriad boards during his career, including the Old Mission Rotary, the East County Economic Development Council, East Region Adult Education, the Imperial Beach Little League and ASA Softball.

After the civil unrest, violence and burning of buildings in La Mesa in May 2020, Wilson helped lead the East County Chamber Foundation to create a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for the businesses that were affected by the riots.

“This GoFundMe account ended up raising more than $250,000 to give back to La Mesa business owners that suffered damage to their business during that terrible night,” Taylor said.

Married to Lena Wilson, the couple has two children. The family lives in Imperial Beach.


“This is nothing short of a complete honor. I was so honored just to be nominated with other amazing leaders in our community. I feel the SDBJ is the leading business publication in San Diego and very much appreciate our partnership. Over the past four years being the president and CEO for the San Diego Regional East County Chamber of Commerce, the board of directors, staff, volunteers, government and elected officials, other Chambers of Commerce as well as the entire East County community have supported the vision and the direction we are going as a chamber.

“Without all of that support, I would not be the CEO of the Year and we as a Chamber of Commerce would not be in the good position we are in now. Success is a team effort and I am very fortunate to have the support needed to continue our success in helping the entire business community. This award represents everyone’s efforts to make our community a better place to live, work and play!”


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