Raised in El Cajon, Cox Communications Senior Vice President/California Region Manager Sam Attisha knows San Diego and has strong connections to the area -- and keeping this area connected is a prime driver for him as he leads Cox Communications, one of the largest cable providers in the San Diego region.
Heavily involved in supporting diversity and inclusion, especially during COVID-19, Attisha has led Cox in focusing on what he calls bridging the digital divide. Making technology available to everyone is important to Attisha. With schools closed, he believes all students no matter where they live or their economic background need to stay connected. Attisha has been an active leader behind Cox Communications strong drive to bridge this digital divide developing its own programs and working with both school districts and non-profit organizations.
The San Diego Business Journal had a chance last week to discuss with Attisha his vision and how Cox is working to meet the needs of an increasingly digital economy and society.
You mentioned that Cox Communications is a different kind of company. How would you describe it?
Cox is a private family owned business led by the fourth generation of the Cox family whose values of running the business is grounded in our 120+ year history. We are committed to taking care of our employees, serving our customers, and improving the quality of life in the communities we serve; not just today, but for generations to come. Companies and leaders talk about their “why,” ours is simple and powerful for me, “empowering people today to build a better future for the next generation.”
What attracted you to join Cox Communications?
Hands down - the people. Our teams are focused on supporting each other, delighting our customers, and investing in the communities we live in. Their hard work, creativity, resiliency, and positivity are second to none.
Cox has worked to bridge the digital divide during COVID-19. How and what did Cox specifically do?
Over the past decade, Cox has invested $15B nationwide in our network. That investment is enabling us to keep our customers and our region connected during this critical time as so many of us work and learn from home. We are committed to enabling educational success for all students in our region through this pandemic. Since 2012, Cox Communications has partnered with San Diego Unified and all our school districts in San Diego to bridge the digital divide through Cox’s Connect2Compete (C2C) program.
C2C brings low-cost broadband internet service to K-12 families that receive free and reduced school lunch – or participate in other food and housing assistance programs. Qualifying families receive broadband internet for $9.95 a month and in-home wifi, enabling multiple students and family members in a household to have access to fast, reliable internet to complete homework assignments – and connect with their teachers and classmates. No contracts, no rental fees, and no installation fees.
In March, Cox announced that we were providing free internet service for families that signed up for Connect2Compete from March 13 through May 15 all the while doubling internet speeds from 25 Mbps to 50 Mbps and providing phone and remote desktop technical support. It was our way of helping students without internet at home get connected to continue learning remotely. As the pandemic continues, we extended this offer to run through July 15.
What other ways has Cox served the region during COVID-19?
We looked holistically at how our organization and its many facets could provide far reaching support to the community. In the wake of COVID-19 Cox reassessed our philanthropic community giving to ensure we are giving where our communities need it most. We know how important food security is and we have donated more than $100,000 to food organizations throughout California to support our communities. We have been working to help meet PPE and other health related needs in our communities as well with meaningful contributions to non-profit health systems to support community health. And, of course, we have been investing heavily in efforts to bridge the digital divide. To that end in May we awarded $250,000 to Computers 2 Kids, San Diego to help them refurbish and distribute 20,000 devices this year to low-income students and families. We provided David’s Harp in downtown San Diego’s East Village a $62K grant for at risk and homeless students’ access to high-speed internet, academic accountability, and arts programs while social distancing in the 2020/21 school year.
Also to help our local economy, Cox Media, the advertising sales division of Cox Communications, ran free television advertising to bring public awareness for more than 200 San Diego restaurants that remained open and ready to serve.
On top of those efforts, we’ve donated nearly $1 million in PSA airtime to San Diego organizations in the last 90 days.
Our local employees also wanted to give back and many are participating in what we call “One Call a Day,” an initiative where they are matched with older adults affiliated with local veterans’ groups and senior facilities. Together they participate in a daily touch base call to curb the effects of social isolation for the seniors, a particularly vulnerable population during COVID-19. Our employee funded foundation, Cox Charities, also funded a grant to the COVID-19 Community Response Fund managed by the San Diego Foundation. We are thinking creatively and working with our community partners to discover their needs and to help address them.
Cox has started a new solar project with EDF Renewables, what does this mean for Cox and the San Diego community?
EDF Renewables will design and build an integrated 360 kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic and 560 kW / 1,360 kilowatt hour (kWh) onsite behind-the-meter battery storage solution at the primary Cox Communications’ corporate office in San Diego, located at 5159 Federal Blvd. The installation marks the first solar plus storage project in the country for Cox Communications.
The carport and roof-top solar installation combined are projected to offset over 374 tons of carbon each year, contributing to the more than 567,000 tons of CO2 offset by Cox Enterprises since 2007 as a part of the Cox Conserves program. Offsetting over 374 tons is equivalent to taking about 121 cars off the road each year or powering 93 homes.
This solar project will generate almost 20% of the building energy usage and moves us closer to Cox Enterprise’s goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2024 and to being carbon and water neutral by 2044.
Solar reduces utility costs by reducing energy consumption while the battery storage shifts the solar generation into the evening on-peak period of expensive power. The storage system will also be used to mitigate spikes in usage thereby lowering utility demand charges.
The project is in design and permitting phase with an estimated completion date at the end of Q4 of 2020 (November/December).
Cox Enterprises has invested more than $100M on conservation and sustainability projects with more than $18M in Cox Communications California operations alone.
How important is sustainability and positive environmental change to Cox?
It’s central to how we run our business. In fact, Cox Enterprises launched Cox Conserves more than a decade ago with a clear vision: to drive positive environmental change inside our organization, among our stakeholders and within the communities we serve. The Cox Conserves initiative is linked to ambitious goals to improve our operations: Zero Waste to Landfill by 2024 and Carbon and Water Neutral by 2044. We are well on our way to achieve our goals with the investments we are making in our employees, operations, facilities and improving the way we operate.
What do you think other companies could learn from Cox and its new solar strategy?
We have a goal of being carbon neutral by 2044 and with that we want to utilize clean technology to get us there in addition to conservation projects. Solar is not new to Cox, we have been doing solar projects for over a decade and have installed over 15 MW of onsite solar projects across the US. Other companies can learn from Cox by establishing environmental goals to benchmark and track progress, implementing conservation projects and deploying clean technology to help reduce the environmental impact.
As a leader, what are three things you feel are critical for business leaders to embrace as we adapt to this “new normal?”
Avoid snap backs of returning to old ways of doing business, embrace the speed and innovation of working remotely and trying new things. More than 800 of our California employees transitioned to work from home in a very short period and they have not missed a beat in serving our customers while the other 900 continue to work outside operating and maintaining our network and serving our customers in their homes, businesses, and in our retail stores.
Second, “tele-life” is here to stay and grow. We have hired and on-boarded employees virtually and it’s only going to increase more as we drive deeper digital capabilities to manage and operate our business in a touchless/self-service way and to enable other businesses to do the same. So work, learn, healthcare, and recreation from home is here to stay!
Lastly and more importantly, focus on your number one asset – your employees. Now more than ever – we must take care of our people and culture. This includes everything from work-life balance, general wellness, inclusion, diversity and equity, career development, and more. Cox is a special place because of our employees, and they are all going through a lot right now. We need to continue to support and empower them so they can thrive in this “new normal,” or as some of my colleagues have been calling it, “BA NEW” instead of BAU (Business As Usual). This pandemic is changing our lives and the world around us and we will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever by reimagining our businesses and our personal success.
What do you think makes San Diego a great place for business?
San Diego boasts incredible cultural diversity, world class educational institutions including top ranked universities, a strong bi-national economy, a strong military presence as well as natural beauty and enviable weather, all of which make it an attractive place to do business. But what makes San Diego particularly alluring for business might just be the availability of state-of-the-art infrastructure that’s so necessary for business to thrive in this ever increasingly virtual, remote, and data-heavy environment. A good example of that is Cox Business, for decades we’ve been building a robust network here that allows businesses of today meet the demands of tomorrow.
As senior vice president and region manager for Cox Communications in California, Sam Attisha is responsible for leading employees and overseeing day-to-day operations in Orange County, Palos Verdes, San Diego and Santa Barbara. Attisha is also a member of Cox Communications’ National Diversity Council, which focuses on supporting diversity and inclusion within the company and in the community. Attisha has been in his current role since July 2016. Prior to that, he served as vice president of business development and public affairs for Cox California. He joined Cox in 2007 as the vice president of business development and public affairs for San Diego, facilitating new business partnerships and providing leadership and strategic direction to the government, community, media, and public relations functions in San Diego. In 2011, he became vice president of business development and public affairs for California, assuming statewide responsibilities. Attisha currently serves on the board of directors for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, where he is also part of the management council and was the immediate past chair. He is also on the board of directors and executive committee for California Cable & Telecommunications Association. In addition, Attisha is a board member of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and serves on the Corporate Council for Make-A-Wish San Diego.
Attisha grew up in El Cajon. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of San Diego, and an MBA from California State University, Sacramento. He and his wife, Shereen, have three sons.