SeaWorld San Diego President John Reilly (center) with Megan Lin Blair and Derek Danziger.
SeaWorld San Diego President John Reilly (center) with Megan Lim Blair of the San Diego Public Library Foundation and Derek Danziger of Nuffer Smith Tucker Public Relations. Photo by Chris Jennewein

SeaWorld San Diego‘s importance to the local business community was underscored Thursday night as the theme park’s president was installed as chairman of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s an honor to represent the business community as the chamber’s new board chairman. We have an opportunity to make a big impact in establishing a business-friendly climate and bringing more jobs to the region,” said John Reilly.

He didn’t speak about SeaWorld’s well-known battles with PETA, but joked that under the circumstances he was looking forward to his role in the chamber.

Reilly was installed at the chamber’s 145th annual meeting, which took place at the Manchester Grand Hyatt before a crowd of nearly 1,200. Mayor Kevin Faulconer spoke briefly at the event, and officially installed the chamber’s 2016 board of directors.

The new board chair’s first role was to recognize five individual and businesses that made a difference over the past year:

  • The Cravory cookie bakery received the “Small Business of the Year” award.
  • Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits was named the “Business of the Year” award for helping to put the San Diego craft brewing industry on the map with the company’s $1 billion buyout.
  • Kyocera International received the “Binational Business of the Year” award for pioneering a “borderless” business strategy.
  • Dr. Constance Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, took home the “Moving San Diego Forward” award for transforming the district’s colleges with $1.6 billion in new construction and increased levels of student success.
  • Nikki Clay, founder of The Clay Company, received the “Herb Klein Spirit of San Diego” award for her commitment to San Diego’s civic organizations and community causes.

Among the chamber’s goals for 2016 are a comprehensive regional jobs strategy, the new freight inspection facility at Otay Mesa, affordable housing for veterans, and supporting business-friendly policies and candidates.

The chamber is the largest on the West Coast, representing approximately 2,500 businesses and an estimated 300,000 jobs.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.