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That’s What SHE Said: Richard Sax Doesn’t Mess Around

The rumors, events, people, and stories keeping the Mesa interesting
Visionary in the making learns from the man himself. Richard Sax shares his plans for Brown Field Airport, a project that will give our region a huge economic boost. | Photo by Amanda Caniglia

By Amanda Caniglia

Rumor has it…

I don’t know why people just come up and whisper little “miracles” in my ear but hey… I get the privilege of passing them on to you. Wasn’t jokin’ when I told you last week TSRI is kickin’ some major scientific ass! Get ready for some groundbreaking news. What was just a rumor a day ago is now legit. TSRI Scientists have found a way to make leukemia cells kill each other. Not only is this huge in terms of a valuable therapeutic strategy, but these peeps have discovered that longer exposures to the antibodies and certain other “lab-dish conditions” has transformed the cells into sort of natural killer cells. Natural killers a good thing? Yes! This is huge people. Check it: 1. This means little to no modification of the cells 2. Reduced side effects, and the hope that fratricidal therapies would be way more tolerable than the current cancer treatments such as chemo 3. Could entirely wipe out the cancer altogether. Raise your hand if you think it’s awesome being surrounded by such world-class brainiacs like Dr. Richard A. Lerner and his team at TSRI. Can I get an “Amen?”

Just Mesa’n around…

Was any one else holding on for dear life to that random person next to them on their first flight into Lindbergh airport? For years we have been trying to find a solution to our rinky dinky single runway squeezed between coast highway and the bay. In an unforgettable panel, influential former CEO Peter Farrell argued that our lack of international flights due to the single runway is a major deterrent in attracting outside foreign investment and larger companies to plant their headquarters here in San Diego. While this problem remains an enigma, two local airports have been designated as “reliever” airports. The first is Palomar in North County, the second Brown Field down in Otay Mesa. And one Mr. Sax just happens to have the recipe for success for both.

So the story began with a single jet ride compliments of Agile Jet from Palomar up to Santa Monica for drinks (and training, scouts honor). Just a few weeks later, it was the serendipitous meet up with Premier Jet owners Richard and Bettie Sax while touring the White House on the SD Chamber trip in DC. And now back to Premier Jet with owner Richard Sax. Richard took time Monday morning from his busy schedule to share his business model that has proven a huge success at the Palomar Airport. He also shared his vision and plans for his latest development project, the Brown Field Airport.

Touring Premier Jet with my mom and six-year-old Leo in tow, Richard pointed out some key features that set his company apart from the rest. First, one has to notice when they walk up to the building that it is stunning. The floor to ceiling glass walls reflects the gorgeous sky and clouds on the outside while keeping the building bright and airy indoors.

Richard is a visionary who has changed the aviation industry. He realized that no one wanted to park their glamorous jet in a dilapidated hangar straight out of a 1950s movie set. More importantly, Sax realized that if he wanted to house these company and private jets in his hangars, he was going to have to bring the business owners to his building. Connecting the dots, Sax decided that he needed to make use of his buildings and redeveloped the property, creating a business environment equipped with offices, conference rooms, and other amenities. (Mom’s personal favorite, the spa. Leo’s holding out for a playground.)

It gets better. Sax has 60,000 square feet of Class A office space available at Premier Jet. The offices are pristine and come with the option to buy. Sax has “condominium-ized” his property. Businesses can own office space and their hangar. Pure genius. With this strategy, he’s able to snag those people and companies that own jets by a. attracting them with the option to own their property, b. providing office space next to their jet, and c. offering up a stunning building decorated with beautiful artwork hand picked by owners Richard and Bettie themselves.

For those of us who don’t yet own a jet, Sax has also figured out that small businesses and start-ups need space to launch and grow. A company can start out renting a small office, add a second or third and then eventually move into a bigger office space. He has created a model in which smaller companies can incubate and then grow within the building. All conference rooms are an additional amenity and shared space. It’s first come, first serve. Everyday I am asked about office space on the Mesa from a customer who is launching their small business. Sax has got the right formula in North County.

Jet setters who park their G6 at Premier Jet are well taken care of. Someone’s there to take your bags to your flight, fresh cookies are baked and waiting for you and your family in the lounge… But here’s what I really like about Sax. He also takes care of the pilots. Usually overlooked at your average airport, there is a huge bathroom with a shower. There is also a private lounge with massage chairs and rooms for them to take a nap when needed. Another sign this man takes care of his employees, tenants and guests… he knew his custodian by name.

What I am really supposed to be writing about is Sax’s redevelopment of the Brown Field Airport in Otay Mesa. Beating out 7 others to win the RFP, Sax sunk one million dollars into the plans. One million dollars for plans! Someone asked why in the world he spent that much. Sax’s reply, “Why pay half a million and come in second?” True dat. When Sax redevelops a property, he goes big. Get this. Homeboy and his partner, real estate tycoon and philanthropist Sam Belzberg from Vancouver, who recently stepped into the project, have spent an additional 18 million dollars on entitlements.

The project will break ground in the summer of 2016 and the plans are phenomenal. Four story office spaces with all glass walls overlooking two runways, the larger runway spanning 8,000 feet. Hangars will no longer have roll up doors but all glass walls that open like a garage, maintaining the beauty of the four story glass structures. The new airport will boast a hotel, retail space and restaurants. There will be an industrial park and even 65 acres of solar panels. This clean and renewable energy will go into the SDG&E grid and is enough to run 2,000 homes. Mr. Sax doesn’t mess around.

This project will create 4,000 permanent jobs and 8,000 temporary construction jobs. Sax is bringing true economic development to our region. It’s expected 25% of his office space will be occupied by businesses from across the border. In fact, there is such demand for the industrial park that those plans have now been bumped up to first phase construction. Sax has 20 years to complete the project but is confident he will complete it in 10. I admire his ambition. It was a very worthwhile trip to learn more about this project that will clearly be an economic driver in South County. It was also a fantastic opportunity for my son to witness another great example of a local entrepreneur who believes deeply in their vision. Let’s see if Leo let’s up on his vision and gets his proposed children’s playground in the plans.

Upcoming Events (I’ll be at the fun table…)

  • Thomas Piketty: Capital in the Twenty-First Century
    The brilliant UCSD Helen Edison Lecture Series is back! This time they bring us economist Thomas Picketty who will discuss his bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Income equality… can we solve this please? Peter Gourevitch, founding Dean of UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy will MC.
    Oct 22, 7 p.m., Mandeville Auditorium

  • Up There: A Discussion on the Latest in Cloud Innovation and Services
    Got a burning question or two about data storage? Seems a hot topic these days for universities, hospitals and even scientists. Come learn the latest architecture behind the cloud. Top founders of Unitas Global and top execs from Alert Logic are flying in to answer your questions. These companies play in the big leagues with clients like Microsoft, Cisco, Openstack, Citrix, Equinix, Dell, TMobile, Fandango…
    Oct 23, 3-5 p.m., Sanford Consortium

  • Bruce Gorder UCSD 5K walk for Melanoma
    Family and friends will come together for this year’s 22nd annual Bruce Gorder UCSD 5K walk for Melanoma. To date this walk has raised more than $1.3 million towards melanoma research at the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. It is also a true testament to how our community can unite to create awareness and
    promote research.
    Oct 24, 8-11 a.m., UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center

  • Building a Multi-Billion Dollar Company in San Diego
    SDVG’s event description reads, “Unicorns on paper are nice. But billion dollar exits from San Diego are real.” Hilarious! This event will feature the wisdom and insight of Faheem Hasnain. Hansmaim is current President, CEO and director of Receptos, Inc. Past positions also included President, CEO and Director of PDL BioPharma. He is also chairman of the board of Ambit BioSciences and many other scientific names I can’t pronounce. Bottom line… dude knows his stuff, so if you are looking to build a multi-billion, not million-dollar company, he’s your man.
    Oct 28, 5-8:30 p.m., San Diego Venture Group



That’s What SHE Said: Richard Sax Doesn’t Mess Around

Visionary in the making learns from the man himself. Richard Sax shares his plans for Brown Field Airport, a project that will give our region a huge economic boost. | Photo by Amanda Caniglia

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