President & CEO

Melissa James

A community leader with a proven track record of building highly effective teams and coalitions, James brings a deep background in economic development, public policy, strategic communications and public relations. A Cal Poly graduate, James worked as a capitol director in the state legislature before returning to the Central Coast, where she’s been instrumental in shaping policy and advocacy for several leading organizations. She’s been named to the Pacific Coast Business Times’ Top 50 Women in Business and Top 40 Under 40 as well as the San Luis Obispo Tribune’s Top 20 Under 40.

Vice President / Strategy

Andrew Hackleman

A retired U.S Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, Hackleman has extensive experience planning and executing mission-critical initiatives. He led efforts to increase the region’s housing supply as executive director of the Home Builders Association of the Central Coast from 2017-2019. Before that he was a logistics and supply chain leader for the USAF, stationed at several bases and the Pentagon. He holds master’s degrees from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology. He is a native of Atascadero.

Andrew Hackleman
Communications Director

Sally Buffalo

Buffalo brings sharp communication skills honed over many years as a newsroom leader and journalist on the East and West Coasts. Since leaving the newsroom behind, she’s led the SLO Chamber’s highly popular Good Morning SLO program, devised content strategy for enterprise-level clients, ghostwritten for publications including Forbes and written about beer and wine on the Central Coast. She’s also an adjunct lecturer in journalism and public relations at Cal Poly and occasional freelance writer. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

Sally Buffalo
Special Advisor

Peter Schuerman

Schuerman brings extensive experience in innovation management, public-private partnerships and launching startups. He serves as the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research & Economic Development at UC Merced, where he founded the Office of Business Development, the Office of Research Development and the UC Merced Venture Lab. He has negotiated more than $70M in research partnerships between industry and academia, primarily at the Texas A&M University System, and founded the UC Berkeley Industry Alliances Office. He holds a doctorate from US Davis and is a USDA Postdoctoral Fellow.