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Episode Info:

Entertainment and hospitality is one of the top 10 industries in San Diego.

Because hotels play such a big role in our region, their owners have some political power.

In a new episode of I Made It in San Diego, a VOSD podcast about the people behind the region’s businesses, I talk to hotelier Elvin Lai about how running a hotel has led to his involvement in several business ventures, city politics and the community.

After his father’s death, Lai was unexpectedly handed his family’s hotel when he was just 21. During the first few months of running Ocean Park Inn, a 72-room boutique hotel in Pacific Beach, he slept under his desk while he learned the ropes.

He turned out to be an astute businessman. But running a hotel was never enough for Lai. He’s become a serial entrepreneur and an active community member. Currently, he’s a member of a few hotel trade associations, he’s on the San Diego Convention Center board, and he helps run a program addressing homelessness in Pacific Beach.

“If the community is not succeeding and thriving, then there’s no business to be had,” Lai said. “You have a responsibility to the community that you’re doing business in.”

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