Strengthening a Competitive Advantage Panel:

Jon Barr
Varda Space Industries

Jon Barr is the COO of Varda Space Industries. As part of the founding team, he helped design, build, test, and fly their first vehicle, which was launched in June, 2023. Varda specializes in building spacecraft capable of manufacturing materials that can only be created in zero-gravity orbit. Varda’s spacecraft includes a small reentry vehicle capable of sending these materials back to Earth for distribution or sale. Varda is just the third commercial company to put a reentry vehicle in orbit, behind only SpaceX and Boeing.

Prior to helping found Varda, Barr was the Head of Avionics at ABL Space Systems. Previously, he served as the Avionics Manager at SpaceX, where he worked on the Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Starship launch vehicles. Barr was the lead electrical designer for the Falcon 9 reentry system, allowing for reusable launch vehicles. He holds a BSE and an MSE in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Michigan.

Jose Martinez

Dr. Jennifer Brodmann
Faculty Researcher
CSUDH South Bay Economics Institute

Dr. Jennifer Brodmann is an assistant professor of finance at California State University Dominguez Hills. She graduated from the University of New Orleans with her Ph.D. and M.S. in Financial Economics. Her research focuses on corporate and entrepreneurial finance. Dr. Brodmann has presented her research at several conferences, including the Eastern Finance Association, Southwestern Finance Association, Academy of Financial Services, Academy of Economics and Finance, and the Gulf Research Council. Dr. Brodmann’s research is published in several peer-reviewed journals, including the International Review of Economics and Finance, Journal of Economics and Business, International Journal of Bank Marketing, Journal of Business Accounting and Finance Perspectives, Journal of Economic Cooperation and Development, and Borsa Istanbul Review.

Dr. Brodmann has multiple years of experience teaching and mentoring students. She has served as a mentor for the CSUDH Innovation Incubator, faculty mentor for the South Bay Economics Forecast Student Research Competition, and a research mentor to undergraduate students for the Privateer Undergraduate Research and Scholarly UNO Experience (PURSUE) program. Her students and mentees have published their work with her in peer-reviewed journals and presented their research at the South Bay Economic Forecast, Academy of Economics and Finance, CSUDH Student Research Day, and Innovate UNO, an annual student research conference at the University of New Orleans.

Gene Eidelman
Azure Printed Homes

As co-founder of Azure Printed Homes, Gene Eidelman is helping to fundamentally change the construction industry as we know it. Azure’s 3D-printed homes, constructed with recycled polymers, can be built 70 percent faster and 30 percent less expensively than current construction methods—with positive environmental impact. Launched in March 2022, Azure has raised over $1.3 million from investors excited by its vision and potential.

Eidelman immigrated to Los Angeles from Ukraine. His humanitarian efforts include helping resettle 6,000 refugees from the former Soviet Union, for which he was recognized with an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show. He also served on boards of numerous non-profit educational organizations in the United States, India, and the UK.

Eidelman holds an MBA from Pepperdine University and is working towards a PhD in sustainable construction. He has three adult sons and enjoys hiking, downhill skiing, and playing and watching soccer.

Dr. Fynnwin Prager
CSUDH South Bay Economics Institute

Fynnwin Prager, Ph.D., is co-director of the Economics Institute at CSU Dominguez Hills, College of Business Administration and Public Policy. Previously, he was a postdoctoral research associate at USC’s Price School of Public Policy and Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), and he remains affiliated with the center.

He received his Ph.D. in policy, planning, and development from the Price School. His research has focused on the policy and economics of disasters, particularly environmental and terrorism policy, and the impacts to regional economies and transportation systems. Dr. Prager’s dissertation focused on climate policy, and used Computable General Equilibrium modeling to analyze the economic and distributional impacts of US federal emissions trading policy. He has also worked on similar assessments of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) and co-founded Carbon Retirement, an innovative London-based carbon offsets company.

Dr. Jose Martinez
CSUDH South Bay Economics Institute

Jose Martinez, Ph.D., received his bachelor's degree in economics from California State University, San Marcos and his master's and Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, San Diego. He is currently teaching microeconomics and macroeconomic principles and international business in the Accounting, Finance, and Economics Department at CSUDH. His research interests are labor economics, applied micro, migration, crime, and time series econometrics. Dr. Martinez also is co-director of the CSUDH Economics Institute.

Al Savage
Manager, StarFire Network
John Deere

Al Savage manages John Deere’s StarFire Network, the company’s global satellite-based augmentation system. Through the use of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, the StarFire Network enables customers to meet their global accuracy needs by delivering highly reliable GNSS corrections to all of the company’s precision agricultural equipment. In his role as manager, Savage supports the planning and implementation of new products and signals, while also providing technical leadership and counsel for his team. Savage has more than 20 years of experience in the GNSS and aerospace defense manufacturing industries with companies such as Boeing, Hamilton Sundstrand, and Magellan Navigation. Savage earned his bachelor’s degree in Automated Manufacturing technology from ITT Technical Institute and his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

Shokouh Shafiei
DSA Signage

Shokouh Shafiei is the President and CEO of DSA Signage, a company with more than 45 years of experience creating illuminated signage solutions. The company’s expert engineers and fabricators craft LED light boxes and digital display systems, specializing in large-scale, custom projects.

Shafiei is a seasoned executive with 20 years of diverse leadership experience in heavy industrial manufacturing. Prior to joining DSA Signage, she held various leadership roles at Cummins Inc., a $38 billion global manufacturing leader and Fortune 200 company, serving at multiple locations domestically and internationally.

She holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Ohio State University and was among the pioneers in electrical and fully autonomous vehicle research. Shafiei also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. She believes leaders must have a positive impact on the communities they operate in and demonstrates these values by supporting disadvantaged neighborhoods and schools, local food banks, and serving on LGBTQ Youth organizations.

Emcee & Moderator

Frank Mottek
Mottek on Money
KABC 790

Frank Mottek is the voice of business news in Los Angeles. An award-winning broadcast journalist with more than 25 years of experience, Mottek is the senior money anchor at KNX 1070 Newsradio and provides listeners with “Your Money” reports weekdays at 20 and 50 past each hour between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m.

On Saturdays at 11 a.m., he hosts “Mottek on Money,” the number one source for business and consumer news in Southern California.