Jock O’Connell is widely regarded as one of California’s foremost authorities on world trade, global economic trends, and the internationalization of the Golden State’s economy.
The primary emphasis of Mr. O’Connell’s consulting work involves the logistics of foreign trade and, more specifically, the condition of California’s international trade infrastructure.
For the past several years, he has been the International Trade Advisor to Beacon Economics, a prominent consulting and economic forecasting firm with offices in Los Angeles and in the San Francisco Bay Area.
He has collaborated with several nationally prominent transportation planning firms, including Cambridge Systematics, TranSystems, and the Tioga Group. He is also a consultant to the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.
A former staff advisor to the California Commission for Economic Development and member of the California Economic Strategy Panel’s Technical Advisory Group, Mr. O’Connell also served as an advisor to the City of Sacramento’s Economic Development Department and Sacramento’s Trade and Education Office in Chongqing, China.
He has authored numerous commentaries on economic, political and trade issues for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee,Pacific Standard, the California Journal, and Salon. He has also been interviewed on NBC Nightly News, CNBC, National Public Radio, Al Jazeera America, and China Central TV America.
Mr. O’Connell has spoken before a diverse array of business organizations and other groups during his career. Among the more prominent audiences he has addressed have been: Russia’s Institute for USA and Canada Studies in Moscow; Japan’s Keidanren in Tokyo; the Confederation of British Industry in London; the Foreign Trade Association of Southern California in Los Angeles; and the Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco.
Mr. O’Connell has been a lecturer at the University of California at Davis and at California State University, Sacramento. Between 2005 and 2010, he held the position of International Trade and Economics Advisor at the University of California Center in Sacramento, where he lectured and organized workshops and seminars designed to keep California’s policymakers informed of the latest developments in world trade and their effect on California’s economy.
Mr. O’Connell served for two terms on the Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Intergovernmental Relations in Aviation. As a division of the National Research Council, the Transportation Research Board advises Congress, executive-branch federal agencies, the states, and other organizations on key transportation issues.
Mr. O’Connell grew up on the coast of Maine and was educated at Cheverus, a Jesuit preparatory school in Portland, before going on to receive his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He then moved west to pursue doctoral studies at the University of California at Davis. He has also studied at the Institut für Europäische Studien (University of Vienna) and at the London School of Economics, where he was a Fulbright Scholar.
Career History: Private Sector, 1989-Present
In January 1989, Mr. O’Connell established his own independent consultancy. Initially, the firm worked primarily with small and medium-sized foreign companies pursuing business opportunities in California and other states. The specific tasks involved were: market assessments, development of market entry strategies, identification of potential joint venture partners, site location analyses, as well as negotiations with state and local authorities. For several years, the firm also published a monthly newsletter, “The O’Connell Memorandum,” which monitored developments at the state capitol in Sacramento that were relevant to foreign business concerns.
In more recent years, Mr. O’Connell’s work has come to focus largely on logistical issues facing companies seeking to do business internationally. Recent clients include the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (for whom he has analyzed regional air cargo operations and rail traffic related international trade through the Port of Oakland) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. He was the principal co-author of “The Role of Air Cargo in California’s Agricultural Export Trade,” a May 2005 report which described both the state’s airborne farm exports and the air cargo industry in California. That was report was updated in 2007. A subsequent, related study for CDFA (“Taking the Fast Plane to China: An Expanded Role for Air Freight in Increasing California’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Exports,” April 2008))explored how air freight services can be optimally used to exploit growing markets for perishable, high value-added food products in China. Most recently, he was involved in the preparation of air cargo forecasts for San Francisco International and Miami International Airports as well as an update of the air freight segments of the California Department of Transportation’s statewide Goods Movement Action Plan.
Career History: Public Sector, 1974-1989
Mr. O’Connell’s experience in dealing with government agencies began when he joined the California Legislative Analyst’s Office in 1974-75 to document irregularities in community college financing. In 1977-78, he was a member of and eventually Acting Director of the Regulatory Review Task Force in the Department of Consumer Affairs. The task force conducted a critical assessment of state regulatory boards and bureaus.
In 1980, he joined the staff of then Assemblyman Mike Gage (D-Napa) as chief legislative aide. In November of that year, he accompanied Mr. Gage on a trip to China which featured a number of meetings at the direct behest of then Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. to facilitate commercial and cultural links between California and China.
In 1981-82, Mr. O’Connell was a senior staff member at the state Office of Economic Opportunity, where he authored OEO’s 1982 study, “Poverty in California.”
For several years beginning in the early 1980’s, Mr. O’Connell was directly involved in developing the State of California’s programs to promote exports and attract foreign direct investment. From 1983 through January 1989, he was the international business advisor to the Lieutenant Governor, Leo McCarthy, and to the California Commission for Economic Development. During that same period, he was also retained as a consultant on two major projects for the California State World Trade Commission. He also was asked to assist the Chair of the Assembly International Trade Committee in the preparation of trade legislation.
In addition to counseling many of the state’s political leaders on global economic trends and how they were affecting California, Mr. O’Connell authored “An International Trade Policy for California” in 1986 for the California Commission for Economic Development and co-authored “California’s Export Statistics,” a 1988 study for the California State World Trade Commission.
Mr. O’Connell also advised the U.S. Department of State and government officials from several of California’s principal trading partners on issues relating to the state’s controversial unitary method of taxing multinational corporations. On behalf of the Commission for Economic Development, he undertook briefing missions to the Far East and to Great Britain in 1985 to inform foreign government officials and business leaders on progress toward unitary tax reform. In a 1985 article, The Times of London identified Mr. O’Connell as “one of the state’s leading experts on the politics of the unitary tax.”
The son of a labor union leader, Mr. O’Connell was born in 1947 in Portland, Maine. He grew up in that city and attended public schools before graduating from Cheverus, the local Jesuit preparatory school. He is an avid sea-kayaker and an occasional book reviewer. He moved to California in 1970.