Today’s social media world brought me a dozen congratulations in early February from LinkedIn colleagues on my 12th anniversary as CEO of the Local Economic & Employment Development [LEED] Council. What I have not yet posted is that I am moving on.
June this year will be the 40th anniversary of my community development career. After volunteering as a grad student, I joined Gale Cincotta in a Division street store front as she launched what became a national movement for community reinvestment. In 1984, I became CEO of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO] with the opportunity to implement neighborhood lending agreements negotiated with First Chicago (now Chase), Harris Bank and The Northern Trust as Harold Washington became Mayor.
During my 17+ CANDO years, I had the privilege to work with LEED Council and support their innovative efforts, such as establishing Planned Manufacturing Districts [PMDs]. Many of today’s shoppers may not appreciate that the thriving Clybourn retail district owes its origins to being designated as an intentional retail buffer between the residential area to the east and the industry along the banks of the Chicago River as Chicago’s first PMD in 1988. Nor would Goose Island be the future home for Chicago’s Digital Lab for Manufacturing, if it had not been zoned as a PMD in 1991.
Because of the respect I had for all that LEED Council had accomplished, it was an easy decision as well as a challenging opportunity to join the LEED team in 2002 and rebuild it as a delegate agency of Chicago’s Department of Planning & Development. What attracted me the most was its nexus of business and workforce development. Many organizations do one or the other but only a few strive to do both.
As I like to joke, all I wanted for LEED Council’s 30th anniversary in 2012 was a new logo but we also got a new name. It was a good process and a constructive one for our board of directors. I love the new logo. I embraced the new name because I remembered that Mayor Washington’s message was Chicago Works Together and that is equally important today as it was then.
So North Branch Works will be forging a new strategic plan. We have had several key themes during my tenure:
· A Force for Balanced Development;
· Advancing Economic Opportunities;
· Connecting Industry & Community; and
· most recently, Leveraging Business Growth for Local Jobs.
I have always regarded my career not as a series of jobs but as a vocation. Today, even more than when I was that grad student, our economy is not equal for all.
This past August, I spent my vacation reading Joseph Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future. Many of his points resonated with me. At the core, our current dilemma begs action:
“Unemployment – the inability of the market to generate jobs for so many citizens – is the worst failure of the market, the greatest source of inefficiency, and a major cause of inequality.”
If you are interested in more of Stiglitz’s insights, I wrote a book review for SHELTERFORCE, the community development trade magazine: http://www.shelterforce.org/article/3528/price_of_inequality/
This vacation reading accentuated other opportunities to pursue my vocation for a just economy. I value the lessons that I have learned over these dozen years. There are economic and employment strategies that can be replicated for the benefit of other communities.
So while I’m moving on, I wish you all the best as you continue to LEED On.