Board president, Northwest Side Community Development Corp. and partner, Real Estate, Development & Construction, Husch Blackwell
NWSCDC: 4201 N. 27th St., 7th floor
Industry: Community organizing and economic development
Family: Husband, Jason; three sons, Sam (7), Max (5) and Benjamin (5)
What was the smartest thing the Northwest Side Community Development Corp. did in the past year?
“We recently became part of a Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development (Authority) loan guaranty program that will enable the NWSCDC to increase our level of catalytic lending on the northwest side. Through this partnership, NWSCDC supports qualifying loans it makes in the community with an 80 percent guaranty from WHEDA.”
Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments within your organization in the next year?
“We just created and filled a CFO position, which is a huge step for the NWSCDC. We are of a size now, and our lending and funding sources have reached a level of complexity, where outsourcing our accounting was making less and less sense. Bringing these functions in-house equips us to think more strategically about how our finances impact our programs and vice versa.”
Do you have a business mantra?
“It all comes back to client service.”
What are the main challenges facing NWSCDC in the next year?
“We have been serving the northwest side of Milwaukee for over 30 years and know better than most the needs of these communities. Those needs were brought to the attention of a much larger audience when violence broke out in Sherman Park this past August. Our challenge is what it has always been – to harness the strengths of Sherman Park and the neighborhoods like it across the northwest side of Milwaukee, and to add to those strengths the resources, creativity and commitment of the larger Milwaukee community, all with the goal of making these neighborhoods desired places to live and work.”
What was the best advice you ever received?
“It’s a bit trite, but I go back to this in one form or another often: Accept the things you can’t change and change the things you can’t accept. Seek wisdom to know the difference between the two.”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“Exploring new places with my husband and three young boys; reading Harry Potter with my seven-year-old; serving as judge for my kids’ three-way races, wrestling contests and best joke competitions; and spending time outdoors with friends and family.”
What is your favorite thing about working in Milwaukee with the NWSCDC?
“My work with the NWSCDC has given me a glimpse into a part of the city that is primed for the time, attention and resources of the larger community and I have a deeper connection with Milwaukee for it. I am grateful for that.”
Since becoming board president, what’s new at NWSCDC?
“We are undergoing an exciting strategic planning process that is asking big questions about what the NWSCDC is now that maybe it wasn’t 20 or even 10 years ago. We have always had our focus on catalytic lending and job creation on the northwest side, but as manager of three Neighborhood Strategic Planning areas in the city, our daily work is as much about fundamental community organizing and empowering and connecting local neighborhood organizations, as it is making loans to manufacturing companies to help bring jobs to the area. We are working to strengthen the connection between our lending and our community programs, thereby increasing the impact of each.”
What’s the hottest trend in economic development and how do you see NWSCDC fitting within those trends?
“I think one of the top trends in economic development is creative use of public/private partnerships. NWSCDC has long been a promoter of these partnerships. For example, we were a critical partner in the Villard Square Library project, which brought together the Milwaukee Public Library and a private developer to create a multi-use, state-of-the-art facility with a library on the first floor and apartment housing for grandfamilies on the upper floors. We have worked closely with (Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District) and other partners to address issues of flooding on the northwest side and create green infrastructure that will benefit the residents in our communities. We have taken on the housing crisis on the northwest side by using public and private funds to purchase boarded up foreclosures that promote crime and bring down home values, rehab those properties and sell them to owner occupants in the community. Public/private partnerships are one of the more powerful tools we have in the work of community economic development.”
From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?
“I’ve always admired people who have managed to seamlessly and successfully combine a corporate career with their outside passions. These people don’t wait to come alive when they leave the office; their lives are not compartmentalized into things they want to do and things they have to do. Certainly that is the example I have tried to follow while pursuing my career. My work with NWSCDC is an extension of my work as a real estate finance attorney with a focus on community economic development. I am a better leader at the NWSCDC because of my legal work, and I am a better lawyer because of my work with the NWSCDC. I’m passionate about both.”