Econ Dev 40 Under 40 Winners: Where are they now?

October 03, 2022
Close-up of person handing and receiving a glass award.

The Economic Development 40 Under 40 Awards, co-hosted by Development Counsellors International (DCI) and Jorgenson Consulting, are just around the corner.

As we prepare to celebrate a new class of young leaders who are making a big difference in their organizations and communities, we wanted to take some time to catch up with a few of our previous 40 Under 40 recipients. These past winners are still doing important work for the industry and have a few tips for up-and-coming superstars.

Nathan Ohle | President and CEO, International Economic Development Council
2017 40 Under 40 Winner

What Nathan has been up to:

  • It has certainly been a whirlwind, and an amazing last five years. After leaving EDA, I took over as CEO of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, a national network of non-profit partners working with rural and tribal communities in every state and territory across the United States. We worked to build capacity in some of the smallest, most distressed areas of the country, with a focus on economic development and entrepreneurship, access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater, and disaster recovery.
  • I am now leading the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) as its President & CEO. As the world’s largest economic development membership association, we are helping to lead important conversations and drive change in the economic development field that will lead to more equitable economic outcomes across the world. An incredible organization with a critical mission, the IEDC was an opportunity I could not pass up.

Nathan’s advice for rising stars:

  • Always be building relationships. When I was in college, networking was simply handing out as many business cards as you could and trying to build a network that way. What I have found throughout my career is that so many people are willing to lend a hand, give advice or just listen as you explore your career and start to better understand what you are looking for.
  • Do not be scared to reach out and ask for 30 minutes of someone’s time, most will respond, and if you use that time to get to know them, truly start to build a relationship, and not expect anything other than that relationship, it will lead to so much more. Be sure to stay in touch with people, drop them a quick note, and always be building relationships, no matter how big or small, as they lead to big things later.

Cathy Chambers | Economic Development Director, Florida Power and Light Company
2013 40 Under 40 Winner

What Cathy has been up to:

  • A lot has happened in the last 10 years! In 2019, I transitioned from 20 years in regional economic development to the utility world. I now have the privilege to lead one of the top utility economic development organizations in the country. The FPL economic development team is doing amazing work to grow Florida’s economy.

Cathy’s advice for rising stars:

  • Be sure to say yes to opportunities that scare you.
  • Diversify your economic development skills by taking on new responsibilities and trying out different roles.
  • Commit to lifelong learning and follow your curiosity to chart your own path. A career in economic development has endless possibilities.
  • Make new relationships wherever you go.

Marvin J. Price | Executive Vice President at Greensboro Chamber of Commerce
2019 and 2021 40 Under 40 Winner

What Marvin has been up to:

  • Since winning the 40 Under 40 Award, things have been extremely busy. The community I serve has landed over seven announcements totaling more than $4.5 billion in capital investment and over 4,800 new jobs (Toyota Battery Manufacturing, BOOM Super Sonic, P&G and RPM Woods). We are currently in the process of completing a new strategic plan that will guide us through the next five years of prosperity.

Marvin’s advice for rising stars:

  • My advice to any rising superstar in economic development is to fall in love with the process. Nothing in economic development comes fast. Always remember that this profession is a marathon, not a sprint.

Jennifer Wakefield | President and CEO at Greater Richmond Partnership
2015 40 Under 40 Winner

What Jennifer has been up to…

  • Launched major branding campaign that significantly enhanced perceptions of my community as a business location, increasing leads by 50 percent and bringing organization to its highest funding in history. Served on management team and helped manage merger of former organization. Recruited to the #2 position in another organization, later selected as President and CEO. Won two of the largest projects ever in our history – LEGO and CoStar – and finished the best year in 20 years of our organization.

Jennifer’s advice for rising stars:

  • Learn everything you can from everyone you can.
  • Be kind to everyone but realize not everyone will be kind back.
  • Learn about 990s.
  • Study other industries, not just EDOs or other communities.

Daniel Silverman | Vice President, Foreign Direct Investment at Investissement Québec
2019 and 2021 40 Under 40 Winner

What Daniel has been up to:

  • Launched a Battery Strategy for the province which led to major project announcements with BASF, GM, Posco, Vale and Lightening Energy, representing billions of dollars in capital expenditure. We also won a major vaccine manufacturing facility with Moderna earlier this year.

Daniel’s advice for rising stars:

  • Build your network of economic developers and consultants to find a handful of mentors. The ED community is welcoming, open and full of knowledge. It’s important to have these connections to be able to bounce ideas off of, as well as help with professional development.

Steve Fritsch | Vice President of Industry Advancement and Engagement, Team Neo
2013 40 Under 40 Winner

What Steve has been up to:

  • A few significant accomplishments over the past 10 years would include standing up a network engagement system towards greater collaboration and interdependence among economic development partners across our 18-county region; leading an inclusive, research-driven regional brand building process while honoring the uniqueness of the communities that call Northeast Ohio home; and being part of a small team that developed the Vibrant Economy Index – a tool that helps us measure our performance across a number of variables in talent, equity, innovation and resilience.
  • A final personal win is the journey I’ve been on to better understand how systemic racism contributes to economic disparity and regional advancement; I’ve been fortunate to have many community leaders and peers support my personal growth and understanding, and give me the confidence to challenge myself to find ways to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in everything I set out to do. This is where I believe the global leadership within economic development must focus its efforts on in the foreseeable future.

Steve’s advice for rising stars:

  • Forever strive for self-awareness and understand those things that are most important to you and drive your everyday life.
  • View every mistake as a learning opportunity and consider any feedback as a gift. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you won’t know until you try, and you may not see what others see. Courage and vulnerability are so hard, but also tremendous attributes of leadership.
  • When it comes to leading, always seek to understand what success means to those on your teams. As a leader, your number one job is to equip your team with the tools they need to be successful. Thrive and look forward!

Tim Mroz | Senior Vice President, Community Development, The Right Place, Inc.
2015 40 Under 40 Winner

What Tim has been up to:

  • Since being named a 40 Under 40 winner in 2015, Tim has continued his work with The Right Place, Inc. in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Tim led and managed the application, review and distribution of over $15 million in emergency small business grants to nearly 1,700 regional businesses. Tim also helped the organization win a $3.6 million ARPA Placemaking grant award, providing funding for nine public placemaking projects in four counties totaling over $10 million in public placemaking investment.

Tim’s advice for rising stars:

  • Rip the career path blinders off … TODAY. You are a much more valuable and marketable resource if you have a varied background.
  • Say “yes!” Boss wants you to do something you have no idea what to do? Say yes. Asked to lead a project no one else wants to lead? Say yes.
  • Relationships are EVERYTHING. You can’t take on the transformational with transactional relationships. Build trust and friendships. Help others when you can. Those relationships will take you farther than any “best practice.”

Danielle Casey | President and CEO, Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance
2017 40 Under 40 Winner

What Danielle has been up to:

  • It has been wild! Since 2017, I took a role for two years at the Greater Sacramento Economic Council as the Executive Vice President working with the fantastic Barry Broome. I learned so much that I was prepared to take the helm of the Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance as President & CEO in 2020.

Danielle’s advice for rising stars:

  • Never be afraid to tackle the next big role or to step into a leadership position. Have confidence in yourself. Tap into your network for guidance and support.

Juan Pablo Alcantar | Senior Policy Advisor at Tuxpan Economic Development Council
2021 40 Under 40 Winner

What Juan Pablo has been up to:

  • My team and I secured an industrial warehousing investment (spec building) that should break ground by the end of the year.
  • I have presented on economic development topics at numerous conferences around the world from Argentina to France.
  • I trained ED practitioners, EDOs and IPAs in Colombia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Australia, France and Africa, and was also admitted as a member of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations.

Juan Pablo’s advice for rising stars:

  • You have to invest heavily in yourself and consistently outperform to earn the right to change your community and surroundings. Success is a byproduct of consistency and how you spend your time. Enjoy the process but never fail to prepare and improve. We work to make sure our communities are better prepared than yesterday, the same applies to ourselves. Reward and fulfillment require sacrifices, but it should never cost you your health and well-being. You need to be healthy and have peace of mind to perform better in the long run. Enjoy yourself!! This profession is awesome.

Crystal Stiles | Executive Director, Development of Distributed Technologies and Mobility
2017 40 Under 40 Winner

What Crystal has been up to:

  • In 2019, I was promoted to Senior Director, Economic Development and asked to lead a project that eventually established 35 Mules, FPL’s in-house innovation hub that cultivates startups within our Juno Beach-based headquarters. In 2022, I was asked to lead a team focused on developing holistic solutions that encourage Floridians to drive electric – including building Florida’s largest public electric vehicle charging network, which is still closely linked to economic development and growing a state ready to accommodate EV technology.

Crystal’s advice for rising stars:

  • Economic development is not one-size-fits-all. The most successful economic developer leverages previous experience with creative approaches that demonstrate a deep understanding of what a community needs and wants its future state to look like. The best textbook solution, no matter how well planned and executed, will never work if community leadership isn’t supportive.

Gilberto Salinas | Executive Director, Kerr Economic Development Corp. | Founder of EcoDevo Concepts Consulting
2013 40 Under 40 Winner

What Gilberto has been up to:

  • It’s been almost 10 years since my 40 Under 40 award and since then, I’ve worked on everything from helping an entrepreneur grow their business from their garage to several multi-billion dollar deals. In Brownsville, Texas we landed what is now called the South Texas Launch at Starbase; a SpaceX rocket manufacturing and launching operation of Elon Musk. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to negotiate the ‘deal of a lifetime’ with Musk as we met on several occasions while recruiting his project to the Brownsville-Boca Chica Beach area.
  • In my current role as head of economic development in Kerrville, Texas we also worked on a major project recruiting several suppliers for the manufacturing of Air Force One by Boeing. I’ve been appointed to numerous boards by Gov. Gregg Abbott in the fields of economic development as well as aerospace, aviation and space. I’ve also founded EcoDevo Consultants, an economic development consulting business, and Four Green Houses, a real estate business. And lastly, I continue to be involved in television and films as I’m usually cast to play ‘bad guy’ roles in productions such as From Dusk till Dawn, Alita Battle Angel, Texas Walker Ranger and Queen of the South. But the most fun I had was playing a Walker (or zombie) in Fear the Walking Dead. How cool is that?

Gilberto’s advice for rising stars:

  • The secret to success is that there is no secret. You just have to work your tail off.

Nominations for the 2023 40 Under 40 Awards close on October 19, 2022. If you know a young leader changing the face of the economic development industry, fill out a form here to nominate them today. We’ll be celebrating all the winners at the upcoming IEDC Leadership Summit in Tucson, Ariz. on January 29-31.