City Club of Chicago: IMPACT 2022 – Economic Trends and Opportunities from Invest Southwest – North Lawndale | Radio WGN 720


April 25, 2022

IMPACT 2022 – Economic Trends and Opportunities from Invest Southwest – North Lawndale
moderated by Dr. Teresa Córdova
Rodney Brown, Brenda Palms Barber, Richard Townsell, Debra Wesley

Description of the City Club event:

The Invest Southwest initiative shines a light on communities with a history of divestment and poverty and provides new opportunities for economic development west of Chicago. A UIC Great Cities Institute report commissioned by Lawndale Christian Development Corp. examines trends in potential growth and the economic needs of North Lawndale residents – who wins, who loses, who can stay and who leaves.

This panel will explore the impact of gentrification and displacement with the potential benefits to residents of the existing community.


Rodney Brown

Rodney Brown is the Executive Director and CEO of the New Covenant Community Development Corporation (NCCDC). With over 30 years of business experience and a long track record of strategic oversight and tactical support as a board member of several not-for-profit organizations, Rodney Brown is a change agent. established, globally minded, but locally focused.

Currently, he is Chairman of the Board of Kids Above All. In this role, he provides governance and has developed an evidence-based program model designed to help young adults enter college. He is also a co-founder of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council (NLCCC) where he is a member of the executive committee and chair of the economic development committee. Rodney is the Executive Director of the North Lawndale Chamber of Commerce.

Teresa Cordova

Teresa Córdova is director of the Great Cities Institute (GCI) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is also a professor of urban planning and policy at the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs (CUPPA). Professor Córdova obtained her doctorate. in sociology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1986.

Dr. Córdova serves on the Cook County Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) and the Cook County Small Business Advisory Committee. She served as chair of the Chicago Plan Commission from 2018 to 2022 and served on Governor JB Pritzker’s Transitional Committee on Job Creation and Economic Opportunity. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Illinois Humanities Council and the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) of Kennedy-King College. She is associate editor for Economic Development Quarterly and serves on the first editorial board of Local Development and Society. She is an Affiliate Professor in the Sociology Departments of UIC; Gender and Women’s Studies; and Latin American Studies. She is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Institute for the Study of Race and Public Policy Research (IRRPP) at UIC.

Barber Brenda Palms

Brenda Palms Barber, CEO of the North Lawndale Employment Network, an urban workforce development agency, and founding social entrepreneur and CEO of Sweet Beginnings, LLC, a social enterprise using urban beekeeping to create jobs for people facing significant barriers to employment, has served as President and CEO of NLEN since its founding in 1999. She launched NLEN’s wholly-owned subsidiary social enterprise, Sweet Beginnings, in 2004 to s to ensure its hardest-to-employ clients can secure jobs and gain work experience. Under Brenda’s leadership, NLEN has grown from two to 61 employees and generates an annual budget of over $5.5 million. Today, NLEN serves nearly 2,000 people a year.

Brenda is a graduate of Harvard’s Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management program and the Chicago Urban League’s nextOne entrepreneurship program, which included coursework at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She holds a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from the Spertus Institute in Chicago.

Richard Townsell

Richard Townsell is a Chicago (North Lawndale) native and thought leader in the field of community development. During his more than 20 year career in community development, Richard has developed nearly 500 units of residential and commercial properties (which totaled over $100 million in total development cost) and helped design plans comprehensive communities for affordable housing, education and economic development initiatives.

Richard is the Managing Director of the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation. Richard has taught community development courses at Northwestern University’s Asset-Based Community Development Institute as well as Chicago Rehab Network’s Urban Developer’s Institute. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University in Mathematics Education and a Master of Science degree from Spertus College in Nonprofit Management. Richard has received numerous awards for his work, including the Fellow of the Year Award at Leadership Greater Chicago’s 20th Anniversary and the Leadership for a Changing World Award from the Ford Foundation.

Debra Wesley

Debra G. Wesley is the founding president of the Sinai Community Institute established in 1993. Ms. Wesley also serves as executive vice president of Community Outreach on behalf of the Sinai Health System. The Sinai Community Institute is a health system-based health and human services organization that has impacted more than 565,000 people through its more than 70 programs since its inception. She is a social entrepreneur, leader and community builder.

Ms. Wesley, an MSc-trained social worker, has a deep understanding and appreciation of “community” at the micro and macro levels. As a 4th generation “preacher’s daughter” and a resident of Chicago’s West Side as a child, she can feel the pride and pain of neighborhoods facing social, economic and environmental challenges that impact her condition. of general well-being.

Ms. Wesley has developed innovative community programs that have received national recognition. These programs have helped to: Develop the potential of children and young people; Establish strong community partnerships; Support strong and healthy families; Improve community health outcomes; and Improve economic opportunities.

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