How long have you lived in Cincinnati?
All my life.
What's your day job?
I’m the founder of the Coalition for Sustainable Communities, a nonprofit development corporation which invests in development projects that are sustainable for both the community and the environment. I’m also an attorney with the law firm of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings.
What work or projects do you tackle after the workday ends?
I’m involved with several community organizations, including the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, Cincinnatians For Progress and Agenda 360.
Where are your favorite places to hang out in the city?
I love to eat, and in particular I love rich ethnic foods. So I will often eat out at Teak or Ambar. I also enjoy the restaurant/lounge scene in Over-the-Rhine.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced here?
I believe the biggest challenge I have faced is trying to convince the leaders and the Cincinnati community in general that we need to be forward-looking and expand beyond the parochial and myopic views that divide us.
Cincinnati is a great city and I believe we can compete with any city in the world, but we must realize that the competition is not the East side versus the West side, or Northern Kentucky versus Cincinnati. Instead, we are competing on a global scale, and we need to do everything possible to recruit and retain young talent.
According to the report done by Agenda 360, between 2009 and 2010 our region lost 20,000 young professionals (i.e. professionals between the ages of 25-34). We must reverse this trend, and this can only happen if the community, business leaders and political leaders develop a plan to invest in our future.
What’s the biggest opportunity?
Cincinnati has many great assets that can help it grow and attract talent, including several Fortune 500 companies, two mega research institutions of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the University of Cincinnati, and a central downtown that is being developed. There are significant opportunities for growth if UC, Children’s, CincyTech and other corporate partners in the area can develop an eco-system to support moving research to commercialization and provide more seed funding and support for new startups.
What could be done to improve opportunities for young African Americans in Cincinnati?
Institutions including the City of Cincinnati, UC, Children’s and the corporate community should do more to provide mentorship and opportunities to emerging minority businesses. As mentioned above, we need to develop an eco-system to support new and emerging businesses to create more local jobs and retain young talent. Part of the process for the eco-system must include a concerted effort to increase the number of African American and minority businesses in the region.