Director of Community Economic Development
Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative
Marie Barry is the Director of
Community Economic Development at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative where she leads RWHC’s efforts to
utilize one of rural communities’ greatest assets – their hospitals – as a driver of economic development.
Barry previously worked for two senators in the Wisconsin legislature and successfully shepherded bipartisan
bills from drafting to being signed into law, including during split party control of the legislative and
executive branch. She has an undergraduate degree from UW-Madison and a graduate degree in Community and
Economic Development from Pennsylvania State University.
President & CEO
WRTP | Big Step
Lindsay Blumer is the
President & CEO at WRTP | BIG STEP, a workforce intermediary based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that connects
traditionally disenfranchised people to quality career opportunities. Blumer has over 20 years’ experience
in executive leadership, strategic planning, entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and innovation.
Previously, Blumer has served as a community fellow with the United Way of America, in state government
advising and developing advocacy strategies and policy, as Assistant Dean at Ripon College, as the executive
director of a domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organization, and in developing
entrepreneurial pathways for Marquette University students.
Grand Victoria Foundation
Sharon Bush is the President of
Grand Victoria Foundation and is only the second person to lead the Foundation in its 20-year history. Bush
is a recognized leader who strongly values the economic and social contributions of the nonprofit sector.
Throughout her career she has worked to ensure that the sector is strong, equitable, sustainable, and highly
capable of serving individuals and families throughout the Chicago region. She has launched, led, and
participated in innovative collaborations that have resulted in thousands of people securing employment and
millions of dollars to support the regional workforce system.
Illinois Housing Development Authority
Kristin Faust was appointed
Executive Director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority in November 2019. As the state’s chief
housing official, she leads IHDA’s wide-ranging efforts to finance the creation and preservation of
affordable housing throughout Illinois. She has held senior leadership positions in the public, private and
nonprofit sectors for 30+ years, previously serving as President of Neighborhood Housing Services of
Chicago, Chief Credit Officer at Partners for the Common Good, and President of the Enterprise Community
Loan Fund. She earned a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Harvard University and a
bachelor’s degree from Brown University.
Purdue Center for Regional Development
West Lafayette, IN
Roberto Gallardo is
Director of the Purdue Center for Regional Development. Gallardo has worked with rural communities over the
past seventeen years conducting local & regional community economic development. He has authored articles
and reports on rural trends, industrial clusters, the digital divide, and leveraging broadband applications
for community economic development. He is the author of “Responsive Countryside: The Digital Age & Rural
Communities”, which highlights a 21st century community development model that helps rural communities
transition to and prosper in the digital age. He holds a master's in economic development and a Ph.D. in
Public Policy and Administration.
Fort Wayne Housing Authority
Fort Wayne, IN
George Guy is the Executive
Director and CEO of the Fort Wayne (IN) Housing Authority. He has spent over 25 years helping build
communities, and has been involved in mixed-finance, multi-family and permanent supportive housing
developments in Indiana and Illinois. He has expanded affordable housing for veterans, youth aging out of
foster care, and other vulnerable community members. Guy serves on the boards of the National Association of
Housing and Redevelopment Officials; the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis Affordable Housing Advisory
Council; the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association; the Fort Wayne Urban League; and United Way
of Allen County.
President and CEO
Metropolitan Planning Council
Darlene Oliver Hightower,
J.D., is President and CEO of Metropolitan Planning Council, an independent nonpartisan regional planning
organization. Throughout her career, Hightower has been a tireless advocate for equity. Previously, she
served as Vice President, Community Health Equity at Rush University Medical Center. Hightower also led the
development of West Side United, a cross-sector, collaborative aimed at improving health and economic
vitality on Chicago’s West Side. In recognition of her leadership in health equity throughout the COVID-19
pandemic, Hightower was named as a U.S. News and World Report Health Care Hero in 2020.
Community Relations-Social Development Commission
Public Policy Director
Community Development Advocates of Detroit
Ruth Johnson is the Public
Policy Director at Community Development Associates of Detroit. Johnson has a long track record of working
with underserved communities, including people with disabilities, and people with language and literacy
differences. As part of her work, she connects nonprofit groups and for-profit enterprises to local, state
and national partners. Johnson draws on her experience practicing law for twelve years, serving in several
nonprofit executive positions, operating her own consulting business, and volunteering in schools, in her
community and in her church.
Vice President of
Economic Development Programs
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Seung Kim is Senior Vice President
at LISC and leads the National Programs unit including Health, Economic Development, Child Care & Early
Learning, Safety & Justice and Sports & Recreation. She guides these programs in delivering technical and
financial resources, thought leadership, program innovation and scaling, and external partnerships with an
aim to enhance LISC’s impact in communities.
Senior Vice President
Community Economic Development Market Manager, Fifth Third Bank
Robert (Rob) V. McGhee serves
as Senior Vice President, Community & Economic Development Market Manager, for Fifth Third Bank. He leads
the Bank’s Community Economic Development program for the Chicago region and oversees the Bank’s regional
compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act. McGhee has nearly three decades of community development and
banking experience, with prior leadership roles with U.S Bank and Citigroup. He is a board of Neighborhood
Housing Services of Chicago, and an active member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. McGhee received a B.A. from
the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
General Counsel and Director of
Iowa League of Cities
West Des Moines, IA
Robert Palmer is General
Counsel and Director of Government Affairs for the Iowa League of Cities, a statewide association
representing more than 870 cities in Iowa. In his free time Palmer is President of the West Des Moines
Community Foundation, Chair of the Drake College of Arts & Sciences National Advisory Council, and a board
member of the Drake Law School Alumni Engagement Board, the Iowa Society of Association Executives, and the
Iowa Board of Physical and Occupational Therapy. He lives in West Des Moines with his wife and three boys.
President and CEO
Edgar Ramirez is the President
and CEO of Chicago Commons. A community organizer in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, Ramirez led
significant campaigns at Enlace Chicago and Erie Neighborhood House. Ramirez serves on the boards of Elevate
Energy, Social Current, and the Latino Policy Forum and Mayor Lightfoot’s Every Child Ready to Learn and
ad-hoc committees for reopening early education centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ramirez is a
Leadership Greater Chicago fellow (2016), has a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University, a master’s degree
in Policy Analysis and Community Organizing from the University of Chicago, and a certificate from Harvard