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WBC On the Table: Inclusive Economic Growth – What Does it Mean, How Does it Happen

WBC On the Table: Inclusive Economic Growth – What Does it Mean, How Does it Happen

Jimmy Odom joins WBC as the first Director of Inclusive Entrepreneurship

WBC recently hosted an On the Table discussion with directors of local economic development organizations on inclusive economic growth and how to place intentional focus on the most marginalized people, places, and businesses. The intent was for World Business Chicago to listen and heed the feedback from local organizations that have already been advocating for and working toward fostering inclusive economic growth.

Jimmy Odom, Credit: Anna Knot

While listening is critical, and a natural first step, WBC is being intentional about implementing strategies for inclusive growth throughout all of its programs. A key milestone, WBC announced this month that Jimmy Odom will serve as ChicagoNEXT’s first Director of Inclusive Entrepreneurship. Additionally, WBC named 13 new civic and business leaders to the ChicagoNEXT Inclusive Entrepreneurship Leadership Council (ChicagoNEXT IE Council), initially focusing on the Blackstone Challenge, a three-year pilot program announced earlier this year to drive inclusive entrepreneurship.

During his first week at WBC, Odom was a part of the On the Table discussion. Other discussion participants included:

  • Abraham Lacy, Executive Director, Far South Community Development Center
  • Angelica Marks, Vice President, Chicago Neighborhoods Initiative
  • Grace Garcia, Executive Vice-President, Calumet Area Industrial Commission
  • Hedy Ratner, Co-founder, Women’s Business Development Center
  • Jim Terman, Consultant, Terman Communications
  • Katya Nuques, Executive Director, Enlace
  • Rhonda McFarland, Executive Director, Quad Communities Development Corporation
  • Roberto Escalante, Chief Operating Officer, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Zena Naiditch, President & CEO, Equip for Equality


  • Myrna Farmer, Administrative Chief of Staff, Executive Office
  • Nitika Nautiyal, Executive Director, Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE)
  • Sean Anderson, Communications Specialist
  • Shumeca Pickett, Director of Civic Partnerships
  • Valerie Egon, Manager of Research
  • Yolanda Richards-Albert, Manager of Business Development

The group shared economic development successes, and discussed economic challenges and opportunities that they see throughout Chicago’s neighborhoods. The platform provided an opportunity for connection, collaboration and sharing among the various organizations.

The ChicagoNEXT Inclusive Entrepreneurship Leadership Council is one step in WBC’s efforts to drive inclusive growth. The council will share best practices and networking opportunities with the Blackstone Challenge participants (the first group will be announced later this spring). Leadership council members include:

  • Andrea Zopp, Deputy Mayor & Chief Neighborhood Development Officer for the City of Chicago, ex officio member
  • Mark Tebbe, Chairman of ChicagoNEXT
  • Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation
  • Laura Ferris Anderson, Managing Director of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • Shelley Stern Grach, Director of Civic Engagement for Microsoft Corporation
  • William Heard, CEO & CIO of Heard Capital LLC
  • Adolfo Hernandez, Director of Community Health for JB & MK Pritzker Family Foundation
  • Israel Idonije, Founder of iF Charities
  • Nichole Pinkard, Founder of Digital Youth Network, Associate Professor at DePaul University
  • Neal Sales-Griffin, CEO of CodeNow
  • Charles Smith, President & CEO of CS Insurance Strategies Inc.
  • Susana Vasquez, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for IFF
  • Alex Washington, Managing Director of Wind Point Partners

“I joined the ChicagoNEXT team because I view this as a real opportunity to support underserved communities,” Jimmy Odom said. “Inclusive economic growth must be intentional, and I’m excited to manage a program that supports and amplifies organizations that serve marginalized entrepreneurs throughout Chicago.”

Odom most recently served as the Acting Assistant Director for the Department of Central Management Services of the State of Illinois. Prior to that, he served as the Senior Advisor for Minority Business Development at the Illinois Department of Commerce, working with minority communities throughout the state to help create, develop and grow entrepreneurs. Before joining the State of Illinois, Odom founded WeDeliver Inc., the largest hyper-local logistics service in Chicago. He is a celebrated leader in the entrepreneurial community, and his recognitions include the IBM’s North America’s Most Innovative Company Mentor Award, the Chicago Urban League Innovator Award, Crain’s Business Chicago’s 50 Most Influential People list, and the Moxie Award for Best Founder(s) in Chicago.

In the coming months, WBC will be engaging hyperlocal economic development offices throughout the city to identify new inclusive economic growth stakeholders and connect them to each other to amplify and support their work.

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