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Young Economic Development Professional of the Year

The Young Economic Development Professional of the Year award recognizes outstanding achievements by young, emerging leaders in the economic development profession.


Jonathan Ferry

Jon has been working in the economic development field for over 14 years and currently serves as the Financial Analyst and Major Projects Manager for St. Louis, MO. In his time with St. Louis, Jon has been focused on improving the process of evaluating incentive use and reforming incentive policy for the City. Prior to that, he was the Economic Development Director for Granite City, IL for nine years, which he started after graduating from Southern Illinois University with a Master’s degree in Economics & Finance.

He lives in St. Louis with his wife, Ann-Marie, and their three daughters, Adelina (7), Felicity (5) and Eliana (1). His favorite activities include reading, spending time with his wife and kids, investing and playing competitive games with friends. The one thing he can’t live without is grace/forgiveness and he completely agrees with Hal David and Burt Bacharach that what the world needs now is love.

Honors & Awards: 40 Rising Stars Under 40 in Economic Development (DCI, 2017); Outstanding Plan Implementation (St. Louis APA, 2016); Outstanding Development of the Year (SW IL Dev Authority, 2009); 40 Under 40 for Madison & St. Clair Counties, (Suburban Journals, 2008); James A. Yates Jr. Award in Economics (SIUE, 2006)

Publications: Granite City Economic Development Strategic Action Plan

Sam Blatt, CEcD

Sam Blatt is an Economic Development Director for the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, serving in that role since August 2019. In his role as Director in the Economic Development Department, Sam is focused on increasing quality jobs and investment in Miami-Dade County through business attraction, retention, and expansion efforts. Prior to his tenure at the Beacon Council, Sam was the Economic Development Manager for the City of North Miami, Florida. As a leading millennial economic development professional, Sam is focused on adapting the economic development field to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.

Volunteer Work

Sam is an active member of United Way of Miami-Dade, the County’s largest charity organization. He serves on its Public Policy Committee to promote United Way’s policy priorities at the Local, State and Federal levels. Additionally, Sam is a member of the Young Leaders Executive Committee, the leadership arm of United Way of Miami-Dade’s Young Leaders, a group focused on engaging Miami’s under 40 professionals in the charity’s good works.

Awards & Recognition

Sam has received numerous recognitions for his work in the economic development field. In 2019, he won the International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) Young Economic Development Professional of the Year award. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recognized Sam as the Small Business Advocate of the Year for the entire State of Florida, as well as the South Florida region in 2018.


Sam earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Indiana University, and is expected to complete an MBA from Johnson & Wales University in December of 2019. In 2018, Sam earned the designation of Certified Economic Developer (CEcD), the professional designation for economic developers. At the time of his certification, Sam was the youngest person to have ever earn the CEcD designation.


Jamie Brätt, AICP, LEED AP

Jamie Brätt, AICP, LEED AP, serves the City of Hartford as Acting Deputy Director of Development Services, guiding a team of over 40 employees focused on cultivating and sustaining safe, beautiful buildings in vibrant and connected neighborhoods. She plays a key role in most of the commercial development projects throughout Connecticut’s capital city, from maker spaces and medical campuses to boutique apartments and brownfield redevelopments. Jamie is also entrusted with the city’s stake in high-profile tenant recruitment efforts.

With over a decade of experience in the field, Jamie was most recently the Director of Economic & Community Development of Trumbull, CT, and previously worked for a Washington, D.C.-based business improvement district and for a boutique commercial real estate development firm. She studied economics at Trinity College and urban planning at Virginia Tech. Jamie serves on the boards of directors of the Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS) and the Hartford/East Hartford Innovation Hub. She also teaches at the University of Hartford graduate architecture program. In her free time, Jamie especially enjoys hiking, horseback riding and sampling small batch ice cream.



Alejandra Guzman-Barraza

Alejandra is an expert in social responsibility, community development, and new business development. She has developed her work experience mostly in the private sector where her main focus has been to create and analyze inter-sectorial partnership programs combining non government organizations (NGO), government agencies, and private sector companies focused on solving community and economic development challenges in Mexico and abroad. In 2016 she began targeting her efforts to the +350,000 members of the Greater New Orleans Community whom she serves daily through the New Orleans Business Alliance. Alejandra remains connected to the Latin community via the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and also by writing a bi-weekly column at Meridiano 90 which is a New Orleans online and printed newspaper with 5,000 weekly printed copies in Spanish.She is an active member of strategic organizations such as The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana (HCCL) and The Urban Land Institute (ULI). She is also the Board Chair for Fund17, an organization helping micro-entrepreneurs in New Orleans and serves on the Board of Directors for USGBC Louisiana.

Matt Lewis

Matt Lewis implements regional economic development strategies at GREATER MSP, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership. As Director of Make It. MSP., Matt leads the region’s cross-sector initiative to better retain and attract professional talent to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region. The effort is fueled by the collective impact of leaders at 100+ institutions throughout MSP including Fortune 500 corporations, local governments, foundations, and community organizations. A former journalist, Matt earned his MBA from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and his Master’s in Public Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs prior to joining GREATER MSP. He has worked and consulted for Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, and political campaigns and served in leadership positions on civic boards including Conservation Minnesota. Matt lives in Minneapolis with his wife Whitney Place.corn chips), logistics/distribution, financial services, headquarters, biosciences and IT.



Gordon Knowles, CEcD, EcD

Gord Knowles has served as Atikokan Economic Development Corporation’s (AEDC) Community Development Advisor since 2010. His portfolio includes client coaching, loan disbursal and compliance, community economic development, tourism projects, delivery of employment programs and community outreach to not-for-profit organizations.

Mr. Knowles holds a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton University and a Certificate in Economic Development from the University of Waterloo, as well as CEcD and Ec.D economic development accreditations. He also holds accreditation as an APEC Certified Business Counsellor and certification through the Community Futures Leadership Institute as both a Business Analyst and Community Economic Development Coordinator.

Gord sits on the Economic Developers Council of Ontario’s (EDCO) Board of Directors, and now chairs their professional development committee. He is also chair of the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporation’s (OACFDC) youth committee and is a Member Emeritus of the Atikokan Not-For-Profit Day Care Corporation, after serving for six years as treasurer. He is a steering committee member of the Heart of the Continent Partnership and liaises their project coordinator, and locally serves with parent councils at both the Atikokan High School and St. Patrick’s School. In 2015 Gord created Tourism Atikokan, in collaboration with the municipality and Tourism Northern Ontario.

Gord was named the EDCO Young Professional Influencer of the Year in 2015, and with the AEDC has received two OACFDC Awards of Excellence and an EDCO Marketing Award for Regionalism and Cross-Border Collaboration. His days are spent with his wife Arlene and their children Samantha, Matthew, and Alexander.

John Weidl

John S. Weidl is a public-sector leader with experience developing teams and projects throughout the United States, Europe, and Middle East. Prior to his role in Mukwonago, WI, he served as the City Administrator in Princeton, WI, as a Leadership Director for the YMCA, and is a Veteran of the United States Air Force. In 2004, Weidl volunteered to forward-deploy to Balad, Iraq as a gunner and convoy mechanic with the United States Army (yes Army) during Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning the US Army Commendation, National Defense, Global War on Terror, and Iraq Campaign Medals for his wartime service.

Weidl obtained his B.A. in history and political science from Northern Illinois University (NIU) in 2009, graduating cum laude, with honors and as the Dean’s Award Recipient, earning recognition for his work in the Model U.N. (Outstanding Delegate Award, NIU, 2008), English Composition (Maude Uhland Award, NIU, 2005), and as the NIU’s student-representative to West Point’s Conference on United States Affairs. He also served as the President of the Political Science Student Advisory Committee. Weidl received his Master’s degree from NIU, earning the Graduate Internship of the Month in 2010 and Graduate Internship of the Year Award in 2011.

Weidl states that his role on the team typically involves balancing long-term and short-term expectations, implementing strategy, managing the competing interests of stakeholders, delegating authority wisely, forging a culture of empowerment, and developing future leaders from within the organization.

Weidl enjoys boating, cycling, movies, golfing, camp fires, hot dogs, and public service.



Peter Tokar III, MBA

Peter Tokar III is the Economic Development Director for the City of Alpharetta, one of Georgia’s prominent cities in North Fulton County dubbed “The Technology City of the South”. He began his work in Economic Development in 2006 after completing his Master’s degree at the Huizenga School of Business & Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. His natural leadership, aptitude and work ethic has catapulted him into leadership positions within the industry early on in his career. Currently in economic development, he has led local, regional and state level economic development organizations with success and prosperity.

Peter’s versatile and diversified background sets him apart from other economic development professionals. Having earned a Bachelor’s in graphic arts from Liberty University, he has been able to serve as both the creative mind as well as the business mind behind his projects and initiatives. This creative thinking led him to develop such programs as the first ever business assistance television series which begins broadcast in the South Florida Area in October of 2012. He has managed not only financial incentives plans for recruitment projects, but complete marketing and branding campaigns, print and web designs and business and strategic plan development.

Since 2006, Peter has been leading economic development projects resulting in over 4,000,000 square feet of new business space, close to $3 Billion in capital investment, job creation of over 3500 new jobs and job retention of over 7000 jobs. Together with Alpharetta City and Elected leadership, he is leading recruitment, retention and expansion initiatives for the city which include the $600M Avalon development, Alpharetta City Center development, President of the Alpharetta Technology Commission, Alpharetta Development Authority and building the city’s award winning ED website, GrowAlpharetta.com.

Peter also enjoys a background in community involvement and leadership, having served as a volunteer to community organizations, chambers of commerce, and professional development organizations.


Jonathan Bittner

Vice President
Anchorage Economic Development Corporation
Anchorage, AK



Rodrick T. Miller

Rodrick Miller is a results-oriented leader with nearly 10 years of experience in economic development, strategic planning, trade and foreign investment, and project finance. He is respected for his success in leading and structuring large development projects and corporate relocations. His skills as a negotiator, policy expert, and corporate strategist have been honed in over 10 countries.

Miller is the founding president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), the official economic development organization responsible for ensuring the long-term economic vitality and driving job growth for the City of New Orleans. As the chief economist and thought leader on economic recovery, Miller has focused the organization’s efforts on lowering barriers to entry in the marketplace, increasing transparency, and developing strategies for urban economic growth. Results in his first 18 months in office include state legislation allowing for benefit corporations, a policy framework to guide the use of tax incentives in economic development, and the attraction of more than $120 Million in new investment through proactive attraction and expansion of corporate projects in the New Orleans market. In June of 2013, NOLABA launched ProsperityNOLA, the first ever economic development plan for the city of New Orleans. Miller led his team in crafting this 5 year plan with a keen eye on ensuring the plan would benefit all citizens of New Orleans and generated incredible support from private and government sectors and throughout the community. ProsperityNOLA is fast becoming a model economic development plan for other cities and regions.

Previously, Miller served as the Executive Vice President of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber where he managed day-to-day operations, developed strategic initiatives, and helped deliver on the firm’s $20M capital campaign. Under his leadership, the Baton Rouge market was ranked the Number 1 Mid-Market for Deals in 2010 by Site Selection Magazine.

Before moving to Louisiana, Miller was Vice President of International Economic Development for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) where he managed international development activities which included foreign direct investment attraction and increasing the region’s international competitiveness. He crafted the Arizona Global Network, a statewide collaboration of economic development organizations responsible for marketing the state globally. He also headed the Strategy Practice where he developed the organization’s action plan which resulted in delivery of nearly 10,000 jobs in just 2 years. Before GPEC, Rod held several positions in the public and private sectors.

Miller holds a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Science degree in international business from St. Augustine’s College. He also gained a Graduate Diploma in Finance from the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM) in Mexico while completing a Fulbright Fellowship. Miller is an intellectually curious professional whose interests lie at the intersection of economic development, international commerce, innovation, and community action. A scholar practitioner, he is a sought after lecturer and contributes to various publications. He enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with his son. Miller is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese.



Juan Pablo Diaz, CEcD

Pablo Diaz is the Executive Director of the Grenada Economic Development District (the EDD) in Grenada, Mississippi, where he works to increase job creation and investment through retention and expansion, recruitment, and entrepreneurship-based programs.

Diaz has extensive experience working for local and regional economic development organizations and started his career as a graduate assistant for the Center for Economic & Community Development at the University of Southern Mississippi. He later served as Economic Development Specialist with the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation and as a Business Recruitment and Retention Manager with the Business Development Board of Martin County in Florida. In 2009, Diaz became the Executive Director of the Grenada EDD. Since then his team has announced 11 expansion and retention projects with an associated job creation of over 500 direct and indirect jobs in a community of less than 22,000 people.

Diaz developed and implemented a retention and expansion program named by Blane Canada, LTD as one of the top 10 programs in the U.S. and Canada in 2006, and he became a Certified Economic Developer by the International Economic Development Council in 2008 at the age of 28. His work over the past few years has gained recognition, including the 2010 IEDC Excellence in Economic Development Award in the categories of Economic Development Website and Internet and New Media, the 2010 Community Development Award from the Mississippi Economic Development Council, and the 2011 IEDC Excellence in Economic Development Award in the category of Retention and Expansion. Diaz has also been invited as a speaker at the Delta Regional Authority Annual Leadership Conference, the 8th International Economic Gardening Conference, the International City/County Management Association, and the New South Basic Economic Development Course.

Diaz holds an undergraduate degree in Accounting from the University of Yucatan, a Master’s degree in Economic Development from the University of Southern Mississippi, and he is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute by the University of Oklahoma.

Diaz lives in Grenada with his wife, Amber, and their daughters, Maya and Ella.



Stephen Thompson, MAES, Ec.D.(F)

Stephen Thompson is the General Manager & Director of Economic Development, Tourism & Marketing for the City of Port Colborne. Since arriving in Port Colborne in 2007, Stephen has worked to develop a number of new initiatives to assist in Port Colborne’s economic future including business attraction, retention, marketing and tourism destination development programs. He also led the development of Port Colborne’s Competitive Analysis and its first Economic Development Strategy and Action Plan.

Under his leadership, the Corporation has secured more than $1.25-million in external funding. Recently Stephen managed the $350,000 restoration of historic Humberstone Hall to establish a new visitor information centre and a new partnership with the Port Colborne-Wainfleet Chamber of Commerce.

Stephen's career in economic development began in 1997 when he was hired to work in the planning and development department at the Region of Ottawa-Carleton. Stephen also has experience operating a small business, and working in local, regional and provincial levels of government in both planning and economic development. Stephen is a graduate of the University of Waterloo and has degrees in Environmental Studies /Geography and a Masters degree in Local Economic Development.

In addition to his duties with the City, he is also General Manager of Port Colborne Economic & Tourism Development Corporation. As well, Stephen serves on the board of directors of the Port-Colborne-Wainfleet Chamber of Commerce and Ontario Agrifood Technologies (OAFT) and a number of committees including the University of Waterloo's Economic Development Program committee – and is an active member of the Economic Developers Association of Canada and Economic Developers Council of Ontario.

In his time away from work, Stephen is an avid nature and landscape photographer and enjoys time at the cottage.

Jerry Bologna, CEcD
Director of Economic Development Services
Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission (JEDCO)



Jonas Peterson, CEcD

Jonas R. Peterson was recently hired as the first Executive Director for the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation – A new EDO designed to support the rapidly growing region located just northwest of Los Angeles, CA.

Previously, Jonas served as the Economic Development Director for Mohave County, AZ where he helped establish Mohave County as a world-wide leader in renewable energy power generation. During the past two years, Mohave County has recruited four of the largest wind and solar energy projects in the Nation. Together, these projects represent approximately $9.8 Billion in new capital investment and are expected to create over 11,000 jobs.

Peterson has conducted considerable research on comparative advantage and quantitative marketing. Recent publications include, “Minding Our Own Businesses: a Practitioner’s Guide to Regional Business Retention and Expansion”, “Quantitative Marketing: Why Companies Respond to Location Comparison Studies” and “Recruiting California: Why Business in the Golden State Responds to Quantitative Marketing”. In 2010, Jonas received Arizona’s “Economic Developer of the Year” award from the Arizona Association for Economic Development.

Peterson received a M.S. in Community and Economic Development from Pennsylvania State University and an M.B.A. with an emphasis on strategic communication from North Dakota State University. He is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD), graduate of Oklahoma University’s Economic Development Institute (OUEDI), graduate of the University of Arizona’s Southwest Leadership Program and Certified Business Retention and Expansion Consultant.

Honorable Mention:
Catherine Hagebusch, AICP

City of Livermore
Livermore, CA



Mark Rothert

Mark Rothert is Executive Director of the Spoon River Partnership for Economic Development located in Canton, Illinois. His efforts span the scope of business development and attraction, community marketing, tourism development, and downtown revitalization. Rothert, a member of both the IEDC and International City/County Management Association, has built a close working relationship between the public, private and nonprofit sectors to advance economic development in his community. Since starting in 2005, he has been responsible for several initiatives that include the grass roots organization of Canton Main Street, downtown historic preservation and revitalization, securing nearly $5 million in federal and state grants and attracting the world’s largest private medical device manufacturer, Cook Medical, Inc., to revitalize a brownfield site in the middle of the community and create up to 300 new jobs.

Rothert, a certified Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED), holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Western Illinois University (2001) and a Masters degree in public administration from the University of Kansas (2003) and is currently working towards his certification in IEDC’s Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) program. Prior to returning to his hometown of Canton, Rothert worked for the cities of Des Moines, IA and Overland Park, KS.



Jason Crawford

Jason Crawford is the Marketing and Economic Development Manager for the City of Santa Clarita. Under Jason’s leadership, the City of Santa Clarita has been recognized as the “Best Economic Development Program in the State” by CALED for two straight years, in 2007 for the Film program and in 2008 for the Tourism program. Additionally, Santa Clarita has been named “One of the Top 5 Most Business Friendly Cities in Los Angeles County” by the past 3 years.


Nolan Kuker, Jr.

Logansport-Cass County Economic Development Foundation
Logansport, IL

Brenda Hicks-Sorensen

Vice President
Fond Du Lac County Economic Development Corporation
Fond Du Lac, WI

Michael W. Davis

Economic Development Director
City of Moraine
Dayton, OH

Alan Hawthorne, PhD

Executive Director
Joint IDA of Wythe County
Wytheville, VA

Tommy Kramer

Economic Development Director
City of Durant
Durant, OK

Anatalio Ubalde

Co-Founder & CEO
GIS Planning, Inc. & ZoomProspector.com
San Francisco, CA