The Rockford Area Economic Development Council employs economic development professionals focused on serving clients, investors, and partners. RAEDC staff work with regional economic development partners to cultivate opportunities for primary job growth that increase the economic well-being of our region.
Nathan Bryant President & CEO
As President & Chief Executive Officer of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC), Nathan is responsible for managing all the organization’s efforts, including business retention and expansion, new business recruitment, and improvement of our regional business climate. In his role for the RAEDC, Nathan serves on several community boards, including the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Rockford Local Development Corporation, Alignment Rockford, and Stateline Angels.
Prior to joining the RAEDC, Nathan most recently served as the President of Development for Spring Creek Development Group in which he was responsible for deal procurement, financial modeling, leasing, sales, marketing, acquisitions, municipal agreements, and overall management assistance.
Throughout his career, Nathan has transacted a variety of deals encompassing most every aspect of real estate and business. Nathan has successfully crafted over $100M of public/private partnerships in over 50 different communities involving complicated financial structures with critical delivery schedules.
As a licensed Professional Engineer and Real Estate Broker, Nathan brings a unique approach to every aspect of business with a focus on data-driven decisions. During his professional career, Nathan has developed real estate for many of the top Fortune 50 companies including but not limited to Wal-Mart, CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Target, Home Depot, and Lowes.
Nathan graduated from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Engineering and subsequently became licensed as a Professional Engineer. He has been licensed as a Real Estate Managing Broker for over fifteen years, as well as being a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), and credentialed as a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM).
Nathan is a longtime advocate for the community and an early adopter of charter schools. In 2009, Nathan led the formation of the Rockford Charter School Organization of which he’s presided as the Board President since its inception.
Chelsea Fray Investor Relations Coordinator
As investor relations coordinator for the RAEDC, Chelsea is responsible for engaging investors in economic development, managing accounts receivable, coordinating and assisting with key events, scheduling meetings with new and prospective investors and overseeing the maintenance of the organization’s contact management database. She also provides support to the Rockforward! Leadership Council.
Chelsea grew up in Rockford and attended Boylan High School. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree, as well as a Nonprofit Leadership Development Certification, from Augustana College and earned her Masters of Arts degree from Illinois State University.
Prior to joining the RAEDC staff in 2017, Chelsea supported the organization for several years in an internship capacity. Most recently Chelsea held an investor research and proposal specialist position at Rockford University, as well as holding marketing and public relations positions in western Illinois. Chelsea has also served in various nonprofit Board and mentorship roles, as well as assisting with event planning and organization.
Anna Garrison Business Development Coordinator
As Business Development Coordinator, Anna supports the Vice President of Business Development with project management and client assistance activities related to domestic and international business development efforts. A major focus of Anna’s role within the organization, is the management of the CORE Conversation Program.
Anna is responsible for assisting with the successful management of business recruitment and select expansion projects in the Rockford Region. Additionally, she assists in the continuous development and maintenance of relationships with corporate real estate executives, site selection consultants, national real estate brokers, prospective clients and local companies; with coordination of designated cluster activities with regional economic development partners; with planning and coordination of trade shows, marketing trips and special events to promote increased jobs and investment in the Rockford Region; with supporting the management of Foreign Trade Zone #176 (FTZ #176); and coordinates with key events focused on strengthening our region’s economic base for its existing employers.
Anna earned her Bachelor of Arts Cum Laude from Carroll University. She grew up in Rockford and returned to the region following living in Chicago for several years. Anna joined the organization in 2017 with prior experience in marketing, communication, and administration.
Leilani Hillis Director of Operations
As Director of Operations for the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Leilani is responsible coordinating the daily operations of the organization including the management of the organization’s administrative staff; supervising organizational and general management, Human Resources/Professional Services, financial services, facilities management, and Information Technology Management. She is the primary contact to the President/CEO and provides support to other management staff, as well as supporting events and various marketing projects. Additionally, Leilani acts as staff liaison to the RAEDC Board of Directors, including Audit and Nominating Committees.
Leilani joined the RAEDC in October of 2000, with several years of customer service experience. She represents the organization as a Certified Notary Public.
Jimsi Kuborn Vice President of Investor Relations
As Vice President of Investor Relations for the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Jimsi is responsible for leading the organization’s fund development and investor relations, as well as leading the Rockforward20/20 strategic plan. Jimsi serves as the staff liaison to the RAEDC Business and Community Relations Solutions Team, the RAEDC’s Leadership Council, and represents the RAEDC throughout the community in various roles.
Prior to joining the RAEDC, this “boomerang” started her career locally in the real estate sector, with more recent engagements among non-profit organizations and business associations in Chicago and the Northwestern portion of the U.S. Jimsi held several leadership roles in marketing, management, and business development; and most recently, she served as Director of Marketing and PR for Chicago Opera Theater.
Jimsi earned her Bachelor of Science degree with honors in Merchandising from Northern Illinois University, specializing in marketing. Jimsi has served on the boards of the Boise Young Professionals and Opera Idaho with additional civic and leadership roles with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra-Overture Council, League of Chicago Theaters, Step Up Women’s Network-Chicago, League of American Orchestra, Trey McIntyre Project, Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, Ada County Association of Realtors, Rockford Area Association of Realtors, DeKalb Area Association of Realtors, Realtors Political Action Committee, and the Women’s Council of Realtors.
Currently, she serves our community as a member of Next Rockford’s Strategy Team, a member of the Remedies’ Board of Directors, and a volunteer with Transform Rockford.
View the Comcast Newsmakers interview with Jimsi.
Erin Marshall Marketing and Communications Coordinator
As Communications and Marketing Coordinator, Erin supports the Vice President of Investor Relations through communications, marketing and PR initiatives. She is responsible for assisting at all levels with general responsibilities that include: creating, coordinating and implementing projects and programs that support business development; business attraction; business retention; regional branding; and other economic development programs or projects.
Erin previously worked as the Web Administrator for the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism and is credited with starting the social network activities for the organization. During her tenure, Erin also oversaw the redevelopment of 6 websites.
She holds a pMBA from The University College of the Cayman Islands along with a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD. She has presented her thesis “The Impact of Social Media When Selecting a Vacation Destination” at the UCCI 20/20 Conference and has been a speaker at the Cayman Islands Government Human Resource Professionals Summit.
Erin returned to the Rockford area in July 2015 after living overseas for the past 15 years.
Gerald “Jerry” Sagona Vice President of Business Development
Gerald “Jerry” Sagona joined the staff of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) in October of 2016. As the Vice President of Business Development, Jerry manages company attraction, retention, outreach efforts, and area marketing projects. He serves as the liaison between the Rockford Region and the local, suburban and national real estate community, global site selectors, and private companies considering either first time or continued investment in the Rockford Region.
Prior to joining the RAEDC, Jerry enjoyed a 30-year career in municipal management serving 24 of those years as a Village Administrator. As a Chief Administrative Officer, Jerry managed village operations for three communities whose services included Public Works, Finance, Community Development, Police, Parks & Recreation, and the operations of two general aviation reliever airports. Jerry has extensive experience in community and economic development and municipal finance. During his career, he has coordinated more than $200 million dollars in public and private capital improvement and development projects.
Jerry is a lifelong resident of the Rockford area and obtained his Associate of Arts Degree with distinction at Rock Valley College. He went on to receive his Bachelor of Science, and Master of Arts in Public Administration degrees at Northern Illinois University. Jerry is an active member of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR), and the Association of Industrial Real Estate Brokers (AIRE). His volunteer community service activities span 35 years including regional and local leadership positions with Rotary International, Kiwanis International, the Lions Clubs International, and the United Way.