Former Senior Advisor with the City of Chicago, Office of the Mayor to spearhead strategic initiatives and neighborhood economic development
World Business Chicago today named Bernita Johnson-Gabriel as Executive Vice President for Neighborhoods and Strategic Initiatives, where she will be responsible for leading the organization’s efforts to support economic growth and job creation for Chicago’s neighborhoods. She brings nearly 15 years of development experience to World Business Chicago, most recently as senior advisor for neighborhood development and housing for Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“A thriving Chicago is an equitable Chicago, and equity is about access to resources, opportunity and intentional investment for underserved neighborhoods,” said Andrea Zopp, president and CEO of World Business Chicago. “Bernita brings proven experience working with partners across Chicago to create positive economic impact at the neighborhood level. We’re proud to welcome her to World Business Chicago as we drive inclusive economic growth for people, businesses and neighborhoods throughout Chicago.”
While serving with the Office of the Mayor, Johnson-Gabriel led several targeted economic development projects and neighborhood revitalization efforts to generate clear and impactful outcomes for communities on Chicago’s south and west sides. She also expanded the city’s development lens to include residential, transportation, infrastructure and other development data for a more holistic approach to neighborhood growth.
Prior to joining the Office of the Mayor, Johnson-Gabriel served as executive director of the Quad Communities Development Corporation (QCDC), a neighborhood development organization serving Chicago’s south lakefront communities of North Kenwood, Oakland, Douglas and Grand Boulevard. During her 12 years with QCDC, Johnson-Gabriel directed the creation of a 10-year Quality of Life plan adopted by community residents, the Fourth Ward Alderman and the Mayor’s Office. She built and maintained a coalition of approximately 40 organizations and businesses to implement quality of life projects and programs. She also led several strategic neighborhood development programs and efforts, including the Shops and Lofts Neighborhood Walmart and the Ellis Park Arts and Recreation Center, opened in 2016.
“Building communities and removing barriers to economic opportunity for Chicago’s neighborhoods is complex work that requires innovation and original thinking,” said Johnson-Gabriel. “World Business Chicago is leading the charge for inclusive growth in the city, and I’m excited to help make an impact in our neighborhoods, showing what it means for Chicago to be a global city.”
Originally from Bethel, North Carolina, Johnson-Gabriel holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Hampton University and is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, which helps entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity. She also serves on the board of directors for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC-Chicago).