Meet The Team
Executive Director Birmingham Business Resource Center
Bob Dickerson has spent his career finding ways to get money into the hands of people. For years, he did it as a commercial and consumer lending officer while working at several large financial institutions. Today, he does it as the Executive Director of the Birmingham Business Resource Center and Chief Executive Officer of Foundation Capital, a Small Business Administration Certified Development Company.
Bob founded the BBRC in 1996 after realizing there was no program in Birmingham that combined loan programs with capacity building and advocacy – three things every business needs to succeed. Bob secured the support of Birmingham elected officials, and various development companies and boards to start the BBRC. What he ended up with was an organization that has become a “one-stop-shop” for small business financing and technical assistance. The programs the BBRC manages have produced nearly 900 million in loans to businesses since 1996.
Bob graduated from Tuskegee Institute in 1973 with a degree in business administration. He has worked at several financial institutions but said that working for Birmingham business icon, A. G. Gaston may have been the greatest moment in his career. Gaston made such an impression on Bob, that he and others started the A.G. Gaston Economic Empowerment Conference in 2005. The annual conference focuses on challenges and achievements of black and other minority businesses and examines how to strengthen them through networking, skills development, and targeted workshops. The conference is held in February in Birmingham, Alabama. Recently, Bob founded Building Alabama Reinvestment (BAR), a statewide coalition of non-profit organizations that works to make sure that banks’ efforts under the Community Reinvestment Act pay dividends to the community.
Bob is a member of several foundations, boards, and civic organizations. He serves as Chairman of the Board of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and he also serves on the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s Board of Directors. In addition to those, he serves on the boards of the Birmingham Business Alliance, the A. G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club, the Talladega (Alabama) College Board of Trustees, the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, the Camino Loan Fund Board of Directors, the city of Birmingham’s Commercial Development Authority, the City of Birmingham Community Development Entity, Community Capital Trust Board of Trustees and the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama’s Boards of Directors.
His efforts in helping people have recently earned him the NAACP Medgar Evers Award and the Tri County Links President’s Award. In addition to these, Bob also was the recipient of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce’s Jesse J. Lewis Jr. Community Service Award and the Birmingham Business Journal’s Minority Business Executive of the Year in 2007.Bob and the BBRC received the National “Access to Capital” Award from the Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency in 2009, and in 2013, Dickerson received recognition as “Executive of the Year” from the Birmingham Business Alliance. Bob serves on community advisory boards for several financial institutions including BBVA, IBERIABANK, Valley Bank, Truist Bank, and Cadence Bank where he helps guide executives with support in creating more successful high impact community development programs. Bob was honored as the 2018 recipient of Keeper of the Dream Award presented by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for his work to achieve economic justice for all.
Executive Director Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group
He utilizes 30 years of experience to advance a neighborhood-driven agenda of economic growth, incorporated in 1988 to provide a response to the financial institutions’ practice of redlining and to be a watchdog for the Community Reinvestment Act, PCRG works for community resources through Policy, Programs, and Capital initiatives. PCRG’s work has resulted in partnerships like Fannie Mae purchase of $600 million in LMI mortgage portfolios, “Ain’t I A Woman” housing initiative to African American women, and community banks, and public partners to introduce creative mortgage products in undeserved neighborhoods. Such programs have led financial institutions reinvesting more than $5 billion in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. He has also completed or assisted in Pittsburgh redevelopment through the development of affordable housing and economic development totaling about $1 billion dollars. He has chaired Pittsburgh’s Historic Review Commission, a former board member of Kelley Strayhorn Theater, and Community Human Services. He served on Governor Wolf’s transition team as a member of the Banking and Securities Committee. He currently serving as a board member of Highland Park CDC and was appointed member to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland Community Advisory Council, Huntington National Bank Community Advisory Board and Vice Chair of National Community Reinvestment Coalition.
Consulting Executive Director, Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance, Hammond, IN
Jean Ishmon is consulting executive director for the Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance and has 33 years of experience in the field of Housing, Fair Housing, Community and Economic Development. In her position with the alliance she has organized and managed the Lake County Housing Taskforce and the Northwest Indiana Banker Community Council. Jean has served as adjunct faculty for the Patricia Roberts Harris National Fair Housing Training Academy (NFHTA) since 2004. She is vice chair of the board of directors for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a member of the NCRC Banker Community Collaborative Council and partnered with the Lake County Commission to develop the Lake County Land Bank Authority. Jean attended the University of Southern California and is a graduate of Roosevelt University. She and her husband have six children and 15 grandchildren.
Chief of staff for the City of Toledo
She works with a team to oversee the city operations and advance Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’s policy agenda. Prior to this role, she served as the executive director of the city of Dayton Human Relations Council reporting directly to the mayor and city commission. Her experience includes civil rights enforcement in the areas of housing, employment, public accommodation and credit; capacity building for small businesses to include diversity and inclusion programs with a focus on compliance; community relations programs that focus on immigrant integration, reducing violence, and improving the relationship between the community and police. She is a native of Cleveland. She holds a BS in accounting from Wilberforce University and a MPA from Wright State University. Her daughter Eryn attends Alabama A&M, where she studies business administration with a minor in marketing.
President, Rural Housing Inc.
Gene Ortega is the president of Rural Housing, Inc., a New Mexico nonprofit developer of affordable housing. Mr. Ortega has led RHI in developing over 700 affordable rental units and more than 100 units for first-time homebuyers.
Until his retirement in 2003, Mr. Ortega was the Executive Director of Home Education Livelihood Program (HELP), Inc., an Albuquerque-based, statewide, nonprofit corporation providing housing, day care, skills training, senior citizen outreach and rural economic development assistance. Mr. Ortega had been affiliated with HELP for 24 years, leading the organization’s development of affordable housing for low- and very-low-income families.
Both RHI and HELP under Mr. Ortega’s leadership became known for their provision of social services and housing for migrant and seasonal farmworker families, and additionally served seniors, homeless persons and people with disabilities.
Mr. Ortega was President of Management Consultants Unlimited, Inc., a group specializing in providing training and technical assistance to nonprofits and farmworker corporations. He also worked in various capacities in the analysis of bilingual vocational training programs of the federal government. Mr. Ortega has done extensive work in designing and implementing training and technical assistance program to a number of Tribal Councils and Native American agencies.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Spanish and serves or has served as a board member for various local and national organizations.
Fair Housing Director, Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, Milwaukee, WI
Bethany Sanchez directs the Fair Lending Program at the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, a 40-year old private nonprofit civil rights organization. Bethany has over 30 years of experience working in the housing and community development sector in California and Wisconsin. Early in her career, she ran a nonprofit home repair program and then developed affordable housing. She now develops and operates programs to combat predatory lending and foreclosure, working to ensure that every credit-worthy borrower has equal access to fairly priced credit. Bethany partners with local, state and national groups to create programs and policies to promote fair and affordable housing and equitable community development. She is the immediate past chair of NCRC’s board of directors, and is an active leader in Milwaukee’s homeownership consortium called Take Root Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Affordable Housing Coalition, the Alliance for Economic Inclusion, the Wisconsin Consumer Roundtable.
President and CEO- Urban Land Conservancy
He has 30 years’ experience running community development and affordable housing companies. He has over seen more than $1 billion in direct economic development, including over 3,000 permanently affordable homes. Aaron joined ULC in 2007 and leads this unique real estate company in partnering with a wide range of organizations in the Denver metro area on the strategic acquisition and development of land and buildings to preserve and enhance their ability to create sustainable benefits in underserved communities. To date ULC has invested in 34 properties totaling $100 million in investments, which leverages over $700 million in development.
Over 10,000 people and (more than 80% are low income households) and 2000 jobs are served by ULC’s real estate. Aaron is a founding member of the Neighborhood Development Collaborative and Mile High Connects, and currently serves on the Board of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.
Prior to his work at ULC, Aaron was the Executive Director of Thistle Community Housing, providing oversight on one of the fastest growing non-profit housing providers in Colorado. In his nine years at Thistle, the organization’s affordable housing production grew from 100 homes to 1,000 rental and ownership homes valued at over $70 million. Most importantly, Thistle grew from serving 250 people a year to over 3,000 people annually in need of affordable housing.
Before moving to Colorado, Aaron worked in Baltimore running two inner city nonprofit community development corporations, Southwest Visions and The Loading Dock. He was a Goldsmith Scholar in International Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has his BA in History & International Studies from Macalester College in St. Paul, and a Masters in Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Executive Director for HousingNOLA
Andreanecia M. Morris serves as the Executive Director for HousingNOLA, a 10-year partnership between the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA), the Foundation for Louisiana, the City’s Office of Housing and Community Development, and dozens of public, private, and nonprofit organizations working to solve New Orleans’ affordable housing crisis.
Prior to her role as Executive Director, Morris spearheaded the HousingNOLA 10-year Strategy and Implementation Plan, released on December 10, 2015. The strategy indicates the need for 33,600 additional affordable units in the city by 2025. Further, the data clearly shows that wages have not come close to mirroring the dramatic rise in housing costs.
A graduate of Loyola University, Morris has worked to create affordable housing opportunities in the Greater New Orleans Area in both the public and private sector. Morris has assisted in creating opportunities for approximately 500 families to become first time homebuyers after Hurricane Katrina, and she was lead organizer for GNOHA when it started in 2007 as collaborative coalition of non-profit housing builders and community development corporations who work to rebuild the City of New Orleans.
Morris has established connections with community members, governmental officials and media to successfully promote the agenda for low to mixed-income housing in the Greater New Orleans region, and many people consider her a key player in rebuilding the city of New Orleans. Leaders like Morris and the organizations she is involved in have been actively sowing the seeds of transformation in a city known for its racial polarization, Nimbyism and challenging political infrastructure. Much of the city’s progress to date has depended upon citizen leadership and an emerging infrastructure of nonprofit organizations that have helped local residents build their ability to influence policy decisions and develop creative, bottom-up solutions to the issues facing their communities.
Morris serves as President/Chairwoman for the GNOHA Board of Governors, which supports and advises the efforts to preserve and production of affordable housing for people within the Greater New Orleans Region and places a special emphasis on the needs of the most vulnerable in society—seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, low-wage workers and low-income families. Morris also co-chairs the Louisiana Housing Trust Fund Initiative, and she is a member of the Housing Authority of New Orleans’ Board of Commissioners, City of New Orleans Interagency Council on Homelessness, Lafitte Greenway Steering Advisory Committee, Louisiana Alliance for Economic Inclusion, CONNECT Coalition Steering Committee, JP Morgan Chase Louisiana Community Advisory Board, lowernine.org Board of Directors, ASI Federal Credit Union Board of Directors, Friends of Lafitte Greenway Board of Directors, Project Homecoming Board of Directors American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) Crescent City Connections Express Network and the American Heart Association Multicultural Leadership Committee. She was recognized by the FDIC in 2011 for her leadership and service in supporting the mission of Southeast Louisiana Alliance for Economic Inclusion (AEI) Initiative. In 2014, she was named to 2014 CityBusiness Woman of the Year Class. She received the NeighborWorks ® Community Building & Engagement Staff Award for her work at the Sojourner Truth Neighborhood Center and the NEWCITY Neighborhood Partnership in 2015. Morris was also selected in 2015 to represent New Orleans in the East West Center US-Japan Grassroots Exchange focusing on Citizen Participation in Community Building Post-Disaster. In April 2016, UNITY of Greater New Orleans named Morris Outstanding Advocate for Affordable Housing.
Board Chair Community Reinvestment Alliance of South Florida
Arden brings 30 years of diverse nonprofit housing and community development experience to his role as board chair of CRASF. Mr. Shank, as President/CEO of Neighborhood Housing Services of South Florida, has a deep knowledge of specialized community-based housing issues including corporation start-ups, restructuring, fundraising and capital project implementation. Mr. Shank has capitalized on his skills and expertise to expand NHSSF from a small agency of three staff members to a sophisticated operation with a professional team, an engaged 12-member board, and an expanded territory that includes Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. NHSSF has five lines of business including homebuyer preparation, mortgage lending, housing development, real estate brokerage, and neighborhood revitalization.
As a chartered member of the NeighborWorks network, NHSSF is certified to meet a high standard of fiscal integrity and service performance to assist local residents in developing leadership, improving their neighborhoods, and securing decent, affordable housing. Through his association with NeighborWorks, Mr. Shank graduated from Achieving Excellence, an intensive performance-driven organizational investment program for seasoned senior executives in community development jointly sponsored by NeighborWorks America and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
He worked with a diverse base of partners to form a consortium of community-based organizations that could pool their talents and expertise to help stabilize neighborhoods reeling from the foreclosure crisis. This resulted in NHSSF and six other partners forming a consortium that was awarded $89,375,000 by HUD through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program Round 2. The Consortium, with NHSSF as the lead agency, completed its grant expenditures on time and producing 1500 housing units.
Mr. Shank’s commitment to making communities stronger has resulted in his involvement with numerous organizations including a board member of National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the founder and board chair of Community Reinvestment Alliance of South Florida, a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors’ Community Advisory Council, and a board of the South Florida Community Development Coalition.
Executive Directos of the Tennessee Hua Rights Commission
Nashville native Beverly L. Watts was appointed the Executive Director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission in July 2007. Prior to her current appointment she served as Special Advisor to the Chair at the U S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission responsible for state and local relations. She has more than 30 years of experience in civil rights enforcement and education in the public and private sector. From October, 2004 to October 2006 she served as the first Executive Director of the National Fair Housing Training Academy.
Beverly served for more than 12 years as the Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and served in numerous other leadership positions in Illinois, and Kentucky. She was one of the first Title IX Coordinators in the US at the Office for Civil Rights and has served as adjunct faculty in Sociology at Spalding University. She was Senior Consultant for Ralph G. Moore & Associates (RGMA) in Chicago assisting clients in developing strategic initiatives in operations, diversity and supplier diversity programs She has presented to numerous organizations on leadership, civil rights, diversity, and motivation at the local, national and international level.
Beverly Watts is a past President of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA) where she currently serves as the 1st Vice President. She currently serves on the Equal Educational Opportunities Group (EEOG) and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) Boards. She is a member of the TN Access to Justice Commission. She is a past Chair of Women Executives in State Government, has served on the CABLE Nashville and the YWCA of Middle Tennessee boards.
Beverly is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the 2019 CABLE Power of Inclusion Champion Award, the 2018 CABLE Spirit of Leadership Award, 2018 YWCA Academy of Women, 2016 YWCA Nashville Athena Nominee, the ECHO 2014 Dreamers Award, the 2014 Frances Dancy Hooks Award, the YWCA 2014 Carrie Hull Award, the City of Louisville Martin Luther King award and the 2005 induction into the KY Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
She is a graduate of Tennessee State University, Southern Illinois University. She has completed the Duke University Leadership Program for State Executives and the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government Executive Leadership Program.
Executive Director, Hawaii Alliance for Community Based Economic Development (HACBED), Honolulu, HI
Brent Kakesako feels humbled to co-learn alongside communities across Hawai’i and beyond and blessed with an awesome team he supports as best he can. He is driven by his family upbringing, the connection he feels to Hawai’i and his initial eye-opening community engagement experiences. As executive director for the Hawai’i Alliance for Community-Based Economic Development (HACBED), Brent works to support families and communities to have choice and control so they can pursue their vision for genuine wealth. Recently, he is excited to work with the HACBED team to support community-based partners in the areas of intergenerational knowledge transfer and succession, ‘aging and food justice, and strengthening relationships between community-based and institutional partners. Brent also dabbled in supporting the local startup ecosystem. He received his J.D. from the William S. Richardson School of Law, an M.B.A. from the Shidler College of Business, and his Bachelors from Harvard University focused on the study of teams.
Executive Director, Arkansas Fair Housing Commission, Little Rock, AR
Carol Johnson, J.D., M.A., is executive director of the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission, the only state agency in Arkansas specifically charged with protecting civil rights. The Commission is a quasi-judicial, regulatory enforcement agency which receives, investigates and resolves fair housing/fair lending complaints. Carol has worked under the administrations of Governors Huckabee, Beebe and now Hutchinson. Since becoming executive director in 2005, Carol was instrumental in building the commission under HUD’s FHAP capacity-building program into a fully functioning fair housing/fair lending civil rights enforcement agency. During her tenure, Carol has resolved numerous fair housing/fair lending cases and has assisted many Arkansas municipalities in creating and/or amending existing ordinances to comply with zoning requirements, and worked with lenders, developers and other housing providers to ensure open housing access. A licensed attorney, Carol has worked in various areas of administrative, civil and criminal law, and is a former deputy prosecuting attorney.