• 2015 Community Economic Development Symposium Featured Speakers

    Gary L. Cunningham

    President & CEO, Meda

    Gary Cunningham CEDIn August 2014, Gary Cunningham joined the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Meda) as President and CEO. Meda works to break down barriers to wealth and self-sufficiency for entrepreneurs of color. Since 1971, Meda has provided assistance to more than 19,400 businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color.

    Prior to joining Meda, Gary honed and applied his management and leadership skills in serving as:

    • Vice president and chief program officer for the Northwest Area Foundation
    • President and chief executive officer for NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center
    • Director of planning and development for Hennepin County, Minnesota
    • County administrator and chief executive officer for Scott County, Minnesota
    • Associate superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools
    • Research fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs

    Gary has held leadership roles with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, and the City of Minneapolis.

    Highlights of awards and recognition include:

    • Outstanding Achievement Award - National Association of Human Rights Workers
    • Distinguished Service Award - U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    • Presidential Citation - Minnesota Psychological Association
    • Distinguished Service Award - Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights
    • Walk the Talk Award - Minnesota Mental Health Action Group
    • Bush Leadership Fellowship
    • The Minneapolis Urban League’s High Impact Award
    • Public Leadership Award - University of Minnesota Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs
    • 2014 Alumnus of the Year – Metropolitan State University

    Gary presently serves as:

    • Council Member of the Metropolitan Council in the Twin Cities
    • Board Member - Association of Black Foundation Executives
    • Advisory Council Member - Hubert H. School of Public Affairs
    • Fellow - National Academy of Public Administration
    • Board Member – GREATER MSP
    • Advisory Board Member – Improve Group
    • Board Member – Metropolitan State University Foundation

    Gary earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University Kennedy School of Government in 1992 and a Bachelor of Arts from Metropolitan State University in 1990. Gary is married to Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and is the father of two and grandfather of four.

    MayKao Y. Hang

    President and CEO, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation

    MaryKao Hang CEDDr. MayKao Hang is the President and CEO of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of those who live in the greater St. Paul, Minnesota area. MayKao has extensive experience in the public and the non-profit sectors, serving low income and disadvantaged populations. She is committed to achieving an equitable society where everyone can prosper. MayKao has a BA degree in Psychology from Brown University, a MA degree in Social Policy and Distributive Justice from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and a Doctorate in Public Administration from Hamline University. She was delighted to be inducted into the Como Park Hall of Fame in 2014. She currently Co-Chairs the Itasca Project’s Socio-economic Disparities Work Group, a regional CEO led group working to reduce employment disparities.

    She currently serves as the a Trustee of Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, Deputy Chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and an Advisory Committee member of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. She has been recognized with awards for her work including the Ann Bancroft Dream Maker Award, the Humphrey Public Leadership Award, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans Leadership Award, and has been named one the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal’s 40 under 40.

    Warren Hanson

    President and CEO, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund (GMHF) and Minnesota Equity Fund (MEF)

    Warren Hanson CEDMr. Hanson is the President & CEO of Greater Minnesota Housing Fund (GMHF) and Minnesota Equity Fund (MEF). GMHF & MEF provide low cost loans, equity investments, technical assistance, and program grants to communities throughout Minnesota for the creation of affordable housing. GMHF is certified as a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) by the US Treasury, with the mission of strengthening communities. Its programs focus on workforce housing development, permanent supportive housing for the homeless, affordable housing preservation and green building. Mr. Hanson was previously director of Neighborhood Development for the City of Saint Paul, director of economic development for West Bank Community Development Corporation (WBCDC), and the co-founder of Community Reinvestment Fund USA. Mr. Hanson holds a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute’s School of Architecture, based in Brooklyn, NY.

    Matt Kramer

    President, Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce

    Matt Kramer CEDMatt Kramer is president of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, the state’s largest local chamber. Previously Matt was Chief of Staff to Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and, prior to that, an executive with British Telecom. Matt holds an doctorate in Leadership from Creighton University and is a frequent consultant to strategic initiatives across Minnesota.


    Kevin McKinnon

    Deputy Commissioner of Economic Development, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)

    Kevin McKinnon CEDKevin McKinnon was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Economic Development at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) in November 2014, bringing 15 years of economic development experience to the position. He joined DEED’s Business and Community Development division as director of business development in 2006 and was named its executive director in 2012. As Deputy, he oversees this division, the Minnesota Trade Office and the Office of Broadband Development. McKinnon serves on a variety of economic development committees and boards. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.


    R.T. Rybak

    Executive Director, Generation Next

    R.T. Rybak CEDAfter serving 12 years as mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak became executive director of Generation Next in January of 2014. In his current role he aims to make Minneapolis and St. Paul a national leader in innovative, cradle-to-career approaches to youth development, and works to highlight the crisis of our region’s achievement gap and advance effective strategies for ending it.

    During his tenure as mayor, Rybak led efforts to revitalize north Minneapolis, attack juvenile crime, make Minneapolis a wireless city, end homelessness in 10 years, and significantly reduce the city’s energy consumption to combat global climate change. Rybak also serves as a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee, a Senior Advisor for Municipal Practice at Living Cities, and is a visiting practitioner at the University of Minnesota. A Minneapolis native, R.T. Rybak spent almost 30 years working in journalism, the commercial real estate business, publishing and the Internet before being elected mayor in his first run for public office. He and his wife Megan O’Hara, Youth Employment Director at Wilderness Inquiry, have two grown children.

    Dane Smith

    President, Growth & Justice

    Dane Smith CEDDane Smith has been president since 2007 of Growth & Justice, a non-partisan research and advocacy group that seeks to broaden prosperity in Minnesota, by reducing racial and economic inequality, investing in human capital and physical infrastructure, and fostering business growth. The organization has become a leading voice in Minnesota on public policy and economics and Dane is a frequent speaker and author of published commentary. Before Growth & Justice, Dane enjoyed a 30-year career in journalism, covering politics and government for the Minneapolis Star, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and the Star Tribune, at the national, state and local level. He has won several journalism awards, co-authored a book on Paul Welllstone’s 1990 U.S. Senate campaign, and studied government finance for a year as a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University.

    Hedrick Smith

    Author, Speaker, Reporter-Producer

    Hedrick Smith CEDHedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and Emmy award-winning producer, has established himself as one of America’s premier journalists. In 26 years with The New York Times, Smith served in Saigon, Cairo, Paris, the American South and as bureau chief in Moscow and Washington. In 1971, he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for the Pentagon Papers series and in 1974, he won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting from Russia and Eastern Europe. He has produced more than 50 hours of documentarties for PBS and authored five books, including “The Russians,” “The Power Game: How Washington Works,” and “Who Stole the American Dream?” a stunning account of how we have become Two Americas.

    Ellen Watters

    Ellen Watters CEDEllen Watters has a deep background in community development focusing on research, project management and strategic planning to create prosperity in neighborhoods, cities and regions. Her recent portfolio of work includes serving as co-project manager for the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership, a collaborative of 13 higher education and healthcare institutions in Minneapolis-St. Paul working together to create economic opportunity and neighborhood stability in a targeted geography. Prior to establishing her consulting practice 8 years ago she was Senior Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development for the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.