Thank you for allowing me to introduce myself, my name is James W. Ribbron and I am the Michigan State University St. Clair County Extension Educator where I focus on educating community residents, leaders and policy makers on issues related to Economic Development. My area of expertise is business solutions intervention and retention, product development and innovation, new venture entrepreneurial development and using culture to drive economic development. I recently worked as a Planner with the City Planning Commission – Detroit. My duties focused on economic development policy analysis for the Detroit City Council. Two major projects, the Paradise Valley/Cultural Entertainment District and the targeting of Community Development Block Grant funds for Economic Development, provide opportunities for continued growth and development professionally.
I served as the Executive Director for Eureka Communities Detroit until the fall of 2002 (October 1998 - October 2002). With over 18 years of community and political service experience in the City of Detroit I hold a Master’s in Community Development with a focus on Economic Development, from the University of Detroit Mercy, a B.A. from Wayne State University and I credit Jarvis Christian College, a historically Black College in Hawkins, Texas, for paving the way for me to complete my education.
My career began with the Detroit City Council’s Youth Advisory Commission as a Special Projects Assistant. My tasks and duties included identifying issues of concern to Youth in Detroit and report the findings to the Detroit City Council. This was achieved by facilitating the Youth Committee, a group of Youth who met monthly to learn about City Government, analyze the City Budget and make recommendations to City Council on matters affecting youth. I represented the Youth Commission during the development of the Youth Alert and Legislative Hearing on the Plight of the African American Male Reports commissioned by the Detroit City Council. I wrote and published a manual “Experiencing Government” which is a “how to manual" for youth participation in City Government.
In 1995 I began my political training and went to work for Detroit City Councilman Clyde Cleveland where I served as his Legislative Assistant. My duties included work on many of the Urban Renewal Projects that are now institutions in the City of Detroit, i.e., Comerica Park, the Casino’s and the Detroit Lions Project. I gained valuable experience working in the community with people helping citizens solve problems with city services and programs. Earlier training included work with the Michigan Metro Girl Scout Council, the Northern Area Association (NAA/YouthVille)) and 4-H Youth Programs.
As a Kellogg Youth Development Seminar Participant I represented the Davison Elementary School community in the Kellogg Foundation’s effort to develop Leadership from within the Detroit community. My work with the Kellogg Foundation helped develop my understanding of leadership and personal development. The effort to develop leadership put me on a track to leadership in my community. Additional training included New Detroit Excel 2000 Leadership, Michigan Political Leadership Program and a Eureka Fellow.
My community service includes time on the Michigan State University Extension Council for Wayne County and the Representative on the Statewide Council, Board of Directors for Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice and Detroit Primary Care Network. Other volunteer activities include terms as a Chairman of the Wayne County Foster Review Board #9 and Community Liaison for the Davison Association of Neighborhood Block Clubs.
I am married to the Valerie Austin (Adrian and Gloria), have two children, a son, Arsenio and a daughter, Kaete and currently reside in Detroit, Michigan.