Forward Cities announced today that Johnathan Holifield has assumed the position of Strategic Advisor for the initiative. He will serve as a thought and action partner to Christopher Gergen, co-founder of Forward Cities, who leads the multi-city, national learning collaborative.

To bolster the strength of its team to help local innovators connect with one another while taking on the challenges of improving outcomes of under-connected business and social entrepreneurs, Forward Cities has drafted its own competitor.

“He’s one-of-a-kind,” Gergen said. “Johnathan surveys distressed communities in the same way professional scouts and college sports recruiters do. To many, these are economically distressed areas with little value. Johnathan’s lens is aligned with ours – we see an enormous amount of under-tapped, innovative talent who can be local change-makers. The addition of Johnathan’s leadership will strengthen the Forward Cities team and increase our capacity to help improve the productivity of business and social ventures and quality of life.”  

Holifield is a former NFL runningback for the Cincinnati Bengals, attorney and economic development strategist. He is also co-founder of ScaleUp Partners, a national consultancy developing economically competitive communities. In 2014, Holifield was tapped by the Ohio Board of Regents to research and author the first-of-its kind policy report, “Inclusive Competitiveness: Empowering Ohioans to Compete in the Innovation Economy.”

As a national speaker and author of The Future Economy and Inclusive Competitiveness®: How Demographic Trends and Innovation Can Create Economic Prosperity for All Americans, Holifield brings to Forward Cities a unique interdisciplinary executive background spanning social, education and small business services and technology and innovation-based economic development. Focusing on the strategic direction of Forward Cities, he will support activities to ensure that its work in under-connected communities is understood and successful, thereby increasing the opportunity for widespread adoption.

“It’s no secret that many U.S. communities are mired in economic distress,” said Gergen. “With Holifield’s deep and diverse experience, along with other key leaders in place, Forward Cities is equipped to help continually improve the performance of under-connected business and social entrepreneurs, enabling new job and wealth creation in areas with the most need.”

Holifield joins with Forward Cities through ScaleUp Partners where he leads national advocacy and business development. Prior to ScaleUp, he was founding Vice President of Inclusive Competitiveness at NorTech, a regional innovation development organization and founding executive director of CincyTechCincinnati's Voice of Technology and Innovation. Holifield has also held executive leadership positions with Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy and Cleveland Urban League.

“I’m joining Forward Cities at a genuine inflection point, when the initiative is poised to materially advance inclusive innovation in underserved areas,” said Holifield. “As a team, we’ll work to improve existing innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems, adding new value by increasing the connectivity and productivity of under-connected business and social ventures.”