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Meet the Team Behind the Mission: Q&A with Wade Williams

Wade Williams has a résumé that boasts all the milestone achievements one would expect from a top economic developer: bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public administration from Northern Kentucky University; 10-plus years managing utility and real estate operations for Duke Energy; a successful seven years at the Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corporation (Tri-ED) where he built the IEDC’s Gold Level award winning BR&E strategy in NKY that created or saved thousands of jobs and managed more than 200 projects resulting in thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions in new-capital investment.

Wade’s list of accomplishments goes on, but at the end of the day, it’s his unique relationship-building and analytical skills that best position the regional native for his new role as REDI Cincinnati Vice President of Business Development.

Wade brings to the role a deep professional network forged in living rooms and boardrooms across the U.S., Asia, and Europe, where he has recruited companies and built deep, sustainable ties with some of the world’s best site selection consultants. Wade’s comfortable, pick-up-the-phone style of communication enabled lasting friendships with his REDI Cincinnati colleagues years before he was tapped for a leadership position.

Here, Wade shares insight into where REDI Cincinnati is headed as an organization, his hopes for this new professional chapter, and thoughts on long-term growth in the region where he and his wife are raising two daughters.

Q: What do you hope to achieve in your first year at REDI Cincinnati?

A: In addition to building on past successes in representing the Cincinnati region both domestically and internationally to locationally active companies, my initial goals will involve driving data analytics and business intelligence to determine where REDI’s time and resources are best spent. Our entire industry is moving toward the use of data to drive lead generation strategy and ROI. REDI is not far away from building proprietary databases and applying AI to data-mine for indicators that predict locationally active targets. As an organization, we will need to continuously examine and refine our strategies for interacting with these companies and employ ever more effective research tools and analytics. That’s one reason I was hired, to lead the team in the creation of a highly effective business intelligence strategy, and that’s what I plan to do.

Q: How has your experience working in Northern Kentucky prepared you to collaborate and help the larger region compete?

A: Economic developers are naturally wired to compete — which can be tricky in a three-state region. Leading business development at Tri-ED, I got to see the huge value proposition REDI Cincinnati brings, especially with regard to international strategy. Tri-ED invested in REDI Cincinnati because it was more effective than doing it independently. Companies looking to make multi-year, multi-million dollar decisions don’t differentiate between Northern Kentucky, Greater Cincinnati, or Southeast Indiana — they want a place to do business effectively, period. Our job is to get them here and let them decide the best real estate location, and from there we can help them grow. We all win in that scenario.

Q: What personal qualities do you feel have enabled your success as an economic development leader?

A: As economic developers, we have a fundamental passion for community building; it’s in our blood. The entire Cincinnati community is certainly something I’m passionate about. I met my wife through volunteerism, and now we’re giving our daughters Nora and Bryn a chance to do things that are volunteer-driven. It’s exciting to watch them learn how to be an effective part of their community. In my work, all that passion factors into building trust with decision makers and creating a business intelligence strategy that makes things happen for the region.

Q: What are some of your favorite things about living and working in Greater Cincinnati?

A: I’m a hometown kind of guy — I grew up on a farm and went to public school in Northern Kentucky — so I have a lot of pride in this region. I love our local sports teams, especially the NKU Norse, Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds… and I make room for the UK Wildcats. My favorite things to do involve spending time with our kids, traveling, and giving them new experiences. In the summertime, we’ll go to a local farmer’s market and find something messy and fun to cook together. Those are the types of things I enjoy the most.