Prior to his appointment as Executive Director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia in February 2018, Jeff served as Director of Financial and Policy Analysis for the Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz, where he advised the Controller and worked on critical issues relating to Philadelphia's fiscal and economic health and supervised the production of numerous dozen data-driven analyses.
In his civic life, Jeff served ten years on the board of Queen Village Neighbors Association, including two terms as president from 2012-16. He currently chairs the Philadelphia Crosstown Coalition, a citywide organization representing 35 civic associations, and helped to found Friends of Neighborhood Education. In 2019, he was invited to attend the Aspen Institute’s Executive Seminar on Leadership, Values, and the Good Society. He is a member of the National Anchor Institution Task Force, an advisory board member of the Social Innovations Journal, and serves as Vice President of Philadelphia Committee on City Policy. He is an adjunct faculty member at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches courses on Philadelphia political economy.
After leaving academia in 2001 with a PhD in business history and publication of a book on the real estate industry "A Nation of Realtors," Jeff spent a decade in the labor movement. He helped low-wage workers in the service and education sectors build workplace and political power. He ran for City Council in 2011. Born in Brooklyn, a product of public schools in Matawan, NJ, with degrees from MIT, Penn, and the University of Maryland, he has called Philadelphia home since 2001.
As the Economy League's Managing Director, Nick develops and directs strategic economic development projects and initiatives focused on many of the Philadelphia area’s most challenging issues. Nick has more than a decade of experience working with government, nonprofit, and private sector partners in a variety of capacities including the incubation and acceleration of civic ventures, facilitating collaboration to address the social determinants of health, developing innovation-based economic development strategies, crafting employer-led workforce development programming, advancing transportation investment, and advising on international trade and goods movement policy. He has made numerous appearances on TV and radio and has spoken on economic development and related topics in front of a variety of leadership audiences.
Prior to joining the Economy League, Nick held positions at the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, and the Italian American Community Services Agency in San Francisco. He holds an AB from the University of Chicago and a Master of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Nick lives with his wife and son in South Philadelphia.
Mike is a Project Manager at the Economy League, specializing in data wrangling and quantitative research methods. He enjoys all things “data” and his research interests include neighborhood change, gentrification, Millennials, urban development, and environmental change. Mike is also completing his doctorate in sociology at Northeastern University.
Prior to joining the Economy League, Mike served as a researcher and data consultant with the Boston Area Research Initiative (a research organization co-housed between Northeastern and Harvard Universities). He oversaw various team efforts to wrangle and organize federal, state, and local administrative records for analysis and public use. He also coordinated and ran data training sessions with local government officials and community organizations in an effort to close the digital divide.
Mike received his B.A. from Elizabethtown College and received his M.A. from Northeastern University. He grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and is happy to be back in his favorite city!
Farwa Zaidi is the office manager at the Economy League, focusing on day to day projects and tasks. You will be corresponding with her for all upcoming board and committee meetings, as well as regular appointments. She is responsible for all the goings-on in the office, as well as updating Salesforce, mailings, and our webpage.
Prior to her role at the Economy League, Farwa was the office manager for The Overseas Press Club of America in New York City. There, she was responsible for daily office tasks as well as writing three sections of the Club’s monthly newsletter. The role introduced her to countless journalists and a profound interest in writing.
Farwa has a B.A in Political Science from Baruch College. She grew up in New York City and moved to West Philadelphia in 2019.
Opeola Bukola is an optimizer. The Nigerian-born founder and Principal Consultant of Lillo Consulting - a firm specializing in operations and new venture optimization - has a long history with emerging organizations, brands, and business ecosystems. Her operations career blossomed as she spun her brand as a digital marketer and startup community organizer into a municipal consulting role with Gainesville Florida’s design-focused “Department of Doing.” Her next stop was the global stage, as she took on a programming role facilitating remote experiences for digital nomads. This whirlwind of airports and co-working spaces took her bounding through a new country each month to introduce budding nomads to the growing lifestyle and community.
As she returned stateside, newfound agility in hand, Opeola made stops at Techstars, as the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator Program Manager and at Backstage Capital, as their Philadelphia Accelerator Director and an Investment Associate in Strategic Initiatives, before settling into consulting full-time, and dedicating her energy to growing Lillo beyond her one-woman show. Opeola’s adept communication skills and advocacy in the diversity and inclusion space have led her toward mentorship and public speaking engagements in the US and abroad. Her penchant for community, background in branding, and operations savvy most recently converged in her involvement as the early-stage Facilitator of Philadelphia’s Global Identity Partnership, a public-private partnership aimed to manage a unified brand identity for the nation’s 6th largest city.
Today, Opeola is thrilled to have achieved the entrepreneurial milestone of growing Lillo beyond herself, and delighted to join Economy League full time as the Director of the GPLEX initiative.
J'nelle E. Lawrence, MBA brings to the team 13 years of Procurement and Supplier Diversity experience from her roles as a Procurement Specialist at The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Global Supplier Diversity Manager at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals and Supplier Diversity Lead at The Chemours Company.
J’nelle holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Villanova University and a Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from Drexel University. J’nelle is very active in the local business community in Philadelphia and the state of Delaware, as an active member of the MSDC, WBEC, the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Women Business Owners, and the Independence Business Alliance. She currently sits on the Board of Directors at the Claymont Community Center. In December 2014, J’nelle was recognized as a recipient of Delaware Today’s “Women in Business Award” and in June 2016, J’nelle was recognized by DiversityPlus Magazine as a national recipient of their “Top 25 Women in Power Impacting Diversity.”
J’nelle currently resides in Claymont, DE with her husband Tyrece and their 3 year old Cavapoo, Zeke. J’nelle loves sports, loves spending time with friends and family, especially sushi nights, and loves entertaining in their home.
Impact Labs Program Manager
Chelsey Lowe is a connector and ecosystem builder focused on social impact, entrepreneurship, and technology. As the Impact Labs Program Manager at the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, Chelsey manages the Well City Challenge.
Most recently at Drexel University’s College of Computing & Informatics, she supported corporate partnerships to connect students to technology roles. Previously at Black Women Talk Tech and The Enterprise Center, Chelsey developed and scaled technical assistance programs and podcasts that served entrepreneurs in the food, construction, and tech sectors.
As a fellow at the Social Enterprise Alliance of Chicago, she launched their inaugural pitch competition for social enterprises. To support her passion for equitable development, she is a member of Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia’s Young Professionals Board. Chelsey holds a B.A. in Political Science and Geography and Urban Studies from Temple University.
PAGE Business Engagement Manager
Kenyatta James is an entrepreneur and community organizer who brings 8 years of Human Centered Design experience to the Economy League. He began his career studying Human Centered Design as a participant in Project Breaker, an immersive design apprenticeship pioneered by TED Fellow Juliette LaMontagne, where he learned design thinking from experts at IDEO, Frog Design, Google Creative Labs, AOL Ventures and Viacom's MTV Scratch unit. After that experience, Kenyatta brought his design thinking skills to the social impact world as a community organizer revitalizing a city park and coordinating nationwide volunteer programs for the American Friends Service Committee.
His organizing work brought him into diverse political arenas including taking part in United Nations events on behalf of religious communities and lobbying in Harrisburg and Washington, DC. Kenyatta then started JamesGrant Design, a messaging strategy company, where he used his design experience to help organizations build better relationships with their constituents. Under his leadership, JamesGrant Design helped the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia build the world's largest video library of anti-inflammatory recipes and worked with Oral Health America to expand youth participation in school-based dentistry programs.
After the birth of his first child, Kenyatta switched to consulting so he could have more time with his family. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, cooking, watching anime as well as exploring the great outdoors with his son. Kenyatta is excited to be bringing his skillset to the Economy League to increase the opportunities for Black entrepreneurs in the Philadelphia area. Kenyatta’s primary role as the Business Engagement Manager will be the development of PAGE Prep, which will be PAGE’s curated boutique consultancy services for Black & Brown businesses.
SENIOR EXECUTIVE FELLOWS
Robert J. Jones, Esq.
Bob Jones is a former Economy League board member and is currently Of Counsel at Saul Ewing, LLP. During his 40-plus year career, Jones has served as bond counsel, underwriter's counsel, and special counsel to a variety of clients in the implementation and financing of major capital projects for public and nonprofit entities. Jones writes and speaks frequently on a wide variety of public finance topics. He is a regular discussion leader at the annual Bond Attorney Winter Workshop and frequently speaks at programs sponsored by the Government Finance Officers Association, the National and Pennsylvania Associations of Bond Lawyers, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Municipal Bond Club of Philadelphia.