It’s almost here, and the excitement is building. The Memphis host team started working on this Market Solutions for Community Transformation Pre-conference last fall. It feels like eons ago, but these months have really flown by quickly, and it’s almost show time.
I’ve been like a kid waiting for the circus to come to town. This will be my first time attending the CCDA National Conference–which we are blessed to host in Memphis from November 11-14, 2015. Even more exciting has been my great honor to serve as chair of the marketing team, a terrific group who worked together to help promote the 2nd Annual Market Solutions for Community Transformation Pre-Conference, which is Tuesday, November 10, 2015.
I am excited about all the activities and acclaimed speakers that will participate in this power-packed day of inspiring ideas and demonstration of ways business can work to help transform communities. We have many examples in Memphis of business leaders who are applying Christian Community Development principles to create jobs and empower under-resourced urban communities. National and local business leaders and practitioners will have plenary and panel discussions and breakout sessions covering such topics as, Marketplace Strategies for Addressing Poverty and Unemployment and Creating Empowering Environments in Poor Communities through Business. The day will conclude with a social enterprise pitch competition where the best idea will be selected and merchandise and cash prizes awarded.
As a ministry practitioner in Memphis, I am excited about the opportunity to meet fellow Christian laborers from other cities and hear best practices in their communities for empowering the poor and driving opportunities for economic development. I had no idea that I would be called to work in ministry after more than four decades of working professionally in the corporate world and as a small-business entrepreneur. With the Memphis Leadership Foundation, I lead a ministry whose Biblical cause is to ransom the captives, individuals who have made mistakes and carry the label of ex-offender and now face daunting barriers in finding employment.
This ministry is aptly named Economic Opportunities, and its mission is to equip formerly incarcerated individuals with the tools and resourcesneeded to acquire gainful employment and economic empowerment. The ministry focus is on helping these individuals transform themselves through a program that is based on developing a strong Christ-centric foundation as the basis for becoming an effective, valuable employee. Our EcOp program exemplifies how business and ministry practitioners effectively work collaboratively to affect community transformation. Our employer partner, Barnhart Crane, supports the OJT program by providing real work for program graduates to gain valuable work experience to build a resume and prepare them to seek jobs in the mainstream labor market. Our goal is to develop more employers to support programs like we have with Barnhart to increase awareness of how business and ministry practitioners can work together to make a positive impact in our communities.
My work with Economic Opportunities is what gets me so excited about an event like Market Solutions. Economic Opportunities is a testimony to the powerful impact of partnership between business and ministry practitioners for the transformation of our neighborhoods. With a gathering like Market Solutions, there is so much potential for community-wide transformation through such collaborative efforts.
I’m really looking forward to this day of exciting activities and making new networking connections. The program and schedule of activities are listed at ccda.org, where you can also register for the Market Solutions pre-conference. Hosting this event in Memphis is a great blessing and one not to be missed!
Ernie Hilliard is executive director, Memphis Economic Development Partnership and Economic Opportunities, with Memphis Leadership Foundation. Previously, Ernie held executive positions in an extensive business career with Fortune 500 companies and as an entrepreneur. In professional ministry, Ernie utilizes his business acumen and spiritual development to help under-resourced individuals overcome barriers to gainful employment and economic empowerment. Ernie has an MBA from Vanderbilt, has served on boards of directors of more than a dozen Memphis organizations that support arts, education, and economic development initiatives. Ernie is married and is an elder at Hope Church. He serves as the Market Solutions marketing team chair. Learn more about the Market Solutions for Community Transformation Pre-Conference.