Christina Frank: Empowering Communities Through Economic Development

Christina Frank
Christina Frank CS

Connecting Sectors, Inspiring Growth, and Building Strong Communities!

As we navigate through our careers, we discover that certain topics or tasks pique our interest more than others. It’s at this intersection of knowledge and curiosity that we often discover our passion, the driving force that propels us toward success. Whether it’s a hobby-turned-career or a lifelong fascination, finding that sweet spot can lead to a fulfilling and satisfying professional journey.

For Christina, this moment came when she joined the Cornerstone Alliance team in the fall of 2016. Despite her limited knowledge of economic development at first, she was captivated by the way it links the for-profit, non-profit, and community sectors. By aligning her skills and enthusiasm, she aimed to create a favorable effect on the areas that she cares deeply about.

As the Vice President, Christina Frank has made it her mission to transform the landscape of economic development. With a passion for fostering connections between the for-profit, non-profit, and community sectors, she has become a driving force behind the positive change happening in her community.

Over the past decade, her professional journey has seen remarkable transformations. Just six months before her 30th birthday, she assumed her first Director role, facing the challenge of managing a team with limited experience. However, her dedication and commitment to growth propelled her forward, continuously honing her leadership skills and expanding her expertise.

Through it all, Christina has remained steadfast in two key objectives: building strong relationships and prioritizing personal and professional growth. These core principles have been pivotal in her success as a fundraiser. She understands the power of cultivating meaningful connections and relies on relationship-building as a foundation for securing investments and support from stakeholders.

Beyond her professional achievements, Christina’s impact extends to the community she serves. She is driven by a deep-rooted passion for the areas she cares about and seeks to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Her commitment to fostering strong relationships extends beyond her organization and team; it encompasses the entire community. By empowering local businesses and encouraging collaboration, she helps create an environment that thrives on growth and innovation.

In her role as Vice President, Christina continues to inspire and lead by example. She champions inclusivity, diversity, and sustainable practices, ensuring that the communities she serves flourish both economically and socially. Her tireless dedication to personal and professional growth serves as an inspiration to those around her, encouraging them to reach new heights and embrace continuous learning.

Let’s explore her journey in greater depth!

Prioritizing Customer Service for Lasting Impact

Christina’s expertise in marketing and communication is derived from hands-on experience rather than formal education. Despite lacking formal marketing training, she places emphasis on her interpersonal skills to establish meaningful connections with people. To her, successful marketing and communication require honesty and relevance to the audience. It is vital to comprehend the audience and have confidence in the message being delivered. Christina and her team are fervent about creating a positive impact through their work and wholeheartedly believe in their mission. She asserts that customer service should be at the core of any organization’s operations. Effective communication of the organization’s mission and impact on the audience is crucial for success.

Expert Tips Revealed

There are several steps to creating and implementing a comprehensive marketing and communications strategy, says Christina.

  • Before anything else, it is important to familiarize yourself with your target audience. Determine their demographics, interests, preferred communication styles, and preferred channels for receiving information.
  • To effectively engage with every segment of your audience, you must be open to experimentation while maintaining consistency in your brand and messaging.
  • Don’t hesitate to experiment and observe what works, as the appearance, texture, and overall encounter of your materials will captivate unique sets of your audience.

Overcoming Fundraising Hurdles

According to Christina, the most significant hurdle in fundraising for economic development is the intricate nature of the concept. Economic development includes a broad spectrum of factors, such as alluring and preserving businesses that invest in the community, pay taxes, and employ individuals. These taxes are then employed to finance infrastructure and schools, which educate future generations of workers and maintain the cycle. To achieve triumph in fundraising for economic development, it is crucial to present the investment’s impact on the community and connect it with individual investors. This necessitates highlighting how each investor is accountable for the overall economic climate and how their contribution aids in elevating the tide for all parties.

Latest Projects and Initiatives

Two years ago, Christina launched an initiative called FLEX: Female Leadership Excellence. The main objective of FLEX is to help women in the business field accelerate their career growth, enhance their personal development, and promote excellent leadership skills. FLEX is presented in a panel-style event where successful female leaders from different parts of the country are invited to speak candidly about their struggles and successes. This event provides women in the region with access to highly successful female leaders they would not normally have. The conversations are genuine, unfiltered, and empowering. The panelists are carefully selected based on their unique experiences, life stages, and industries, with the goal of being inclusive. The aim is for every single person in the audience to relate to the panelist in some way so they can see themselves on the stage and know they, too, can overcome obstacles. Since its inception, the FLEX event has gained an international following and has sold out. Christina is excited to continue her work in advancing female leadership.

Mastering Collaboration

Resource utilization and collaboration play essential roles in achieving economic development through relationships. The primary aim of this endeavor is to make a positive impact on the community. Working in silos or lacking a receptive approach towards collaboration and idea exchange would hinder the achievement of this objective. The team consists of individuals who bring their distinctive skills, proficiency, and passion to the project, all working towards a shared goal.

Two Impressive Certifications

The Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) designation is widely regarded as the most esteemed credential in the field of economic development. Achieving this certification is a noteworthy accomplishment, and it holds immense value. Possessing a CEcD title demonstrates that one has a comprehensive understanding of the industry and is capable of performing at the highest level. It also elevates one’s profile within their organization and raises their organization’s profile within the profession. For Christina, the certification is a testament not only to her expertise in economic development but also to her unwavering commitment to serving her community in the most effective manner possible.

Impact of Association Memberships

Being part of a professional association can offer beneficial networking prospects and industry insights. Christina has reaped significant rewards through her affiliation with the Michigan Economic Development Association, which has granted her admittance to top-notch techniques and enabled her to establish connections with other experts from across the state.

International Economic Development Council

The IEDC, known as the largest global organization dedicated to economic development, provides substantial aid to professionals in this field. Christina was inspired to become a member due to the multitude of opportunities available through the IEDC, including chances for professional development, volunteer work, and career progression. However, the most valuable aspect of her membership, according to Christina, is the vast network she has been able to establish.

Professional Growth and Recognition

Christina believes that attaining the Certified Economic Developer certification is a demanding undertaking. To be eligible for the exam, aspirants must possess at least four years of full-time exposure in the economic development domain and must complete an extensive curriculum covering numerous areas of expertise. Furthermore, the exam comprises three distinct modules, namely Multiple Choice/Short Answer, Essay, and Oral Exam, and has a pass percentage of only 41%.

CEcD Certification

Christina expresses her gratitude for being among the women who currently possess a CEcD in the State of Michigan. She says, “It is noteworthy that only around 1,100 individuals worldwide hold this certification, making this achievement even more significant.” Her certification is a result of her hard work and dedication, which she values highly and takes pride in.

Experience Transforming Business Success

Christina previously held the role of Executive Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Berrien and Cass, Inc., where she led the organization and ensured the children in the program received the necessary mentorship. This experience was particularly important to Christina, and she firmly believes that providing mentorship to children can have a profound impact on both the child and the world around them. Mentoring allows children to uncover their potential and explore new opportunities. Even in her current position at Cornerstone Alliance, Christina continues to give back to the community through volunteering and sharing her skills and resources, making a positive impact on others.

Future Goals and Aspirations

Christina’s current focus is on nurturing and growing her team in the short term. Seeing her team’s achievements brings her the most fulfillment in her career. Moving forward, Christina plans to concentrate on creating and implementing innovative programs similar to FLEX. When it comes to the long term, Christina is uncertain. Though she has aspirations and goals, she does not hold tight to expectations of what her journey should look like. She remains open to new opportunities and welcomes challenges as they come. As a child, she never imagined a future in economic development or mapped out her educational path to lead her there. However, through her experiences and education, she found herself in the industry and has no regrets.

Raving Reviews and Prestigious Awards

  • Awards/Recognitions/Featured Media:
  • Named one of North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers in 2022 by Consultant Connect.
  • Recognized as one of the Top 50 Women Leaders of Michigan by

She has been fortunate enough to have been highlighted on two national podcasts and multiple magazines, among them:

  • Magazine Cover: – Fortune Business Review

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