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Christina Frank, VP, External Affairs, Cornerstone Alliance, oversees comprehensive communications and public relations initiatives that boost the organization's image and correctly position the community in terms of economic development. Her career has focused on assisting Berrien County residents improve their relationships, employment, and quality of life.
Christina studied economic development and non-profit management at OU. Her professional affiliations include memberships in the International Economic Development Council and the International Society of Female Professionals. She is now a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) by the International Economic Development Council, making her one of only 17 women in Michigan to hold this designation. Christina has been named a Top 50 North American Economic Developer for 2022. To be selected for this list, Christina was nominated by her colleagues in both the economic development industry and the site consultant community for excellent practices, innovation, and success in building the communities she serves.
Christina designed the FLEX (Female Leadership Excellence), a panel discussion led by women in powerful executive leadership roles. FLEX is focused on career acceleration, personal development, and excellent leadership for women in business. FLEX debuted in March, celebrating Women's History Month. Cornerstone Alliance organized the event, and the tickets were sold in two weeks. "The support shown for this event proves there is a demand for development opportunities for women who strive to accelerate their personal and professional growth,” says Christina. "We're already planning the next FLEX event," says Cornerstone Alliance's CEO, Rob Cleveland.
According to Christina, her sector has gotten more inclusive as other fields have advanced. Economic progress with inventiveness and inclusivity will attract businesses, workers, and residents. “Economic Development like most industries has changed significantly in the past few years. I believe we have become a more inclusive industry, encouraging diversity in thought and creativity in the execution of strategy”, says Christina.
As economic development continues to widen in scope and capacity there will be space for more opportunities. “The work we do is meant to create a positive impact on the community and residents who live, work and play here. The goal is for everyone to feel like they belong and that they contribute to making our community what it is,” Christina added.
When Christina is not focused on creating innovative programming to advance local residents careers and positively impact their quality of life, she is responsible for development, implementation and performance tracking of comprehensive communications and public relations strategies that enhance her organization's image and appropriately position the community within the economic development marketplace.
Located within a 90-minute drive to Chicago, Grand Rapids, and South Bend, Southwest Michigan is a great place to do business, or live, outlines Christina. The cities and townships by Lake Michigan and nestled into the countryside are a dynamic blend of relaxed and vibrant, quaint, and culturally diverse. They are places where entrepreneurs and adventurers are inspired and thrive.
Based in Southwest Michigan are some of the world’s most recognizable companies. Each provides an array of jobs and career opportunities. Many of these companies are actively recruiting young, bright, and diverse talent to the region to help propel business growth for generations to come.
One of the most well-known companies is Whirlpool Corporation, the largest home appliance manufacturer in the world. Founded and headquartered in Benton Harbor. Other businesses such as Hanson Logistics, Eagle Technologies, JR Automation, and Robert Bosch LLC, manufacture and supply a variety of products around the globe.
Renowned for its agriculture, agritourism, and agribusiness, Christina states that Southwest Michigan is among the best growing regions in America. The acres of lush orchards and vineyards bear witness and can produce beer, wine, or spirits. Lake Michigan tempers the climate, making Southwest Michigan one of the most diverse growing regions in the nation (second only to California). The region produces over 200 commodities on a commercial basis, has created new varieties of peaches and apples, is a leader in growing blueberries and was the first in Michigan to plant European vinifera grapes.
A year-round outdoor playground is a plus in Southwest Michigan. “One of the best reasons for choosing Southwest Michigan is outside”, states Christina. The sugar-sand beaches are world-class. On TripAdvisor, Silver Beach in St. Joseph was ranked one of the Top 25 Beaches in the U.S. You can spend your leisure time golfing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, biking, cross-country or downhill skiing, and so much more.
Another innovative program Christina helped create, is the move to the Michigan Program. Capitalizing on 2020’s explosion in work-from-home arrangements, the Move to Michigan program incentivizes remote workers to relocate to Southwest Michigan. The Move to Michigan program seeks to attract full-time residents to Berrien County, where communities typically rely on summer tourism as an economic driver. The program offers a $15,000 incentive grant that is forgiven in $5,000 increments over three years. Applicants are required to purchase a home, applicants must be considered a full-time resident and prove they have full-time employment and are working remotely for a company outside of Southwest Michigan. In addition to the cash, participants can also pick from annual rail ticket passes, various memberships and free access to co-working spaces and county parks.
Christina closes by saying, "Southwest Michigan embraces a broad economy, miles of scenic beaches, and pleasant people. It truly is the best place to live, work and play.” Please contact us if you have questions.
VP, External Affairs
Cornerstone Alliance is a non-profit, investor-governed economic development organization primarily focused on increasing employment opportunities, private sector capital investments and the local tax base in Michigan’s Great Southwest with specialized business services offered in economically distressed areas.