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Financing Growth of Women & Minority-Owned Businesses

Tuesday, April 20, 2021
11:00 AM Eastern


Nancy Cappola, Real Estate and Economic Development Consultant 

Adji Fatou Diagne, PhD, Economist, U.S. Census Bureau

Ayris T. Scales, CEO & Managing Director, Walker’s Legacy & Walker’s Legacy Foundation

Moderator: Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, CBE, Senior Resident Fellow, Third Way; former NABE President 


Join us for a discussion of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to supporting a step-up in growth of women and minority-owned businesses. The experts will discuss opportunity zones, new market tax credits, and how federal policy can support stronger growth in the next five years.




Speaker Bios:


Nancy Cappola
Real Estate and Economic Development Consultant 

Nancy Cappola is a business strategist with 35-years of experience cultivating key corporate, community, government, and academic alliances.  She has developed technical expertise in project finance, project management, program development, market research, negotiation, economic development tax credits and other incentives, and grant writing.  She has industry experience in commercial real estate sales and financing, banking, and bio-tech.  She is a licensed real estate broker in New York State.  Nancy worked for BNY Mellon in the early 1990’s as a commercial real estate appraiser with responsibilities for valuing new projects for the lending group as well as supporting the Bank’s extensive workout group valuing its commercial/industrial real estate portfolios.  She worked for Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) in the Pittsburgh real estate group where she performed property valuations, analyzed commercial leases and did project planning.  She also worked for Laureate Capital, LLC, a subsidiary of BBT Bank as a Vice President of commercial loan production and Citizens Financial, Inc in a similar position, placing over $900 million in debt capital.  During her tenure with these organizations, she served on the Loan Review Committee for the city of Pittsburgh offering her ideas and evaluation of numerous residential, commercial and industrial projects being developed by the City in the 1990’s.  As a result of these activities, she was recruited to join Pittsburgh’s former Economic Development Director in Wayne County-Detroit to oversee the County’s New Markets Tax Credit program in 2004.  In her capacity as Deputy Director of Business Development, Nancy leveraged $27 million in New Markets Tax Credits in four key projects bringing in $65 million in private investment and adding 650 construction and full-time jobs, increasing business space capacity in blighted communities, adding new services, and retaining existing businesses.  In 2008, Ms. Cappola successfully wrote a New Markets Tax Credit grant proposal that brough the County’s program $50 million in tax credits.   During Nancy’s tenure at Wayne County, she became instrumental in supporting the TechTown-Detroit incubator/accelerator, a $100 million investment with seed funding from Henry Ford Health Systems, General Motors, and Wayne State University. Nancy located an investment by the Mexican government of scalable automotive companies seeking joint ventures with Michigan automotive suppliers at the incubator.  Subsequently, TechTown-Detroit named her their Director of International Soft Landings, a platform developed to attract second stage international companies and provide them technical assistance and industry partners. She worked with life science and medical device startups and existing companies from Europe, Asia, and Israel.  In 2012, Ms. Cappola was named Economic Development Director of Farmington Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.  As Director, Nancy work with many of the existing small businesses, mom and pop shops and international automotive corporations in the City’s footprint.   She provided these companies access to micro-loan funds, export assistance, SBA 504 loans, CDBG Revolving Loan Funds and other technical assistance.  Currently Ms. Cappola lives in metro New York where she offers her economic development assistance to local governments, start ups and existing companies.  Nancy holds an M.S. M from Keuka College in Penn Yan, New York


Adji Fatou Diagne
U.S. Census Bureau 

Adji Fatou Diagne is a research economist with the Center for Economics Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau. Prior to CES, Adji worked in the Economic Directorate at the Census Bureau where she worked on the Annual Business Survey assisting with many parts of the survey life cycle, including data collection, microanalysis, macro-analysis, and data dissemination.  She also worked on the dissemination of the Nonemployer Businesses Statistics Demographics (NES-D) data. Adji was transferred to Census two years ago from Office of the Chief Economist in the former Economics and Statistics Administration at Department of Commerce where she served as a policy economist performing research in labor, manufacturing, and various topics in domestic and international economic policy. Adji’s dissertation research focused on inclusionary zoning affordable housing programs and resulted in a publication in the Journal of Housing Economics in February 2018. Her primary research interests are related to creating housing and income security for low and moderate income households, business owner demographics, and consumer and housing finance. Adji received her MA and PhD degrees in Economics from Howard University and a BA in Economics from Spelman College. She is from Senegal, speaks 4 languages, and currently resides in Silver Spring, MD. 



Ayris T. Scales
CEO and Managing Director
Walker's Legacy and Walker's Legacy Foundation

A dynamic and visionary executive and thought leader, Ayris has been a champion for women, entrepreneurs and underinvested communities for nearly two decades. Her mission-oriented approach to addressing social inequities has led to transformative public-private partnerships with numerous global brands, as well as innovative policies and initiatives in which she has secured over $50M in funding, and overseen more than $100M in grants and subsidies. Ayris has centered her career on creating access, driving solutions and amplifying authentic messaging. She has held leadership roles in Indianapolis, Savannah, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, DC in all three sectors. In 2018 Ayris was appointed by DC Mayor Muriel Bowser to serve as the District’s official Chief Service Officer. Prior to this role, Ayris was the Vice President of Economic Growth and Jobs for World Business Chicago (WBC). She led corporate board members, staff and stakeholders through a collaborative design process to create and institute WBC's first-ever inclusive economic growth framework. This novel approach to programming and operations shifted millions of dollars back into Chicago’s emerging commercial markets, and connected hundreds of small to medium sized businesses to major procurement opportunities. Ayris also has the distinct honor of having served as the inaugural Executive Director of the DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative (DCPNI), a flagship organization under President Obama’s White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative to end generational poverty. Her revolutionary strategy to launch a two generation modeled program focusing on the educational advancement of both single mothers and their children, led to DCPNI being awarded a $28M grant from the US Department of Education; the only start-up in the country ever being awarded this highly coveted grant.  She is a sought after advisor, speaker, moderator, lecturer, and blogger. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, Ebony, Fox, ABC, and NBC news affiliates, Telemundo, Blackher.us and numerous other publications. As a philanthropist, advocate and community leader, Ayris serves on several boards and advisory councils, including Wells Fargo’s "Where We Live " and Lyft’s "LyftUp.” She is the chartering President of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. Metropolitan Washington D.C. Chapter, where she spearheaded the development of an annual grant to support female owned businesses and an HBCU technology scholarship in response to COVID19. Ayris is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a National Urban Fellows alum and Leadership Greater Washington. She attended Clark Atlanta University, Kent State University and Baruch College. 


Ellen Hughes-Cromwick
Senior Resident Fellow for Climate and Energy Program
Third Way

Ellen joined Third Way’s Climate and Energy program to help move the national debate forward as US transportation transitions to clean energy. Prior to coming to Third Way, Ellen has worked across the global landscape in the private sector and in public service. She established her career working as chief global economist at Ford Motor Company, providing insights and analysis on the global economy and how economic development creates jobs and opportunity for people in all sectors of the economy. Ellen served as Chief Economist of the U.S. Department of Commerce where she worked on several Administration initiatives improving data quality, measuring the digital economy, and expanding workforce development, manufacturing, trade and investment. Ellen also supported the development of the Administration’s economic forecast. From her early days in upstate New York as the daughter of a teacher and a nurse, Ellen has been interested in the role of economic development and education in expanding opportunity. She served as President of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE), and is on the advisory board of WorkingNation and MacroPolicy Perspectives. At NABE, she is chair of the organization’s Foundation board of directors, and has worked to establish NABE’s premier education initiative. She feels lucky to engage students from diverse backgrounds who want a career using economics. Ellen earned her Masters’ degree in international development and Ph.D. in economics at Clark University, and now serves on their Board of Trustees. She loves family and athletics. When not at work, Ellen spends time with her husband and kids who are now young adults.


Past Events 


Can Addressing Inequality Unleash Economic Growth?

October 7, 2020





Lisa Cook, Professor of Economics and International Relations, Michigan State University
Jim Tankersley, Tax and Economics Reporter, The New York Times
Moderator: Nela Richardson, Investment Strategist, Edward Jones


Race, Mobility, and Fairness in the U.S. Economy

June 30, 2020


Raphael Bostic
, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Darrick Hamilton, Executive Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, 
and Professor, John Glenn College of Public Affairs, The Ohio State University

Neel Kashkari, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Marie Mora, Professor and Provost/Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, 
University of Missouri-St. Louis


Nela Richardson, Principal and Investment Strategist, Edward Jones


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