Meet the Driving Force Behind Detroit's Economic Transformation

When we think of Detroit, we often think of its automotive industry or its rich musical history. But a new driving force behind the city’s transformation is Nicole Sherard-Freeman. As the Group Executive for Jobs, Economy, and Detroit at Work in the Office of Mayor Mike Duggan, Nicole leads the city’s economic development and workforce development ecosystem, with a $90+ million budget supported by public, philanthropic, and employer investments.

Nicole brings over 25 years of experience across corporate, non-profit, and government entities, with a proven track record of leading complex, cross-sector operations and public-private partnerships at scale. Her deep interest in public-private partnership governance and operating models, business leadership in under-resourced communities, and creating a net-zero workforce has led to her being recognized as one of Crain’s Detroit Business 50 Names to Know in Government in 2021 and one of the Axios 8 Most Powerful People in Detroit in 2022.

Nicole’s passion for economic and workforce development is palpable in her work with Detroit at Work, the city’s largest community-engaged, data-driven staffing agency. Under her leadership, the agency connects thousands of Detroiters to opportunity every year, measuring success by increases in resident employment, increases in average wage for customers, employer retention rates, and the quality of partnerships built. Their solutions are tested, tried, refined in Detroit and relevant in urban and rural environments, solving problems others ignore

Nicole’s extensive corporate background, including leadership experience in Operations, Sales, and HR for Fortune 500 companies, coupled with her experience as the former Director for Corporation for a Skilled Workforce’s Detroit Portfolio, has helped her lead her team responsible for 5,100+ job placements at Stellantis (formerly FCA) in the first urban brownfield auto manufacturer inside Detroit in 30 years.

Nicole’s passion for economic development and workforce development also led her to become the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) portfolio executive for the $100MM Detroit Adult Scholarship Program, Industrial Site Readiness/Blight Remediation, Community Investments to disrupt intergenerational poverty, Employment and Job Creation, and Small Business. She also leads fundraising and strategy for Grow Detroit’s Young Talent (GDYT), providing summer youth employment annually for 8000+ youth.

Nicole’s work in Detroit is not only transforming the city’s economy but also changing the lives of Detroiters, moving them out of poverty and onto a path toward the middle class. Her ability to manage complex stakeholders with competing interests and integrate vision, research, strategy, operations, and continuous improvement has made her an invaluable asset to Detroit.

Nicole Sherard-Freeman’s work in Detroit is a testament to her passion for economic and workforce development. Her dedication to creating public-private partnerships that benefit Detroiters and her proven track record of leading complex operations has made her a driving force behind the city’s transformation. Her work will have a lasting impact on the city and the lives of its residents.

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