When Dichondra Johnson ’06 goes to work, she changes Michigan’s economy.
In her new role as Business Development Manager for Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), she is focused on retaining businesses in Michigan by connecting them to talent resources, access to capital and resources for local investment opportunities. She also works with the “Pure Michigan” campaign to promote tourism and with community development initiatives to create vibrant communities in Michigan.
Dichondra feels fortunate that her primary task is to ensure that her favorite places in Michigan are great to live, work and play in. A typical day might see her calling on businesses in Wayne County to address any growth and expansion needs that might stop them from remaining in Michigan. She says, “We try to keep businesses from having to close or relocate. Oftentimes you’ll see news items that say a large company is expanding and building a new plant.” She serves a point of connection between companies and resources they can use to fuel growth or expansion. Dichondra likens herself and others in her role to that of a ‘one-stop shop’ to make sure that companies have what they need to be successful.
She’s proud to have a direct impact on the state of Michigan’s economy as well. She says, “I’m one of the first to hear about company’s plans, including if they will be growing in a way that might impact their footprint on Michigan. When they say something like, ‘It would be cheaper for us to do business in California because our supplier is there,’ we look at what we can offer them and what we can do to alleviate those barriers.”
Growing up, Dichondra loved the arts and never imagined she’d be working in public policy. Her undergraduate degree in arts administration and marketing set the stage for her to work with international artists. After working in the industry, she knew that she would need to grow her knowledge of global business practices and that realization led her to earn her MBA at Davenport.
After Davenport, she earned a Master’s in Public Administration as well. Someday, she hopes to earn her PhD to teach university level coursework in her ‘retirement’.
Dichondra has a lifelong love for learning and she encourages students today to think about their careers in terms of transferrable skills. She says a strong understanding of how businesses run benefits most students and notes, “I tell kids to look past job titles and starting salaries because so many of the careers they are going to have don’t even exist today.”
Today, Dichondra’s unique views on placemaking stem from her extensive background in arts and her diverse contact list has allowed her to have great mentors. One early mentor taught her to see other’s interests in a situation and how to bring genuine value to a deal.
Since then, she’s grown her network into a formidable strength. She says, “One of my proudest achievements was being a part of the Michigan Political Leadership Program. It is a competitive fellowship program through Michigan State that I completed in 2011 and the experience and contacts will stay with me through my career.”
Dichondra is fortunate to have just landed one of her dream jobs, one she says she’s been wanting for a very long time. Her network and ability to connect with people, plus a solid business foundation, have made her successful and helped maintain relationships throughout her career.