Angee Shaker has been the economic development director for the city of Solon for almost three years. But those were perhaps the most eventful three years. On top of beginning a new job in her city, she had to navigate herself and Solon through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to taking the job, Shaker worked for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. She was on a team that led academic design and engagement efforts to support Cleveland’s Plan for Transforming Schools. She helped form partnerships with the business community and national foundations to design and launch new urban school models that are meaningful and relevant for students to better prepare them for college and the workforce.
Shaker said she had no intention of ever leaving that role, but when Peggy Weil Dorfman, the former economic development professional, retired, Shaker had a handful of close friends and colleagues tell her she would be a great fit for the position.
Shaker, 48, spoke with the Cleveland Jewish News June 24 about her experience as economic development director. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
CJN: What has it been like to work in this position during a pandemic?
Shaker: I had to let go of the economic development playbook that I had been working from. Rules changed, needs changed. Safety came first. Making sure those around us had the best information and equipment to operate safely was a priority. Mayor Eddy Kraus is such a caring leader, our weekly meetings were all about finding ways during a lockdown to stay connected with the community and help each other through it. Providing information, support and adapting to the needs of all residents and businesses was a focus for every department. It’s what got us through it.
CJN: What does a typical day look like for you?
Shaker: The days go fast. Most days, I’m administering and inspecting grant projects. I’m often in the field meeting with business owners, property owners, developers and contractors. I spend a lot of time on the phone with commercial Realtors discussing available properties, zoning information and utility access. I also enjoy taking in the celebrations and networking opportunities such as ribbon cuttings, grand openings and coffees with Solon chamber members. I always have each day mapped out but often have to adapt based on the needs of the existing business community or new business and development leads.
CJN: What has been the most fulfilling part of your job?
Shaker: Watching people’s dreams come true. Constructing a new building, or starting a new business or expanding a business is risky. It all starts with choosing the best location. When you choose a location, you are choosing a community. It’s about people. I’m often the first point of contact for prospective businesses and development and establishing trust right away is important. Which means, keep it confidential and let them make any announcements when they are ready. It’s their project, their dream and their story to tell. Solon has great people and so much to offer, that’s the story I get to tell.
CJN: What do you look forward to accomplishing?
Shaker: I want to see the redevelopment of the former Liberty Ford Auto Group site. We as a city are taking all of the right steps to help turn it into a vibrant mix of uses that will attract young professionals and empty nesters, and will also provide amenities for our residents, guests and business community.