Nicole Sherard-Freeman

Nicole Sherard-Freeman

Nicole Sherard-Freeman

Nicole Sherard-Freeman will join the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan as chief operating officer, effective July 10.

In this new role, Sherard-Freeman will be part of the Community Foundation’s leadership team and report to President Richard (Ric) DeVore. She will oversee donor services, finance, grantmaking services, IT, program teams and the New Economy Initiative (NEI).

Sherard-Freeman brings more than 25 years of experience across corporate, non-profit, and government entities to her role at the Community Foundation. Previously, she led the City of Detroit’s economic development and workforce development ecosystem.

In 2021, Mayor Mike Duggan combined the city’s economic development functions and workforce development functions under Sherard-Freeman’s leadership.  Under this unified structure, she and her teams lead the strategies to attract and retain businesses in the city, and the strategy to provide a ready workforce for employers in Detroit. Enabled by funding from both the American Rescue Plan Act and the U.S. Department of Labor, Detroiters are already seeing the benefits of a combined economic development and workforce development structure. ARPA-funded programs including Skills for Life, Learn to Earn, and Grow Detroit’s Young Talent are among the programs on track to provide opportunities for thousands in the city.

Led by the mayor and City Council’s vision, Sherard-Freeman’s integration of economic development and workforce development has led to more than doubling the number of employers who give hiring priority to Detroiters in their Detroit facilities. While large-scale deals like Stellantis (formerly FCA), Michigan Central Ford Train Station, GM, major automotive suppliers, and Amazon are key to the city’s growth, Sherard-Freeman is also charged with expanding small and midsize business growth in commercial corridors and neighborhoods. Under her leadership, economic development and workforce development produced industrial land readiness and large-scale employment, and small and midsize business strategies that help enable thriving communities and grow Detroit’s middle class.

Sherard-Freeman serves on several boards including the Governor’s State of Michigan Workforce Development Board (Executive Committee), WorkRise: An Urban Institute Initiative, Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation, and Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.  She is the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Workforce Development Board (the local workforce investment board), the mayor’s representative on the Downtown Development Authority, chairs the Job Committee of the Mayor’s Equity Council and serves as the mayor’s appointee to the United States Conference of Mayors — Workforce Development Council.

Sherard-Freeman has served as an expert witness for the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, and recently testified before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Michigan on workforce and talent pipeline development and is a frequent contributor to local news outlets and publications.

Born and raised in Detroit, Sherard-Freeman is a proud graduate of the Detroit Public School system.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and has completed graduate studies in Organizational Management and Development at Fielding Graduate University.  She is a Crain’s Notable Women in Nonprofits alumni, a 2018 Michigan Chronicle Woman of Excellence, a member of the 2021 class of Crain’s Most Influential Women in Michigan and is an Axios Detroit 2022 Power Player. She was a lead researcher and co-author of Detroit’s Untapped Talent: Partnerships and Pathways to Success, and Detroit’s Untapped Talent: Jobs and On-ramps Needed, companion research briefs often cited by local workforce experts.

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