Team NEO Names 2021 Regional Economic Development Champions

Leaders recognized for their work to advance the region

Last week Team NEO recognized three individuals as 2021 Regional Economic Development Champions for their work in leveraging the full strength of the Northeast Ohio Region’s economic development network to advance our region. At the organization’s annual meeting, NEO Rising: Celebrating Today. Building Tomorrow, Team NEO recognized:

Business Leader: Kimberly Riley, President: Hylant Cleveland

Kim Riley joined Hylant in 2011 with more than 35 years in the insurance industry. She immediately became engaged in the community to understand the challenges of Hylant’s clients from a more holistic perspective. Riley is Chairwoman of the NEO American Red Cross Board, Vice Chair of Team NEO, an active member of the Northeast Ohio Advisory Board for the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, Destination Cleveland, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and iHeartRadio. Team NEO recognized Riley for her committed leadership, engagement and belief in Northeast Ohio.  

Economic Development Leader: Brad Whitehead, Past President and Senior Advisor, Special Projects: The Fund for Our Economic Future

A founder of the Fund for Our Economic Future and President for 16 years, Whitehead was one of the early adopters of the notion that for the region to be successful, it needed to strengthen and leverage all of the communities that comprise Northeast Ohio. Team NEO  recognized Whitehead for challenging regional leaders to engage more, collaborate more, and evolve their priorities so that more of the region’s underrepresented communities could have greater access to opportunities emerging from the region’s work. Brad has served on many boards, and was one of the very first members of Team NEO’s Board of Directors.

Community Leader: Lee Friedman, CEO: College Now Greater Cleveland

Lee Friedman joined College Now Greater Cleveland in June 2010 following a number of significant Cleveland-area non-profit leadership roles. Under her leadership, College Now is advancing regional competitiveness and prosperity through its commitment to addressing the region’s talent gap by counseling students and educating them on career pathways that will lead to in-demand jobs in our region. Her organization reaches more than 29,000 students and adult learners a year, providing college access advising, financial aid counseling and scholarship and retention services. Many of the students served are from low-income families and are first-generation college students. Because of her extensive leadership skills, familiarity with the Northeast Ohio education system, and commitment to creating educational opportunity for all students. Team NEO recognized Friedman for her commitment to talent, equity and outcomes for Northeast Ohio.

“Our 2021 Champions are strong advocates for the Northeast Ohio Region, each contributing in their own unique way to bring economic growth and prosperity to our region,” said Team NEO CEO Bill Koehler. “They are a powerful example of what is possible through strong leadership influence, partner engagement and leveraging the full strength of a network of businesses, economic development organizations, philanthropy and the public sector.

About Team NEO

Team NEO is a private, nonprofit economic development organization accelerating business growth and job creation throughout the 18 counties of the Northeast Ohio Region. As the designated JobsOhio Network Partner, we align and amplify local economic development efforts in the region’s 18 counties; we conduct research and data analysis to inform local conversations and influence solutions; we market the Northeast Ohio Region; and we work to increase access to jobs, education and training for the region’s 4.3 million people. We do this to build a more vibrant regional economy –  one that is more talented, equitable, competitive, innovative, resilient and prosperous. For more information, visit