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Birmingham’s Cornell Wesley recognized as 40 under 40 in economic development

Wesley is currently the director of innovation and economic opportunity for the city of Birmingham.

Cornell Wesley City of Birmingham

Cornell Wesley, director of Innovation and Economic Opportunity for the City of Birmingham, has been announced as a recipient of the 2023 Economic Development 40 Under 40 Award, the biennial award recognizing rising stars under 40 years old in the economic development industry.  

The awards program is hosted by Development Counsellors International (DCI), a New York-based integrated marketing firm that works with economic development and travel organizations around the globe, and Jorgenson Consulting, a leading national executive search firm serving organizations in non-profit, economic, and community development industries. An independent selection committee of six economic development leaders and site selection consultants evaluated nominations based on demonstration of strong leadership, commitment and innovation every day in the workplace.  

“The purpose-driven work of economic development plays a vital role in communities around the world, and much of it is led by young professionals,” said Julie Curtin, president of DCI’s economic development practice. “These 40 rising stars are contributing their creativity, dedication and leadership to make a tremendous impact in their communities and our industry as a whole, and I so look forward to what lies ahead in their careers.”  

“This distinction confirms what we already know about Cornell Wesley: he is a dynamic leader, negotiator and bridge builder,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. “Since beginning his tenure with the city, Cornell and his team has helped to secure multimillion-dollar development projects that will be transformative for the city and our residents, created innovative ways to support local, small businesses, and established programs for a more equitable economy. We are lucky to have him serve.”  

With over fifteen years of experience managing professional staff in both the public and private sectors, Wesley is a seasoned executive with in-depth expertise that includes personnel staffing and management, oversight of complex organizational budgets and management of technical and policy teams, as well as a proven track record as a skilled negotiator. Wesley previously served as the Economic Development Representative for Oklahoma and North Texas for the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA). He worked to successfully build coalitions among regional economic development organizations in his service area and efficiently managed over $20 million in federal investment, yielding a $1.5 billion impact in private investment and creation of over 4,000 jobs and retention of over 3,000 jobs.   

A Birmingham native, Wesley’s education is as varied as his work experience. A Morehouse College graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, he also holds a Master of Business Administration from Mercer University and a Master of Divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center of Atlanta, Georgia.   

“The economic development industry continues to evolve and these rising leaders are stepping up to the challenge,” said Todd Jorgenson, managing director and principal of Jorgenson Consulting, Inc. “Congratulations to these 40 winners – and to the communities that are lucky to benefit from their expertise.”  

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Award winners were announced last night at a reception hosted by DCI and Jorgenson at the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa. The ceremony was held in conjunction with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) 2023 Leadership Summit, the only conference held exclusively for Certified Economic Developers and senior managers in the profession.   

For more information on the 40 Under 40 awards program and this year’s winners, visit 

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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