Andre Banks ('18)
Director of Social Inclusion, Forest City Washington
Can you give us some background or insight into your personal leadership path – including your sources of inspiration and most important lessons learned?
For me, community involvement is more than just volunteering or serving on a board. It’s in my DNA. I was born and raised in Washington, DC – “homegrown as some like to say”. I was inspired by my father and uncles, who opened the first Black-owned shopping center in Anacostia in the 1970s. They taught me the lesson to “never give up on where you are from.” I have proudly carried this lesson with me to Forest city, where I have certainly tried to go above and beyond to create social inclusion programs that provide opportunities to the residents and businesses of Washington, DC. One such program is the Workforce Intermediary, which serves to bridge the gap between Forest City commercial tenants seeking employees and DC residents in search of work. The pilot program aimed to fill 125 open positions in the new Harris Teeter grocery store at Twelve12 apartment building located within The Yards. I worked closely with Harris Teeter to assess staffing needs and then reached out to more than 30 community and faith-based organizations to identify candidates. The Workforce Intermediary and its partners then provided training for the candidates to obtain skillsets for the available roles. To date, the program has shown substantial success. Of the 125 jobs available, 80 plus were filled by Workforce Intermediary applicants. Six months after the store’s grand opening, the retention rate was 82 percent. In addition, over 550 program participants that were not interviewed or hired by Harris Teeter later found employment in surrounding shops and restaurants, bringing the total employment of the program to nearly 650.
I truly hope to continue to expand the impact of the program as more and more business move into the neighborhood. “We’re doing more than just constructing buildings here,” he said. “We’re creating a community. Our Workforce Intermediary is a win/win for all.”
How did you first become involved with Leadership Greater Washington and the Signature Program?
Two of my very close mentors, Valerie Ashley and Howard Stone (LGW Members) recommended me for participation in the LGW program.
How would you describe LGW - the alumni, leadership, staff, and overall mission of the organization?
All of the group mentioned above were absolutely outstanding and totally committed to the philosophy of “Each One, Teach One”. The overall mission was not only promising, but by the end of the ten-month class period, proved to be a life-changing experience for all members of the LGW Class of 2018. These incredible bonds and relationships that were created will certainly last us for the rest of our lives. LGW bring a new meaning to the sense of the word, “Family”.
Can you describe an extraordinary LGW Moment from your experience - a connection you made, something you pursued because of LGW, or a distinctive memory?
The company that I work for has recently been acquired by a larger firm. To my surprise, one of my LGW 2018 Classmates works for the acquiring firm. It would be an understatement to say just how thoughtful and considerate he has been during this period of uncertainty. I am sure his kindness and loyalty have been a direct result of the relationship that we have formed through LGW. I have truly been blessed to be a part of such a uniquely talented group of professionals, from all walks of life.
How do you envision the future of the region? What about LGW’s role in that future?
I truly believe that the future of the region is promising, and largely because of the relationships that the LGW Class has allowed us to develop. As the future multi-regional LGW Classes grow with understanding and commitment for the good of all, so will the region.
How do your efforts and leadership at your current organization impact the future of the Greater Washington region?
We at Forest City are committed to building community with local businesses and the inclusion of DC residents. The company is redeveloping a 50-plus-acre waterfront site in Washington, DC, known as The Yards. The nearly $2 billion mixed-use project involves 20 to 25 buildings and is expected to take 15 to 20 years to complete. We decided to go beyond race and gender and take a more inclusive approach by bringing in small or disadvantaged local businesses. I figure, as we are able to successfully accomplish this at The Yards, then by working together as members of the LGW Family, this is simply proof that we can accomplish this regionally.
What is your favorite LGW event?
I really enjoyed the LGW Community Day Event. In my world, it’s always about helping those less fortunate. I face the facts, I love what I do; there’s no greater reward for me.
In what ways has LGW been able to shape the region since you joined?
I believe that the interaction between such a differently talented group of professionals has allowed us to appreciate our differences while working together to reach a common goal/good.
How has LGW played a role in your professional life?
The professional contacts and support have been unbelievable. I am confident that I can call on any of my classmates, in any profession, service or trade to accomplish any task at hand.
What are some keys to staying innovative in your field or some tips for success?
Rules of Thumb for Success:
- It’s important who you know!
- It’s important what you know!
- And more importantly, who knows you!
What do you love most about your LGW Class?
In the beginning, we started out not knowing each other very well; in some cases, a bit doubtful and apprehensive. By the end of the program, we became a Family.
Please tell us something most people might not know about you.
I worked as a Presidential Appointee for two different cabinet members under the Clinton Administration, Secretary Henry Cisneros (HUD) and Aida Alvarez (SBA).