Erica Henderson

Executive Director, St. Louis Promise Zone + Vice President of Community Investment and Real Estate at the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership

Erica’s passion is working in communities of color to reduce inequities by developing systems that put families on the path towards achieving economic success, all while advancing self-sufficiency that creates substantive and generational impact. Erica is a forward-thinking, strategic system leader focused on social equity, justice, and cultivating collaboration to mobilize communities towards achieving their vision for a high quality of life.

Erica has more than 17 years of experience building strategic alliances for progressive change in disinvested communities and promoting inclusive growth in the St. Louis Region to minimize social and economic challenges. As Executive Director, St. Louis Promise Zone, and Vice President of Community Investment and Real Estate at the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, she has forged and cultivated strong relationships in North St. Louis City and North St. Louis County. Erica has managed the largest urban Promise Zone, both in population and geography, in the country. Erica oversaw the investment of more than $90 million to the St. Louis footprint through partnerships with direct service providers, and convening of more than 200 partners, and 19 federal agencies in the Promise Zone. The St. Louis Promise Zone catalyzes a more equitable, thriving region through radical collaboration, alignment, and intentional strategic investment in our most disadvantaged communities.

As VP of Community Investment and Real Estate, she managed a small business incubator with more than 100 businesses, 80 clients. She built out small business programming with the Small Business Development and Technology Center. Additionally, she oversaw the redevelopment of $100 million in real estate assets, led an equitable real estate policy implementation strategy, and developed neighborhood engagement frameworks inclusive of community partnerships and residents.

Erica’s leadership has built credibility amongst residents, corporate leaders, community organizers, educational institutions, nonprofits, and civic leaders through various engagements. She has led numerous projects and initiatives that have built regional capacity for achieving just, equitable and sustainable development at both the programmatic and public policy levels.

Erica was tapped to lead the Small Business Recovery Covid related funding for more than 1800 businesses in the region, disseminating $30million in grants and loans to businesses. She raised $3 million from public, private, and philanthropic dollars and oversaw $27 million from St. Louis County’s CaresACt funding.

Erica was an intricate part of the response team during the civil unrest that took place in Ferguson, Missouri. She was the administrator for a regional collaborative effort to provide a $1.5 million, zero percent interest loan, and neighborhood development strategy along with commercial revitalization programs to impacted businesses. Erica developed and implemented various business listening sessions, technical workshops, and partnerships to further assist businesses towards sustainability and growth while building social capital through direct interaction with over 200 businesses. Additionally, she served on the Reinvest North County Fund to disseminate $1 million in private grant funding from private corporations to area businesses and school districts.

Before this role, Erica worked for St. Louis Development Corporation, overseeing various commercial corridor development strategies that led to the creation of various financial incentive districts and neighborhood organizations to provide greater community impact, transformation, and stability. Erica also underwrote business loans, managed six collaborative lending programs, negotiated contracts, and developed business proposals with local, state, and federal incentives utilizing various programs to spur more than $5 billion in investment.

Erica has always removed barriers to opportunity by intentional and priority consideration for underrepresented populations to expand access to education, training, capital, technical assistance, and equitable resources.

Erica has graduate degrees in public policy and business administration, emphasizing finance, is currently completing her doctorate degree in Leadership and Social Justice. She is a lifelong learner and avid reader. She serves on various executive boards, community advisory boards, and commissions to promote social justice and equitable economic opportunity both locally and nationally. She has been the recipient of several awards inclusive of 2018 Diversity Leader and 2020 Most Influential Business Leader from the St. Louis Business Journal.