Our Team

Chris Manheim, CEcD, MA

President

Email: chris@manheimsolutions.com

Chris Manheim, CEcD, MA, Authorized ACT WorkKeys® Job Profiler – is President of Manheim Solutions, Inc. Chris specializes in community economic development and workforce programs. After 25 years of managing economic development agencies, he founded Manheim Solutions, Inc. in November of 2008, focusing on linking economic development, education and business to provide skilled workers to employers. He is both a Certified Economic Developer and an Authorized ACT WorkKeys® Job Profiler. Since 1983, Mr. Manheim has worked on a number of projects that required the use of TIF and other incentive programs.

Manheim Solutions, Inc. has three basic clients: small municipalities, economic development organizations and employers seeking workforce development assistance.

Municipal clients typically require a study, such as a retail market analysis, and regular staff support for an extended period of time. Current and past municipal clients include the Village of Alsip, Illinois; Village of Lansing, Illinois; Tinley Park, Illinois; the Village of Justice, Illinois; Ogle County government; and the Village of Roscoe, Illinois.

Some municipalities, counties and regional economic development organizations use Manheim Solutions, Inc. to conduct specialized economic development strategic plans. These clients include the City of Appleton, Wisconsin; The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership; and The Pennyrile Area Development District, Kentucky.

Examples of these studies are foodshed strategies, such as for Latah County, Idaho and Treasure Coast Research, Education and Development Authority in St. Lucie, Florida. The result of the funding application we assisted Treasure Coast writing was a grant for $900,000 from the Economic Development Administration (EDA). Our team also conducted the Northeast Indiana Foodshed Strategy, an 11 county regional study, with our partner Crossroads Resource Center of Minneapolis. This study developed ‘the next steps’ for the regional partners to develop a truly regional plan for their food cluster industries. The Pennyrile Area Development District, Kentucky received a Power Grant from the EDA for a plan to find new careers for displaced coal miners in Hopkins and Muhlenberg counties.

One of our first studies was in 2010, helping the Village of Roscoe, in coordination with the Rockford Area Economic Development Council and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, to develop a TIF district for the old 54-acre Warner Brake Plant in order to attract American Aluminum Extrusion. The project eventually created 145 jobs directly, as well as another 37 jobs within Winnebago County, according to an IMPLAN study prepared by Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies.

In Education, Manheim Solutions, Inc. has been hired to conduct economic development workshops. On behalf of Moraine Valley Community College, our firm conducted economic development training for municipal officials and staff. Since 1997 Manheim has been a regular presenter at the IEDC (International Economic Development Council) Basic Economic Development Course in Illinois, as well as on topics for Managing Economic Development Organizations, Workforce Development, and Business Retention & Expansion across the country.

In Workforce Development, Manheim Solutions, Inc. is an Authorized ACT Job Profiler. Since 2011, Manheim conducts such profiles directly on behalf of ACT, Inc. nationwide; often in conjunction with the South Suburban College Business & Career Institute, Oak Forest, Illinois for manufacturing clients. These job profiling studies sets the recommended foundational skills required by employers for new and existing employees.

Prior to founding Manheim Solutions, Inc., Mr. Manheim was the CEO of the McHenry County EDC; long-time Vice-President for Economic Development at the Elgin (Illinois) Chamber of Commerce; Director of the Grundy County (Illinois) EDC, a rural economic development public-private partnership; and the Director of the Joliet (Illinois) Jr. College Small Business Development Center.

Since 2008, Chris has been a frequent presenter at conferences and workshops for the International Economic Development Council and ACT Workforce Summits. He also serves on IEDC’s Education and Certification Advisory Committee. Chris’ EDC programs have garnered recognition from Site Selection Magazine in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007. IEDC recognized the Elgin Image Campaign “It’s Happening Here!” in 2005. Chris has chaired the River Valley Workforce Investment Board, served on the Illinois Development Council Board of Directors, President of the Mid-America Economic Development Council from 1993 -1994, and an officer of several revolving loan funds. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Chapter of CoreNet Global. With an MA in Political Science from Eastern Illinois University, he has continuously worked as an adjunct instructor of Public Administration and Public Policy for Governors State University (Illinois) and Columbia College of Missouri (Crystal Lake, Illinois Campus) since 1980. Since the 1980s, Chris has been a frequent speaker for IEDC, MAEDC, IDC, ASPA and the ACCE.

Roger Hopkins

Senior Associate

Email: r.hopkins@manheimsolutions.com

Roger Hopkins is the President of Hopkins Solutions, LLC, and an Associate with Manheim Solutions, Inc. He is active in economic development in Illinois and Wisconsin. Hopkins’ consulting practice involved work with the I-39 Logistics Corridor Association since August 2015 for administrative and marketing activities; and is ongoing. In association with Manheim Solutions, Inc., Hopkins is collaborating to provide part-time economic development capacity for Ogle County, IL and the Village of Alsip, IL as part of an ongoing effort to retain, expand and attract retail business to Alsip’s Pulaski Road TIF District. The Ogle County assignment began in December 2017 and is ongoing. The Alsip assignment began in February 2016 and is ongoing.

Independently, Hopkins Solutions was engaged with the Village of Machesney Park, IL from May 2015 to December 2015, and the City of DeKalb from 2011 to October 2014. For DeKalb and Machesney Park, Hopkins supplied part-time and interim economic development staff support for retail and general business retention, expansion and attraction.

Manheim and Hopkins provided interim economic development services for the Village of Tinley Park, IL. The Tinley Park assignment began in July 2016 and concluded in March 2017, when a new full-time director was hired. Manheim and Hopkins collaborated in a similar capacity with the Village of Lansing, also involved in the training and mentoring of a new full-time economic development director and served as part-time economic development staff, involving significant reorganization of economic development policies and programs, including development of a retail recruitment plan for the Village’s retail corridors. The Lansing assignment spanned May 2014 to October 2016.

Hopkins has extensive expertise “packaging” economic development state and local grant solutions for office, industrial and commercial development projects that spans 39 years of experience in Illinois and Wisconsin. He has significant experience with Tax Increment Financing, Enterprise Zones, property tax abatement agreements, sales tax rebate agreements and a variety of federal, state and local economic development programs.

Hopkins has been involved in the attraction and expansion of numerous companies leading to private investment of over $2.1 billion and employment of over 20,000 persons. Examples of companies recruited include: Navistar’s consolidation of its corporate headquarters and engineering research and development functions to the Village of Lisle; Dover Corporation’s headquarters relocation in Downers Grove; Sun Coke Energy’s headquarters relocation in Lisle; DeVry’s headquarters location in Downers Grove; Temple-Inland’s manufacturing consolidation in Aurora; Peerless Industries manufacturing and headquarters relocation in Aurora; Target’s Midwest Regional distribution center location in DeKalb; 3M’s distribution consolidation in DeKalb; Nestlé’s distribution consolidation in DeKalb; and many others.

Hopkins supplied leadership in economic development business analysis for business clusters and target industries in his capacities with Choose DuPage and the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation. These projects have resulted in the successful recruitment of companies including corporate headquarters, packaging, logistics, metal fabrication, and other business sectors and clusters.

Hopkins is past president of the Illinois Development Council (IDC) where he remains active. He received the IDC’s “Distinguished Economic Developer Award” in 2004 and the IDC “Chairman’s Award” in 2010. Hopkins is a current member of the International Economic Development Council, the American Planning Association, the International Council of Shopping Centers, and the Mid-American Economic Development Council. Hopkins has served on the DuPage Workforce Board, River Valley Workforce Investment Board, DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau Board, DuPage Federation of Human Services Reform Board, I-39 Logistics Corridor Association Board (founding volunteer director) and MEGA-Chicago.

Michele Vachon, MS

Associate

Email: Michele@ManheimSolutions.com

Michele Vachon, has worked for Manheim Solutions, Inc. since 2010 and provides facilitation, community economic development and land use planning, and brownfield grant writing services to their diverse customer base. She has over twelve years of experience providing business and triple-bottom-line consulting to small-mid-sized companies, non-profits and government. She has an extensive background in real estate development, construction, government contracting, environmental planning, facilitation, entrepreneurship training, and public outreach. Michele is passionate about community economic development and is member of the Community Development Society, as well as a graduate of the Northwest Community Development Institute.

Michele is a native Michigander, born in Pontiac and living throughout SE Michigan until returning to graduate school out west. She holds a BA degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and a MS in Planning with an emphasis on Community and Regional Economic Development from the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, where she is completing her PhD in Geography, with a focus on regional economic development.

Prior to joining Manheim Solutions, Michele was the Program Manager for the University of Idaho’s Building Sustainable Communities Initiative. As part of her role, she facilitated grant-writing activities and coordinated over $40M in state and federal funding and the implementation of projects.

Michele also serves her community by volunteering her grant writing services to the Greater Moscow Area Brownfield Coalition, Troy Horizons community garden, the restoration efforts for the Bovill Historic Opera House, and the Clearwater Economic Development Association’s Green Technology Taskforce and Economic Development Planning Council.

Philip Watson, PhD, Affiliate

Watson Regional Economics Network

Email: PWatson@UIdaho.edu

Dr. Watson is the lead economist for Watson Regional Economics Network (www.mydearwatson.net). In addition to his business, Dr. Watson also has academic year responsibilities as an Assistant Professor of Agricultural & Regional Economics in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Idaho. Phil has received funding to support his research from the USDA Rural Community Development Initiative program and he is currently working in Priest River, Idaho on a targeted community economic analysis tool to help guide strategic decision-making in rural communities. Phil also serves as lead on several National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and industry association economic impact studies (i.e. Cattleman, Dairy, etc.) and is well versed in regional and community economic practices in the Intermountain West. He has over ten years experience in conducting research and teaching about regional economic theory and practice, recreation and tourism management, fisheries planning, natural resource valuation, and public involvement. He has conducted workshops and training in regional economics for the Northwest Community Development Institute and several other, federal, and state agencies. Phil is a Pullman, WA resident.

Sylvia Lovely

Food Systems Advocate

Email: Sylvia@ManheimSolutions.com

Sylvia serves as co-host of Food News & Chews TV Show, (foodnewsandchews.com) a television program dedicated to educating consumers about the burgeoning local food movement and how to make wise choices in the purchase, preparation and preservation of food. She and her co-host Chef Jeremy Ashby are co-owners of Azur Restaurant & Patio, a pioneer in the farm to table movement.

Sylvia is no stranger to the local food movement having been involved a decade ago in her role as Executive Director of the Kentucky League of Cities. It has always been her philosophy that cities and farms must work together to realize the dream of promoting and thus building the local community.

Combining her training as a lawyer, legislative advocate and civic engagement aficionado, Sylvia is an advocate for the local food movement. In particular she carries on her work with cities and communities by connecting the food movement not only to health and wellness, environmental awareness, access and affordability and food safety but to the interests of local officials in building an indigenous local economy out of the food movement.

Sylvia is a writer and speaker having authored two books about building cities and engaging citizens: America’s NewCities– The Little Blue Book of Big Ideas and The Little Red Book of Everyday Heroes as well as numerous articles for publications around the country.

Ken Meter

Crossroads Resource Center

Email: KMeter@CRCWorks.org

Ken Meter is one of the most experienced food system analysts in the U.S., integrating market analysis, business development, systems thinking, and social concerns. Meter holds 48 years of experience in inner-city and rural community capacity building. His local economic analyses have promoted local food networks in 136 regions in 41 states, Ontario, and Manitoba. He developed a $9.85-milllion plan for local food investment for the state of South Carolina, and has completed statewide food system assessments of Alaska, Mississippi, Indiana, Ohio, and Minnesota. He has written several food hub feasibility studies and several regional food system plans. Meter consulted with the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and Colorado State University to help create a toolkit for measuring economic impacts of local food development. He researched the economic impacts of institutional food purchasing for the Centers for Disease Control and the Illinois Public Health Institute. As coordinator of public process for the City of Minneapolis Sustainability Initiative, he guided over 85 residents in creating a 50-year vision for the city including sustainability measures. He served as an advisor for the USDA Community Food Projects including managing the national proposal review panel. He is also on the national steering committee for the ATSDR’s Brownfield and Land Reuse Opportunity Working Network. Meter taught economics at the University of Minnesota, and at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Spencer James Elliott-Manheim

Director of IT Services

Email: Spencer@ManheimSolutions.com

Son of Chris Manheim, Spencer James is responsible for all support and maintenance of business equipment at Manheim Solutions, Inc. Headquarters in Elgin, IL. Spencer possesses an innate technical ability in addition to a degree in Marketing Communications: Creative Advertising from Columbia College Chicago and a masters degree in Teaching from the University of Southern California. He is currently pursuing a second undergraduate degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Arizona State University.

Dianne Needles

Workforce Development Program Manager

Email: Dneedles@ssc.edu

Dianne builds long-term, quality workforce development relationships with both major companies and smaller businesses because she genuinely cares about the growth, stability, success and sustainability of these companies and their employees. For the 21 years she has been with the Business & Career Institute (BCI) at South Suburban College, she has continued to help several of these same companies for as long as 18 years with their training and development needs. She continues to work with a local company that had 48 employees and has grown to 320 employees. While expanding, they’ve been able to promote supervisors and leaders from within their workforce. Dianne’s successful programs have resulted in hundreds of employees increasing workplace and personal skills to improve job performance, remain employed or be promoted.

Her areas of expertise at the BCI include: contract training project management, ACT WorkKeys® job profiling, Secretary of State Workplace Skills Enhancement grant-funded program coordination, and writing grants for basic skills and English as a Second Language (ESL) state funding. She has over 21 years’ experience in managing on-site state and federal grant and contracted industry training including: computer skills, Lean Manufacturing (5S), ISO 9000, OSHA (safety), workplace math, Spanish for Supervisors, SPC, leadership / professional skills, diversity, and English as a Second Language.

Dianne is also an ACT, Inc. authorized, licensed WorkKeys® Job Profiler since 1995 and has been applying this systematic approach designed to help business and industry link the components of job task analysis, skills assessment, pre-hire testing, and training within their workplace. WorkKeys® meets requirements adopted by the EEOC and is a proven success tool for employers to build a high-performance workforce.

She has presented at national workforce training conferences and seminars on topics such as the ACT WorkKeys® job profiling system, workforce development topics, and grant writing.

Dianne’s support of life-long learning and keeping current on workplace and economic issues of the region is reinforced by membership in organizations such as the International Society for Performance Improvement, Chicago (ISPI), Adult Education Area Planning Council) (APC), and other local and state business associations.

Dianne has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Secondary Education from Ball State University in Muncie, IN. She completed requisite training and holds a “Workplace Basic Skills Specialist Credential”, “Managing an ESL Program in The Workplace”, and “Steps to Teaching in the Workplace” certificates through the Illinois Workplace Education Training Institute. Dianne is also Achieve Global certified as a communication skills course facilitator. Prior to joining BCI, she was a High School educator, worked as a customer service and sales representative for a major utility company and did project training and management at a large transportation company.

On a more personal note, Dianne enjoys reading, traveling, following the Blackhawks, theatre, singing, and spending time with her husband David, family, and dog. She and her husband were in a Symphony Orchestra Chorus for 10 years and sang at Carnegie Hall in 2010. In 2011, they had a wonderful tour singing with the South Suburban Chorale in cities across eastern Europe including Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague.

Bill Bliler

Problem Architect / Business Development Strategist

E-Mail: bbliler@integrasells.com

Bill Bliler is the founder of Integra Advisors and an Associate with Manheim Solutions, Inc. Bill has spent over 35 years growing revenue, opening new markets, initializing process improvement, and doing strategic development for companies throughout the United States and Canada. His diverse experience includes projects for custom software development, telecommunications systems, factory process automation, project management, business intelligence, manufacturing systems, distribution, risk avoidance, employee onboarding, and long-range strategic planning.

Bill is passionate about working with new companies to help them market their unique products & services while growing their business. He thrives on solving complex problems utilizing a common sense approach. His vision is to assist companies in understanding the challenges they face during this unprecedented time of growth in our country…and devising solutions to mitigate those challenges.

Bill’s unique background has given him distinct experience across a wide spectrum of industries. He was raised in a small farming community in central Illinois, and paid for his college education by working in the agricultural sector both prior to and during college. He earned his BS in Agricultural Economics with a minor in Speech Communications from the University of Illinois. Upon completion, Bill began his career with Lever Brothers in the Chicago Area in their institutional chemical division. Over the next decade, he honed his business growth methodology within a variety of industries, including healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, retail, and finance. While serving as VP of Sales and Marketing for an international floriculture firm, Bill earned his MBA from Keller Graduate School of Business.

For the past 24 years, Bill has focused his efforts within the Information Technology field…working with firms in all aspects of technology products and services, with a focus on the healthcare/pharmaceutical, aerospace/military, manufacturing / distribution and state / local government verticals. In 2007, Bill formed Integra Advisors, a business consulting firm specializing in sales, marketing, training, and growth acceleration for small and medium size companies. Integra creates maximum impact at both ends of the sales continuum…allowing clients to focus on operational aspects and maintaining customer relationships. Bill and his team specialize in assisting cutting edge technology firms in such areas as telemedicine, artificial intelligence, medical device software, real-time mobile apps, and military / aerospace components. Over a 10 year period, his team was directly responsible for over $50,000,000 in new and recurring sales revenue for Integra customers.

In 2014, Bill began channeling his passion for problem solving into the area of strategic planning and product differentiation for his clients. He assists senior executives in creating a competitive advantage from the explosion of innovation, digital disruptions and evolving business models that define today’s business landscape. As a true problem architect, Bill empowers executives to rapidly fix their most complex and urgent business problems. His mission is to arm these executives and their teams with the knowledge and skill required to accelerate “time to value” and focus on “profit vs sales” through innovation.