Matthew Simpson Of DCEO Brings Passion To Assisting African American Businesses In Illinois
When there's a conversation about movers, shakers, and those making a difference, invariably, the name of Matthew J. Simpson is likely to come up. Simpson, the proud father of four-year daughter River Lee and uncle to nieces, Nikyia and September, is a Community Development Strategist based in Rockford, Illinois.
Simpson has a decade of experience working in economic development, neighborhood level, and public administration. From the start, this development professional demonstrated dedication and passion for entrepreneurship and business development. Simpson notes that these are the driving forces leading him to his current role as African American Business Development Manager with the IL Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Working with the agencies that anchor communities Simpson spent two years at the Rockford Area Economic Development Council and later serving as Community development Manager for the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, the Rockford Housing Authority, and Diversity Procurement Coordinator for the City of Rockford, Illinois.
The Rockford, Illinois native graduated Cum Laude from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with a Bachelor of Science in Business Economics and Finance in 2010, and in 2013 earned a Master of Public Administration focused on Leadership and Public Management from Northern Illinois University.
So, you ask what has Simpson been doing; lately, well to say that this consummate professional is a busy man is an understatement. And, to hear Simpson tell it, his career field chose him. Simpson says that "I was not familiar with public administration growing up. Today, I understand how important it is that the public sector often serves the people who need help the most. I don't take my role lightly; it is such an awesome opportunity to serve."
Simpson considers an essential aspect of his work as being knowledgeable and available. According to Simpson, it has been his experience that business leaders do not lack talent and energy but sometimes require information. As he sees it, his responsibility is to serve as a connector, ensuring that people receive accurate and timely information.
Talking a bit about whether states and municipalities are doing enough, the always diplomatic Simpson put it this way, "We are working very hard, but I know that there is still a lot more work to do. I think we can always be doing more to support leaders on the ground that are doing the hard work. That's why we started the "Black Business Collective." Once a quarter, our office convenes Black business development organizations from across Illinois to help find ways we can be supporting entrepreneurs better."
The recipient of various awards for his leadership and activist efforts including, Rockford Chamber of Commerce's "20 People You Should Know" award (2014), Rockford Register Star's "10 People to Watch" (2015), and Soul News Networks "25 Black Leaders to Watch" (2015). He was also a finalist for the Crusader Community Health "Spirit of Caring" award (2016). Additional awards include the Soar Radio "Civic Leader" award (2018) and Rockford Register Star "Next Up Future Leader" award (2019). Simpson continues to advance efforts to ensure that the State of Illinois is where all businesses can thrive.
Summing up his journey, Simpson says, "None of us is as smart as all of us." "I don't believe in the idea of a person being self-made. We are all products of a community. If we lean into our community and leverage the best things that exist there, nothing in the world can stop us."
Anthony Stanford, who was named the 2014 Outstanding African American of the Year by the Aurora African-American Heritage Advisory Board, is a columnist and author of the book, "Homophobia in the Black Church: How Faith, Politics and Fear Divide the Black Community."