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Morris Mills, affectionately known as Mo by his friends and colleagues, is the Downtown Long Beach Alliance’s (DLBA) Research and Public Policy Analyst. His job is to conduct research and provide analysis on the Downtown Long Beach economy, including real estate sectors, events, and other key topics. Mills also monitors local legislation and conducts policy analysis when appropriate.

Mills, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban and Environmental Policy from Occidental College, has an inquisitive nature that manifested itself early in life. “I like learning about things and explaining them to other people,” said Mills, who was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. “I was always big on reading Wikipedia articles, soaking up random information. In high school, I got into speech and debate, building model rockets, and collecting model cars. I was definitely a ‘nerd’ in that respect.”

After graduating from Occidental in 2018, Mills returned to St. Louis, working retail gigs while job searching. “I was trying to find a job that was closely aligned with my major,” he said. “I happened upon a DLBA job posting, and I thought the subject matter was meaningful in terms of research related to public policy—things that have tangible effects on peoples’ lives.”

In September of 2018, Mills was interviewed over the phone by Austin Metoyer, DLBA’s Economic Development and Policy Manager. After a series of phone chats, Mills drove to Long Beach on Halloween for a final, in-person interview. He began working for DLBA in December of that year.

Mills’ mild-mannered appearance belies a scrappiness obtained through years of water polo and competitive cycling; he played on Occidental’s water polo team, and raced with an amateur cycling team. He continues to put in 100 to 200 cycling miles a week, including a daily ride to work on one of his five bikes. “Once I secured the position, I set up a 10-mile radius around DLBA when looking for my new home so I could commute on my bike,” Mills said. “The Long Beach bike community helped me establish new friendships during my first foray into independent adulthood.”

Mills gets professional satisfaction from helping keep Downtown stakeholders informed with economic profiles and quarterly reports, and he benefits personally from being part of the DLBA team. “Everyone here has provided mentoring, both professionally and in life,” he said. I try to never take my time at DLBA for granted. I am grateful to work alongside a small, dedicated staff in an inclusive work environment that encourages me to think critically and ask plenty of questions. It is a blessing to be able to work and live in such a connected community like Long Beach, and I’m looking forward to any future opportunities as a result of my time at DLBA.”

Mills sees the adaptations by Downtown businesses due to the COVID-19 crisis as part of the transformational nature of Long Beach. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in Downtown right now,” he said, “but through programs like the City’s Open Streets Initiative and small business loans from the City, we see a strong will to get back to where we were. I’m seeing a very resilient Downtown.”