“It is my job to help Downtown businesses launch and grow,” said Stephanie El Tawil, DLBA’s new Economic Development & Policy Manager, who developed this knack for making the complex seem simple during her many years of experience in workforce and business development. 

El Tawil’s actual job description is considerably more intricate; As Economic Development and Policy Manager, El Tawil will establish working relations with Downtown business and property owners, financial institutions, commercial brokers, developers, and local economic development officials to recruit and retain business and advance Downtown interests. 

In addition, she will play a key role in the implementation of office and retail recruitment strategies, supervise the production of DLBA’s market reports, and oversee DLBA’s new Business Navigator position to assist small business owners with permitting approvals. Furthermore, she will assist and advise leadership on local, state and federal government public policy matters that may impact the Downtown community.

 “A key goal for me is to help empower the Downtown business community to work together,” said El Tawil. “Yes, I absolutely want to help individuals see their businesses thrive. However, I have witnessed the impact of collaborative development, and it is very rewarding. I want to use my skills and experience to help facilitate these connections.”

As a child, El Tawil gained empathy for small businesses through her parents, who were both small business owners. “For me, ‘small business’ is synonymous with ‘family business,’ ” El Tawil explained. “It dawned on me during my college years that I could work with small businesses without starting one of my own.” 

El Tawil earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Chicago State University, then went on to get a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern Indiana. “This is when I discovered an interest in entrepreneurship and small business development,” she told us. “I found through my interactions with students, faculty, and local business owners that I had a knack for problem solving at various stages and a passion for helping hard work pay off.”

After earning her first master’s degree, El Tawil moved on to a career that has included managing career and leadership development programs at the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management, Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Growth Alliance for Greater Evansville, and Project Manager for the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership. Recently, she returned to the University of Southern Indiana to study for her second master’s degree — in communication — which she received in December of last year.   

Aware that she is taking on her new job at a critical moment in Downtown’s evolution, El Tawil is prepared to help local businesses face all challenges. “We’re looking for ways to recover after the COVID-19 pandemic, which means we’re redefining the way we work, live, and play with a new set of rules,” she said. “That can be intimidating. I think the biggest challenge we face as a community is trusting the decisions we’re making while dealing with uncertainty.”  

During her off-work time, El Tawil, who is new to the area and looking for a place to live in or near Downtown, is exploring new recreation options. “I’m working through my Long Beach tourist and food hot spot lists,” she mentioned. “I am a (non-lycra wearing) bike rider. I cruise around Venice and the Boardwalk a lot. I’m really just trying a little bit of everything right now to see what fits.”