Chiwuike (Chi-Chi) Owunwanne
Chi-Chi joined UBRI in June of 2019 and serves as the Program Director for the East Side Corridor Initiative. As part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion investment plan, $65M has been dedicated to the revitalization of targeted areas along four East Side Commercial Corridors. To leverage this substantial state investment, 11 Western New York foundations and banks have committed more than $8M over five years to support operations, programs, capacity building, and community infrastructure for five initiatives: 1) East Side Main Streets which funds building renovations and public space enhancements 2) Community-Based Real Estate Development Training which harnesses the East Side’s human capital 3) Building Preservation Fund for the acquisition and stabilization of at-risk historic buildings 4) Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor which will work to create a unified, unique tourist destination 5) Central Terminal which will develop a plan for the site’s future and create a robust organization to guide capital improvements.
UBRI is leading the effort’s Project Implementation Team (PIT) which will assess organizational capacity; ensure that appropriate supports such as infrastructure, staff and funding are in place; support strategic planning, program design and problem solving using expertise in research and analysis to guide decision-making; and track, monitor and report on initiatives to measure progress and ensure responsible use of resources. As Program Director, Chi-Chi coordinates these activities across all five initiatives in close collaboration with community members, funders, individual nonprofits, consultants, the fiscal agent and the Advisory Committee.
Chi-Chi brings over 15 years of economic development and management experience to UBRI. He previously served as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Director of Operations within the Department of State’s Bureau of Professional & Occupational Affairs. He managed the day-to-day operations of the Bureau which is responsible for 29 Licensing Boards and Commissions comprising 250 members and 950,000 licensees with an annual operating budget of $40 million. Prior to that, he was a Policy and Reporting Specialist at the Department of General Services’ Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities. Before that, he was an Economic Development Analyst for the Commonwealth’s Department of Community and Economic Development. He also served as Senior Operations Manager at Mount Lucas Management for nearly ten years and began his career as a loan officer with the SBA in Niagara Falls, NY.
His work in the Harrisburg area, driven by a deep passion for his community, allowed him to hone a wide set of skills through network and collaboration building; cultivation of mutually beneficial business partnerships; and implementation of smart, data-driven policy initiatives. In one of his many roles, he diligently monitored and closed out over $10 million in Community Development Block Grants within six months while working hand-in-hand with municipal leaders to identify fundable community and economic development projects for building sustainable and resilient communities.
Chi-Chi holds a Master of Public Administration from the Fels Institute of Government, University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from SUNY at Geneseo. He is a Buffalo “expat” who is happy to be making a positive difference in his home town.