Chief Program Officer
Matthew Wagner, Ph.D. serves as Chief Program Officer. In this role, he is responsible for driving the organization's field service initiatives including the development and delivery of technical services for Main Street America and Urban Main programs, directing the Center’s research agenda, as well as the recently launched New Business Development work to focus on national partnerships, brand leveraging and new business growth areas.
Prior to his work at Main Street America, Dr. Wagner had a dual role of Director, Global Community Affairs, and President of Johnson Redevelopment Corporation at SC Johnson, a $10 billion global consumer products company (Glade, Raid, Windex, Ziploc, etc.). Since 2011, he had international responsibilities driving the company’s $35 million philanthropy strategy in sustainability and workforce/economic development areas. Dr. Wagner provided entrepreneurial guidance and leadership to the company, directing the creation of the Lily Pad retail venture featuring SC Johnson branded merchandise for visitors and consumers, to which he received an Officer’s Award. Furthermore, he served as President of Johnson Redevelopment Corporation, SC Johnson’s real estate holding company invested in more than 1 million sq.ft. of retail, office and manufacturing space for third-party tenants.
Dr. Wagner’s professional background involves nearly 30 years of non-profit management and teaching experience in the area of downtown revitalization, entrepreneurship and economic development. At the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, he focused on aligning students in helping to find business solutions with partner businesses, serving as a lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Director of both the Small Business Development Center and Solutions for Economic Growth Center.
Dr. Wagner has served a leader in the area of community revitalization, directly guiding two nationally recognized downtown revitalization efforts. In Sheboygan Falls, WI, he led downtown redevelopment activities resulting in the community being named one of the first five Great American Main Street Award winners. As Executive Director of the Downtown Racine Corporation (Racine, Wisc.), Dr. Wagner led a downtown planning and implementation initiative that resulted in more than $100 million in new private investment earning honors from the International Downtown Association, Sierra Club, and the American Institute of Architects for downtown planning. In addition, he has served as a Senior Program Associate at Main Street America providing direct technical assistance to numerous downtowns and commercial corridor districts, with a specialization in economic restructuring activities, including market analysis, real estate development, downtown planning, and business recruitment and retention activities.
Aside from his professional experiences, academically Dr. Wagner has completed his Ph.D. with a focus on economic development and entrepreneurship. He is a Fulbright Specialist Scholar, completing a teaching assignment on social entrepreneurship at the University of Hyderabad, India. He has also presented internationally on topics of economic development and community revitalization in Japan, India, Canada, and Australia. Dr. Wagner also served as part of the U.S. State Department’s Speakers Bureau program, working with the US Embassy in Lithuania as part of a five-region tour on entrepreneurship and community development.
Furthermore, Dr. Wagner has a long history of program and service delivery in the area of small business development and place management. He currently serves on the Advisory Council at the Center for Transformative Placemaking at the Brookings Institute. As a testament to this work, he has been awarded the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Wisconsin Champion for Women-Owned Businesses, for his efforts to support women entrepreneurs. He is also a former Executive in Residence at Cardinal Stritch University and faculty for the University's Mission Fuel: Social Entrepreneurship program.
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