Laura Trudeau, The Kresge Foundation

TITLE: Managing Director, Community Development and Detroit

FUNDING AREAS: Economic development, arts, underserved populations

CONTACT: ltrudeau@kresge.org, 248-643-9630

IP TAKE: Trudeau spent 29 years in the trust office of what is now JPMorgan Chase working in commercial banking and public affairs. This may sound like she spent her time sitting behind a big mahogany desk working for the sole purpose of making the rich richer, but don't let the job description fool you. She gathered years of experience entrenched in philanthropy and community relations.

PROFILE: At the now-named JPMorgan Chase, Laura Trudeau served as the vice president and regional head for philanthropy and community relations in the Midwest. Her work revolved around the oversight of JP Morgan Chase's grant making activity in the Detroit Metro area—decidedly not contributing to the image most of us conjure up in our minds when we think of big finance.

In 2001, Trudeau left Chase in favor of taking a position as a program officer at The Kresge Foundation. During her early years, she worked on Kresge's National Facilities Capital Challenge Grant Program and aided in the development of the foundation's Green Building Initiative.

In her current capacity as managing director for the both the Community Development and Detroit programs, Trudeau manages the foundation's $150 million Re-Imagining Detroit 2020 Initiative. The focus of this initiative is to "reverse decades of disinvestment in Detroit and reposition the city as a model for revitalization."

The word "disinvestment" sounds way too polite and does not quite capture the essence of the uphill battle The Kresge Foundation is fighting in Detroit. In simpler terms, the foundation is working to reverse the mass exodus of Detroit residents and businesses, who take with them employment opportunities and economic support, in an effort to rebuild the city to the shining "Paris of the Midwest" image that the city once held.

As has been widely publicized in the past, The Kresge Foundation's programs relating to Detroit have come across a bit of blowback from city leaders and residents. A few Kresge planned projects, like the M1 light rail line and plans to build upscale condos along the city's waterfront, have stalled. These particular failures to make progress are due in part to the national economic crisis and the fact that the city of Detroit is currently in the throes of bankruptcy. But, if Trudeau's tenacity has anything to do with it, progress will ultimately be made.

When asked about the current state of planned projects to help rebuild the city of Detroit, Trudeau said: "There's work that needs to go on, no matter what's happening at City Hall. If it's hard, we're going to steel ourselves and keep moving. We're trying to combat the idea that this will be just another plan that sits on the shelf."

The Kresge Foundation's money is just as good as any one else's, isn't it? As Laura Trudeau puts it, "Foundations have the ability to bridge those [economic] cycles, those economic upticks and downturns and we have the ability to sustain work through political cycles and election cycles." It's a sentiment that is shared by a number of nonprofit organizations nationwide. Some at city hall and a few Detroit residents may not see it now, but it truly is a good thing that they have champions like Trudeau and The Kresge Foundation on their side, spending every day waging the battle to revitalize Detroit.  In 2012, The Kresge Foundation moved its Detroit program group into the heart of the city itself (the foundation is otherwise located in nearby Troy), to ensure that they are in the thick of it, and that the foundation itself is part of the city's revitalization.

Outside of her work at Kresge, Trudeau continues to support the city of Detroit.  She's active in other local  nonprofits there, including sitting on Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation’s advisory board and the Living Cities program committee.