Noelle Salerno has always been fond of stories. The southern-Florida native, who has been IDCL’s Board Secretary for nearly two years, moved to Austin 9 years ago after graduating from the University of Florida with an undergraduate degree in finance and an MA in international business. Since then, Noelle has worked at Avalanche Consulting, an economic development company, where she is now a senior consultant.
Noelle finds that, in her professional life, much of her work relates to IDCL’s mission, which is to advance inclusive public spaces through storytelling, research, and education. “On the marketing side,” she claims that it’s important to tell “the story of the community, and we like to collect stories from diverse groups from that community to show all of the facets of what it’s like to live and work there.”
After participating in IDCL’s “How to be an Ally” workshop, Noelle realized that this storytelling aspect of her work was closely tied to IDCL’s projects #ThisTexan and Religions Texas and wanted to become more involved. From that point on, she has served as the board secretary and has provided support to program development and helped integrate storytelling initiatives across several multimedia platforms.
As an economic development consultant, Noelle helps clients—which can range from cities to groups in the public or business sector—position their communities as attractive places. To do so, Noelle employs a multifaceted approach and targets a broad range of areas.
“We first speak with the major stakeholders, and then we try to get a mix of community leaders and diverse groups across the region,” Noelle says. “We often focus on the education system (both K-12 and higher education), on the quality of life, on civic engagement, on what industries are already there, and the infrastructure. Then each strategy will be narrowed down to a few key priorities that will help the community advance economic prosperity.”
In order to foster inclusivity through community development, Noelle tries to determine which populations have been historically excluded from economic prosperity, learn which barriers are keeping those groups marginalized, and recommend how clients can overcome those barriers.
“This [process] can range from revamping education and workforce training programs, providing entrepreneurial programs and incentivizing procurement practices that support minority-owned businesses, or addressing barriers in the built environment, such as access to transportation and affordable housing,” Noelle says.
While she admits that many of these problems are systemic challenges that can’t be fixed by one organization alone, her goal is to “arm communities with a better understanding of these structural issues and the tools to work collectively to become more inclusive and equitable.”
Aside from her work life and her role at IDCL, Noelle is currently participating in the Leadership Austin Essential program, which focuses on learning about regional issues, deepening leadership skills, and increasing impact through civic engagement. She hopes to continue learning how to foster inclusivity, equity, and diversity in her work as an economic development consultant.