BE Modern Man: Meet 'Mr. Economist' Jeremiah Quarles
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

Name: Jeremiah Quarles

Age: 35

Profession: Chief Executive Officer of the DeSoto Economic Development Corporation

One word that describes you: Intentional

For Dallas-based economic development professional Jeremiah Quarles, it is all about mastering the art of urban planning to ensure a community benefits in more ways than one. A finance graduate of the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University and Chief Executive Officer at DeSoto Economic Development Corporation (DEDC), Quarles’ fierce devotion to raising awareness and producing projects, which have totaled over $115 million in capital investments, has proven beneficial and successful.

But what is the overall goal? Selling north Texas, especially DeSoto, in order to attract medical, aviation, and manufacturing industries that, in return, create new investments and jobs for the community at-large.

“I believe that when your God-given gift intersects with a need, then you are truly walking in your purpose. I valued my time working in the finance field for a couple of Fortune 500 companies, but personally was not fulfilled. Economic development and negotiating deals are my calling. It is my passion. I believe that pragmatically enhancing a city’s overall quality of life by creating sustainable jobs and bringing private sector investments into a community is my ministry,” Quarles tells BE Modern Man.

It’s as if Quarles was destined, inspired, ordained to devote his time and energy to connect with those less fortunate. But, when did such a dedication and commitment for economic development—especially in undeserved communities that face educational, employment, and infrastructure challenges— arise?

“First and foremost, we try to promote to the next generation of leaders that you can have a career in local government that promotes realistic and tangible change. The lifestyle of an economic development practitioner is to constantly work through many complexities of public policy and business trends to promote sustainable growth for the present and for the future. When done right, economic development truly is positive change that you can see,” he says.

“Secondly, I believe our office is at the tip of the spear as it relates to innovation within our profession by focusing on building strong communities and leveraging professional relationships in an efficient manner that does not waste tax payers dollars. For so long, our profession has been stuck in the ‘Yellow Cab’ mindset—doing things the way that it’s always been done, like being reactive to development deals. The DeSoto Economic Development Corporation has taken on the ‘Uber’ mindset of being intentionally proactive in telling the city’s unique story to the right audience at the right time,” he tells BE Modern Man.

In the economic development industry, there is not only a need for strong infrastructures that welcome men of color, not only for representation, but to show how diversity is crucial in order to successfully build community. “It is important to show that this career where business and politics mix at a local level is attainable. Yes, it is possible to have a thorough understanding of commercial real estate, urban planning, marketing, and help to craft public policy or negotiate multiple million dollar deals in the seat that I sit in. This all can be done while having fun and doing what you enjoy by leveraging the business relationships that you have nurtured throughout the years,” Quarles tells BE Modern Man. He also believes that making an impact among peers is about “being intentional about your craft and leveraging relationships to benefit the greater good.”

Inspired by those who walked a similar path—one that is about the art of selflessness, continual learning, and a drive to achieve, at times, the unobtainable—Quarles leads by understanding effective leadership. “Rudyard Kipling said it best in his poem titled If, ‘If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch.’”

With that in mind, the late great Walter Sisulu comes to mind. “As a business man, he lived a life servant leadership, conviction, purpose, and love for all humanity,” Quarles says. “He wasn’t a perfect man, but he always would strive to do the right thing, even in the times of extreme discomfort, because his conscience told him to do so. Sisulu, along with his fellow comrades, served as the voice of the voiceless during the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. However, he’s best known as the trusted mentor of Nelson Mandela.”

“My mentality is that I still feel like I am the student rather than the master—I yearn to learn. I am a political junkie, and I view development through an urban planner’s lens. That perspective coupled with an unbridled desire and lifelong quest to leave this world in a better place than when it was inherited to me, forever drives me to go the extra mile,” Quarles continues. This is why Quarles hopes that sharing his narrative will encourage others to step up to the microphone and use their platform do the same.

“The BE Modern Man series serves as a beautiful time capsule to provide various thought leaders and change agents the space to share various insights, to hopefully build and further uplift our culture,” he says. “God created us all one-of-one: unique, creative, steadfast, and bold in our own truth. My challenge to us and to our community is to thoroughly learn from our rich past and help move the needle in creating real change through public policy, business ventures, and grassroots community development—not drop the ball by keeping all this acquired knowledge to ourselves. I believe that it is my generation’s duty to pass down what we’ve learned from our elders and what we’ve learned via our own experiences to future generations that follow us, and that sharing starts now! Knowledge is the new currency.”

Being named a BE Modern Man means a being inducted into fraternal brotherhood bound by a common thread; ensuring the future of the black man’s existence. Though Quarles accolades include Dallas Business Journal’s Top Minority Business Leader and 40 Under Forty, being acknowledged as a BE Modern Man is a dream fulfilled.

“It’s a humbling honor, one that I am not sure I am truly worthy of yet. As a kid growing up in Flint, M.I., I remember going to the local library and searching in the periodicals section for Black Enterprise magazine, because I yearned to see more successful people that looked like me,” he says. “Black Enterprise was my (financial) Bible. My vision as a teenager was to one day grace the cover with my family as we talked about our careers or highlighted our personal finances. Black Enterprise was aspirational and inspirational then, and still is today. So, to get the call that I was selected to appear with other brothers that are ‘change agents’ in their own right is simply an out of body experience. Thank you.”

The BE Modern Man team salutes Jeremiah Quarles in his effort to expand and create dialogue and opportunity among his fellow peers and the greater DeSoto area. We are excited to know that we have a BE Modern Man in Quarles, who is leading the charge forward through economics.

It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @blackenterprise and join the BE Modern Man conversation using #BEModernMan.

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