About The America21 Project


The America21 Project (formerly The Black Innovation and Competitiveness Initiative) is an open, collaborative and innovative platform that fosters solutions-based approaches to 21st century community economic development.

Supported by three essential pillars of innovation:

  • STEM Education and Workforce Development
  • Access to Capital and Capital Formation
  • High-Growth Entrepreneurship

The America21 Project (A21) strategy seeks to leverage existing assets within Urban American communities to create new opportunities and ensure competitiveness in the global Innovation Economy.

A21 will facilitate a new narrative to inspire free exchange of innovative ideas among community, business, government and education leaders, students and entrepreneurs, with a goal of achieving exponentially greater economic growth and prosperity throughout America.

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The America21 Project synthesizes these core components — education, entrepreneurship and capital — to broadly define the Innovation Economy as the economic era of the late 20th and early 21st centuries marked by radical socioeconomic changes brought about by the globalization of commerce, democratization of information and access to capital, and the exponential growth of entrepreneurship and acceleration of new knowledge creation.



Inclusive Competitiveness: Glossary of Terms as defined by America21 Co-founder, Chief Strategist and Evangelist,  Johnathan Holifield.

Law of Inclusive Competitiveness

No region can sustainably increase economic competitiveness without growing enough of the right people to create and take advantage of that increased economic competitiveness. If your region’s economic competitiveness goals do not focus on inclusion, you simply will not – indeed cannot – grow enough of the right people to build a resilient, economically competitive region.

Inspired by Packard’s Law of Hewlett & Packard Co-Founder, David Packard

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Johnathan Holifield

Johnathan Holifield is a co-founder of The America21 Project.

He’s been called a “Jack of many trades and master of getting things done.” Johnathan’s among a select group of U.S. economic development professionals who have successfully launched and led a market-leading, “Regional Voice of Technology and Innovation” — CincyTechUSA — comprised of university presidents, Fortune 500 CEOs, innovation entrepreneurs and technology advocates.

Among myriad accomplishments under Johnathan’s leadership, $40 million of risk capital was formed, sparking creation of a $250 million network of early-stage investment funds to spur high-growth entrepreneurship. He worked to build an inclusive regional technology and innovation movement, providing the vision and leadership that brought together an urban school district and corporate partner to create the state’s first information technology-based high school, which is now a model of successful turnaround urban education that has attracted national media.

Johnathan partnered with universities, businesses and nonprofits to obtain over $40 million in grant funding, cash investments and in-kind support for research and commercialization and to nurture a high-growth entrepreneurship ecosystem, including a business accelerator and training program. And he received Ohio gubernatorial appointments to the Midwest Governors’ Association Investments for the Knowledge-based Economy project, serving as co-chairman of the Increasing Research Capacity and Accelerating Commercialization team, and to the Ohio House and Senate Joint Legislative Commission on High-Tech Business.

A sought-after public speaker, Johnathan has presented ideas on innovation and competitiveness to many different audiences — associations, business groups, governmental bodies, schools and nonprofits — ranging in size from small roundtable discussions to audiences of several hundred.

He has also written articles for The Economic Development Journal of the International Economic Development Council and the Journal of Municipal Telecommunications Policy of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors and published commentary in Innovation Quarterly, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati Business Courier, The Cincinnati Post, Crain’s Cleveland Business and The Buffalo News.

With prescient comprehension of the 21st century challenges facing the nation – especially African Americans – in the Innovation Economy, Johnathan has contributed on-the-ground, visionary leadership to initiate, coordinate and implement innovation and competitiveness strategies and develop and support public policy initiatives. He brings to bear on the BICI a hard to match depth of experience and diversity of skills that complement very well the exceptional strengths of his BICI colleagues.

Johnathan is also founder of Trim Tab System – a networked advising, consulting and speaking practice that designs innovative processes to empower people across multiple sectors to magnify their contributions, achieving exponential impact in their businesses, organizations, communities, and lives. Trim Tab System is all about realizing the desired impact exponentially, rather than incrementally.

He has used the Trim Tab System throughout his career to contribute meaningful leadership, including:

  • Winning government, education, corporate and philanthropic support for major new initiatives
  • Master planning for technology, entrepreneurship and innovation growth and urban green-based revitalization
  • Designing economic inclusion and community benefits strategies for projects totaling nearly $1.5 billion

Prior to A21 and Trim Tab System, Johnathan was chief executive of Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, an urban greenspace restoration organization and Cleveland Urban League, an economic, social and education services organization. He is also a former member of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

Johnathan has served on many different governing and advisory boards, including Bio/Start Bio/Medical Start-Up Center, Greater Cincinnati Venture Association, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Board, Downtown Cincinnati, Inc. and The University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute. He is a director of the West Virginia University Alumni Association and member of Tau Boulé of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc

He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from West Virginia University, a master’s degree in Educational Foundations and law degree from University of Cincinnati, and is a graduate of The University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute.

In Johnathan’s own words …

As an innovation-based economic development professional, I always wanted, but wondered whether I’d have a chance, to be part of a substantial effort to accelerate exponential increases in Black innovation and competitiveness. Perhaps it was providential that I met Mike Green and Chad Womack — two kindred spirits and co-founders of The America21 Project.

Together, we want to engage Black and urban America to be greater contributors to what may be most important education, social and economic phenomenon of our lives – the 21st century, Innovation Economy.

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Chad Womack

Chad is a co-founder of The America21 Project.

Chad works with co-founders Johnathan and Mike to develop the initiative’s platform, establish partnerships with public and private sector stakeholders and operationalize A21’s strategic vision.

Chad is a Ph.D. bio-life scientist who co-founded several nonprofit organizations – the latest focused on innovation and technology-based economic development (TBED21.org). Chad also co-founded a nanobiotechnology company that is focused on developing nanotech-based vaccines against infectious diseases and cancer.

Born and raised in the City of Philadelphia, Chad is a proud graduate of Morehouse College (B.S. in Biology with minors in Chemistry and Physics) and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, GA (PhD in Biomedical Sciences).  Chad also completed graduate work at the Harvard School of Public Health and post-graduate fellowships at the Harvard AIDS Institute and the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Vaccine Research Center.

When Chad speaks …

I am passionate about STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math), innovation and entrepreneurship. I enjoy working with public and charter schools to enhance their STEM performance while making connections, establishing networks between people and places, and finding the right combinations that make people click. I am also passionate about thinking outside the box about how science and technology can make a positive difference in the world and how it can leverage innovative ideas to address community concerns.

Meeting Mike and Johnathan, I realized the power of how people from disparate walks of life can arrive at a point of singularity and concern and shape a transformative agenda that can have tremendous impact.  A21 represents that hope and possibility for transformational change that will enable generations to come.

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Mike Green

Mike Green is a co-founder of The America21 Project.

Mike is a 12-year military veteran, award-winning journalist with 16 years media experience and public speaker:

  • New York Times Leadership Academy Fellow
  • Graduate of the Maynard Media Institute at Harvard University
  • CNN.com training
  • Dow Jones: Conceived and led award-winning online community engagement projects for the Dow Jones Local Media Group.

Mike is a blogger for the Huffington Post and the founder and CEO of Epiphany3D, Inc., a digital education 3D immersion gaming company targeting STEM education.

A peek inside Mike’s head …

You are not alone.

As a Black entrepreneur in the field of Internet innovation and working as a journalist for a Dow Jones media property in southern Oregon, I would remind myself, ‘You are not alone.’ But I often wondered, ‘Where are others like me, and how do I connect with them?’

The challenges I faced seemed unique to me and not understood by the colleagues and friends around me. I felt alone.

As I researched the question, I discovered that Blacks, although nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population, were often represented in industries by the number one:

  • Blacks represent less than 5% of the STEM field professions (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)
  • Black entrepreneurs received 1% of the total investment in technology innovations in 2010.
  • Blacks own 1% of media market share.
  • Black productivity (for all Black-owned businesses) is less than 1% of U.S. GDP.

I wrote about the problem in a four-part series on The Huffington Post. I titled it, “Innovation Crisis in Black America.”

That’s how I met Johnathan Holifield and Chad Womack. It felt like a homecoming. They both gave voice to what I was thinking and feeling. They understood. And they wanted to do something about it.

Together, we formed The America21 Project (formerly The Black Innovation and Competitiveness Initiative).

We seek to provide Black and urban America a much-needed place where innovators, educators, investors, entrepreneurs, business leaders and all those concerned with the plight of our people — and want to do something about it — can call home.

We believe we — as in all of us who are concerned, willing but disconnected — collectively hold the key to a prosperous future for Black and urban America. Apart and alone we can do little. But together we bring valuable resources that can transform 20th century efforts into 21st century progress.

I believe America21 is that place, that hub — that nation — where citizens can connect, access needed resources, and find news and information, mentoring, investment and collaboration that empowers our people to succeed in this Age of Innovation and contribute significantly to the nation’s productivity and compete in a global economy.

I invite you to add your voice, your resources and empowerment to the America21 Innovation Nation. Join us and become a citizen of this initiative today. There is no litmus test. If you desire to make a difference, join us.

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