QUINCY -- Joi Cuartero Austin isn't one to sit around in the community she lives in, and she is persistent when it comes to finding ways to benefit the community.
The native of the western suburbs of Chicago has lived in Quincy for two years and immediately became involved.
"I didn't have a job at first," Cuartero Austin said. "It was a way to scope out what I liked to do in Quincy. I volunteered with the Quincy Art Center, helped out with the Midsummer Arts Faire, and, from there, I got my bearings."
Today, Cuartero Austin handles marketing and communications for the Great River Economic Development. She is responsible for delivering GREDF's branded message, as well as leading community brand implementation efforts and economic development initiatives.
After graduating college, she worked in music television production, and during that time, she cofounded an art studio named Water Street Studios in Batavia.
"That actually gave me both nonprofit experience, but then also -- I didn't realize it at the time -- but I was also doing community development through that project," Cuartero Austin said. "I worked at this public-private partnership between the property owner, the nonprofit and the city."
These experiences allowed her to explore different career path. She became engaged in the Batavia community, and this led to her being hired as the executive director of the city's Main Street organization.
Family: Husband, Bret.
Education: Bachelor's degree in arts and entertainment media management with a focus on music business from Columbia College Chicago. SClB
How are you involved in your community?
I like to think of myself as a community activator. I love engaging people -- finding out ways to get people involved with their community and creating a sense of place. I work for GREDF doing economic development for Quincy and Adams County so I am naturally in a form of public service.
She also is a member of the board of Quincy Art Festival (formerly Midsummer Arts Faire) and marketing for Q-Fest; member of the board of Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; member of the executive board of the District; and member of the board and development committee chair at Quincy Art Center.
What is your job, what do you do and what do you like best about it?
I am marketing and communications for Great River Economic Development Foundation doing economic development for Quincy and Adams County. My favorite part of my job is helping small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed and connect with their community and customers, which can be anything from creating a business plan and providing marketing education to site selection and developing incentive packages.
What is a typical workweek like?
Probably another part of my job that I love is that my workweek changes all the time. We try to visit all of our major regional employers to talk about what they are up to and see if there is anything we can do for them to help them succeed and grow. I love learning about all the industry that comes out of our county and how things are made. It's impressive to know what our businesses do nationally and internationally. We have various appointments with local businesses for different reasons and help them where we can. Our focus is business retention and expansion, workforce development, business attraction, marketing and branding, entrepreneurship development and our membership and sustainability. So there are a lot of things that fall under those categories.
What was your first job, and what do you remember about it?
My first job was in retail at a flagship store, and I remember how crazy it was meeting people from different countries every day. My first real job out of college was for a small music television company, which primarily produced the show "Soundstage." I remember much more exciting things about working with music artists that I probably shouldn't share here, but you can ask me about it off the record.
How do you balance everything?
I always want to be passionate about what I do and extracurricular projects I pick. This way, not even my job feels like work because I love what I do. Lucky for me, my husband and I are a great team and usually wind up working together, so we get to spend time where work is play. The hard part is learning to say no, prioritizing and taking things one day and a time.
Which person has influenced you the most and why?
Both my parents are extremely influential in their own way. They immigrated here from the Philippines in their 20s, and made a fantastic life for themselves and our family. My dad speaks perfect English without an accent and is a true patriot, and my mom has the kindest soul. They both give without having to be asked or expecting anything and have always been my No. 1 supporters -- ever.
Have you ever failed at something? (Care to give details? How did you recover?)
Don't we all fail daily, even if for something small? I know I do all the time. I think we just can't be afraid of failures, find ways to learn from them and continue to move forward.
What does success mean to you?
Being good, genuine and direct. Showing up and doing what you say you're going to do. I've always worked hard for success.
What was your proudest professional moment?
Working with Stevie Nicks while starting a not-for-profit community art center.
What is your favorite stress buster/leisure time diversion?
I'm a big fan of relaxing under a tree after a big event or project is complete and winding down with my husband Bret. Taking motorcycle rides with him are the best. Probably because we can be in silence together, with no phones, and you just see the world differently. You actually notice your natural surroundings where you can connect to something more.
What is the biggest need in your community?
Being in economic development, I would say it's creating a strong pipeline for workforce development. We actually have a lot of great-paying jobs, but not always the workforce to fill them. My community development side sees so much untapped potential in Quincy that has yet to be activated. There are many people who work hard for the good of Quincy, but have completely different ideas of how to get there. I would like to unite those forces, and I think this ongoing City Strategic Plan can help give us some priorities. If you don't know about the strategic plan, it's a perfect way to engage in the future of our community, and you should check out QuincyRightOnQ.com.
What gives you reason for optimism in your community?
I realize I have not been here long, but there is a real shift and momentum that I have been observing and working on contributing to. There is a true sense of community and continuation on making Quincy a wonderful place to be. It's been great getting to know and working with so many passionate people. My hope is to push forward and keep things moving. Quincy has so much to offer already, but there is so much more that is untapped just waiting.
If you could go back in time and give advice to yourself when you were in high school, what would it be?
Take the time to make plans to be with friends and family. Try to live more in the moment. Travel and enjoy experiences to learn more about the inherent diversity within everyone. It can really open up life.
If you could add a few more hours to the day, how would you spend them? I would like to get back into dancing. I miss lindy-hopping, and if there is anyone out there that knows how to, let's connect.
Do you live by any mantra or saying?
What I do today is what matters most.