Joe Pilewski has worked for more than 30 years as a leading financial advisor to the public, corporate, and nonprofit sectors. He recently joined Manufacturing Renaissance’s Board of Directors.
Pilewski is a registered municipal advisor, which allows him to assist developers, corporations, and nonprofit organizations with negotiation and implementation of government financing, grants, and tax credits that can help them expand. He is the president of Pilewski & Associates, LLC and PIlewski Financial, LLC.
When asked why he strives to have a positive impact on the manufacturing sector, he recalls his early years in Calumet City, a southeast suburb of Chicago.
“When I was growing up, I saw the impact manufacturers leaving the area was having on my family and my neighborhood,” he says. “I saw how government was not being proactive with regard to training and retraining people – and supporting industry. I thought I would like to be part of the process where the public and the private sector could work together to benefit businesses and individuals.”
“Joe has deep experience within local and statewide politics and can also be a great resource because of his financial background and work on education issues,” says Erica Staley, executive director of Manufacturing Renaissance. “We look forward to working with him as we continue to advance our work to build an equitable and sustainable manufacturing sector.”
Since the late-1980s, Pilewski has established a niche as a provider of business incentive, site selection, tax-exempt financing, financial feasibility, and fiscal impact analysis services.
One of his earliest work experiences was with the City of Chicago, where he served as a Fiscal Policy Analyst and Assistant Comptroller. During that time, his job included working in Springfield, where he tracked appropriations for funds that flowed to the city. He worked for three Chicago mayors (Washington, Sawyer, and Richard M. Daley). In the meantime, he also earned an MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Later, he moved to the private sector, where his work with major accounting firms included three years as Manager in the State and Local Tax group at Arthur Andersen and nearly nine years as a Senior Manager and Principal at Ernst & Young. That experience was followed by a nearly seven-year stint at Duff & Phelps, a multinational financial consultancy firm, where he became Managing Director in 2008. At Duff & Phelps, he recalls how young people who job-shadowed him were eager to learn, but many didn’t know about career pathways, or even what questions to ask. “That experience reinforced the importance of educating young people about career opportunities,” he says.
In 2013, Pilewski started his own business. In addition to corporate clients, he has worked with an array of nonprofit clients that includes the Chicago Teachers Union Foundation, Loretto Hospital, Mt. Sinai Hospital, and the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, a labor union dedicated to worker rights, organizing and education.
Pilewski and his wife live in the Riverside community to the west of Chicago. They have three children.
Focus on Manufacturing
Pilewski is enthusiastic about the role Manufacturing Renaissance can play in the coming years in its work to expose young people to career options in the field of manufacturing.
“The new world we are facing today is the world of technology and innovation,” he says. “We can introduce young people to manufacturing and encourage them to be lifelong learners. In the process of doing that, they can earn a very good wage and be active members of their respective communities.”
One potential area of the Renaissance’s work he emphasizes is encouraging people in low-income communities to pursue ownership opportunities. “There are many family-owned businesses that have no heir,” he says. “As the workforce ages, people who can adapt and learn will have opportunities.”
Opportunities – that’s a theme Pilewski comes back to when talking about the world of manufacturing. He recalls the story of his grandfather, who moved to the region from Poland around 1920, settling near 89th Street and Exchange Avenue on the city’s South Side. “He was within walking distance of the Southworks steel plant, where he worked.”
Later, when plants closed down in the region, he says, “it was a tough time. It was devastating, to put a word on it – for families and communities. The tax base fell. Banking, public services, retail and local governments were strained. There was adomino effect, in a negative way. What I try to do is have a positive domino effect – and foster the growth of human and physical capital.”
Today, he says, young people live in a world where rapid change has become commonplace. “If young people have opportunities to work hard and learn skills, they can find good jobs in this economy,” he says. “Manufacturing Renaissance plays an important role in making that happen. I’m hoping that my legislative, tax and financing background can help Manufacturing Renaissance continue to grow and build upon the great work it has done.”