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“Each program we manage comes with its own unique difficulties and I enjoy figuring out a solution. As program managers, we get to see the full story, a wide-angle perspective into different communities that otherwise we may not have had the opportunity to learn about. Being able to have an impact in these communities is really a powerful mission, and makes our daily tasks that much more meaningful.” – FORWARD James Fisher, FORWARD Program Manager
Meet James! James is a Program Manager at FORWARD and has successfully administered many programs for local and state governments across the nation. These programs include but are not limited to administering a $10M small business assistance program for the City of Long Beach, CA, and a $350K ARPA small business assistance program for the City of Kirkland, WA. He also manages business and liquor licensing through the FORWARD Platform in Moline, IL, and Bullhead City, AZ.
What did you do before working at FORWARD?
Economic development at the Yakima County Development Association. While at the YCDA, I gained experience in workforce development, career-connected learning, and grant management. I was able to be a part of the annual Enterprise Challenge, a small business plan competition to help local startups gain the tools they need to begin their business ownership path. I was responsible for managing and distributing local CARES grants. Prior to economic development, I served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years.
What are your responsibilities as a Program Manager?
As a program manager, I am responsible for end-to-end customer satisfaction. Program Managers work closely with local and state stakeholders to create a multitude of new programs. These programs can range from liquor licensing and $10M small business grants to emergency flooding resources and rental assistance. As we build the eligibility, review, and selection criteria, we are training our intake specialists to be prepared for any outreach that may be required. We work with the Associate Program Managers to train local community-based organizations in each of our program locations to provide targeted support. Once the program is launched, program managers ensure all facets of the program are functional, including application submissions, funding requests, award agreements, award payouts, fee invoices, and more. Our program managers ensure the best end-to-end experience for the customer, as well as the end user.
What challenges do you face in your work?
Understanding the intricacies of different municipalities and being able to fully understand the need in their communities can be a challenge. We are a remote-first company, which allows us to reach all across the United States; although we are not always physically present in the communities we serve. It can be difficult to fully understand, without lived experiences, what the needs of different communities are around the country. To alleviate these challenges, we work closely with our customers to meet program goals and make it a point to develop partnerships with local nonprofits that have trusted relationships with target communities.
What makes you excited to come to work each day?
I love solving problems! Any challenges that arise are just an opportunity to find a creative solution and overcome adversity. Each program we manage comes with its own unique difficulties and I enjoy figuring out a solution. As program managers, we get to see the full story, a wide-angle perspective into different communities that otherwise we may not have had the opportunity to learn about. Being able to have an impact in these communities is really a powerful mission, and makes our daily tasks that much more meaningful.