Rose McKinney-James



A native of Detroit, Rose McKinney-James earned a law degree from Antioch and work ed in D.C. with congresswoman and historic presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm. McKinney-James thrives at the powerful intersection between economic development and the promise of renewable energies, which she believes is fertile ground for a community’s real growth and change. She is managing principal of Energy Works LLC, served on the Obama-Biden Transition Team, focusing on the DOE and, as a 199 8 candidate for lieutenant governor, was the first African-American to win a statewide primary in Nevada. She is a chair emeritus of Nevada Partners and sits on the board of MGM Resorts International.  



I came here in 1980. I worked for Ruby Duncan in the old Cove hotel for Operation Life as interim director of their economic development program. These were courageous women, some of them second- and third-generation welfare mothers who wanted to do something meaningful for the community. All of a sudden, they received lots of grants and lots of attention and it was difficult to manage those resources. They were given additional money to hire consultants to come out. I was given that opportunity. They did everything they could to help advance a more positive future for the community. They worked collaboratively with the city of Las Vegas. They had lots of supporters. And when they were not being heard, they went to the Strip and shut it down. The work with Operation Life put me in front of City Council. Then I had an opportunity to work for Bob Bailey at the Nevada Economic Development Company, and we worked to organize and prepare the Jackson Avenue Merchants for a project that allowed the city of Las Vegas, the Merchants Association and NEDCO to compose a memorandum of understanding that would devote resources to revitalize the business community in West Las Vegas. The same thing I got from Ms. Chisolm, I got from Bob Bailey. Both understood the importance of listening. My work in energy began through serendipity when I was appointed to the Utility Commission. I was the first African-American to serve on the commission in the history of the state. I had no clue — I didn’t want to do it. But my husband and my mother insisted that I do it. It was a remarkable experience for me. I learned a great deal about the industry and the issues. Through Richard Bryan, I was invited to serve as the chief executive officer for C-Star, Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources. I have continued to work in that space for more than some 20 years. Working in clean energy has given me the next generation of activity in economic development. An ongoing connection. When I arrived here in Las Vegas there was lots of conversation about how are we going to diversify the economy? This is what economic development does. It forces you to look at that next opportunity, a different opportunity, a new opportunity and benefit from it. So, that’s my view of the connection. Shortly after I created Energy Works, I created McKinney-James & Associates because I wanted the opportunity to collaborate. In June, I created something else, another DBA. After a lot of thought, I named it Advocacy Black — and the tagline for Black is “Building Leadership-legacy and Advancing Community Knowledge.” So, all of the projects I am doing, and will do, under Advocacy Black give me a chance to go back to my roots where I’m doing outreach and education in the African-American community. That’s where I started and that may just be where I end.