Marva Smith Battle-Bey: Los Angeles economic development whiz
Marva Battle-Bey was a nationally recognized expert in the field of economic development and one of L.A. Business Journal’s “25 Most Powerful Women in Real Estate.”
Marva Smith Battle-Bey was a visionary leader and national advocate for community economic development
LOS ANGELES — Marva Smith Battle-Bey, president and CEO of the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (VSEDC), one of Los Angeles’ leading community-based nonprofit economic development corporations, passed April 7, 2016.
Battle-Bey was many things: a nationally recognized expert in the field of economic development; a faculty member at USC, UCLA, and Loyola-Marymount University; a national president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women; a founding member and president of Black Women’s Network in Los Angeles; and one of L.A. Business Journal’s “25 Most Powerful Women in Real Estate.”
Battle-Bey was a visionary leader and committed individual who made economic development and access to capital for the most underserved her life’s work.
“I am grateful to have been able to support and share her vision with all those whom she touched in the communities she loved,” said Stephon F. Battle-Bey.
Born in Detroit, Mich., Battle-Bey attended Michigan State University, earning a bachelor of science in urban planning, a master of science in urban and regional planning, masters in public administration, and a doctorate in urban studies, the latter three all from the University of Southern California.
While at USC, Battle-Bey established herself as a formidable leader and inspirational mentor to USC students of color, many of whom have gone onto impressive careers and cite her mentorship as a key component of their success. She was an early adopter of diversity, creating “An Evening of Soul” program designed to share the best of African-American culture to foster strong relationships among USC students, staff, and faculty. She also served on the USC Black Alumni Association, using her leadership and planning skills to raise scholarship dollars for students of color and, in particular, African-American students.
In 1979, Battle-Bey founded VSEDC along with a citizen advisory committee established by Mayor Tom Bradley in response to the South L.A. community’s concern regarding the closing of a Sears department store. The organization began operations in 1981.
VSEDC is the owner of two shopping centers, has developed/financed six supermarkets, and rehabilitated hundreds of housing units for low and moderate income residents. VSEDC has built affordable housing complexes, created over 3,000 jobs for local residents, and operates a Business Enterprise Center and an industrial complex.
“No words can adequately express what Marva has meant in our lives. We are forever grateful for the opportunity to work with her,” said William A. Holland, Vice President of the VSEDC Board of Directors. “Marva left a company that only she could have built, and her spirit will forever be the foundation of VSEDC. We will honor her memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work she loved so much.”
Marva Smith Battle-Bey was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Economic Justice Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Leadership Award from Leadership California, the Paul Davidoff National Award for Social Advocacy from American Planning Association, and an NAACP Image Award.