Executive Vice President, Economic Development
James Kohnstamm is an experienced economic development professional who is passionate about expanding economic opportunities for all . As Executive Vice President for Economic Development, Kohnstamm leads a team that advises local, national and international business leaders on the economic trends and attributes of Miami-Dade County and delivers customized services to support expanding and relocating business that are making job generating investments. As an International Economic Development Council (IEDC) Certified Economic Developer (CEcD), Kohnstamm has directly managed over 200 economic development projects that have generated over 15,000 jobs and $3 billion of investment for Miami-Dade County. Clients include: Amazon, Blackstone, Boeing, Deloitte, Ford, JP Morgan Chase, LATAM Airlines, Microsoft, Ryder System, Spotify, Telemundo, Univision, and UPS. Kohnstamm is an ex-officio board member of the Coral Gables Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Prior to joining The Beacon Council, Kohnstamm worked for The University of Miami School of Education and was a high school English and History teacher. A Seattle native, he holds a MA degree in International Administration from The University of Miami and a BA in Anthropology from Connecticut College.
Senior Vice President, International Economic Development
Mr. Sacasa leads the Council’s International Economic Development team overseeing all international recruitment, incoming delegations, and the International Committee resulting in substantially increasing the number of completed job-generating business projects.
Prior to his current role, Mario served as Consul General of the Republic of Nicaragua in Miami with Jurisdiction over Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. From 1995 to 1997, Mario Sacasa was also Dean of the Miami Consular Corps. Under his leadership the Consular Corps strengthened its institutional relationship with Florida’s authorities at all levels, as well as with the Greater Miami Area’s Chambers of Commerce, Offices of Tourism and Economic Development Organizations.
Mario has also been active in the Private Sector in the areas of Finance, Insurance, Real Estate and Urban Development. Prior to that, he was part of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington, D.C., where he started his career as a Loan Operations Officer.
Mario remains active as Associate Member of the Miami Consular Corps, and currently serves as Treasurer of the Corps. Mario also participates in numerous other business and cultural organizations and has written a variety of articles on socio-political issues, especially on Latin America and the Caribbean.
Awards & Recognitions
He has received numerous recognitions including the Keys to Miami-Dade County and the City of Coral Gables; the Consular Corps of Miami; Special Decoration from the Ruben Dario Association in Chile the Ruben Dario Cultural Institute in Miami and several Bi-National Chambers of Commerce
Sacasa holds a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies and Development Banking and a Bachelors in Foreign Service and International Economics from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Vice President, Innovation, Economic Development
Christine Johnson is charged with leading recruitment, retention, and expansion efforts for the technology and innovation sector. Her work involves supporting the entrepreneurial landscapes by leveraging resources and brokering relationships to foster the community’s growth. Ms. Johnson’s career spans more than 10 years furthering local and national entrepreneurial ecosystems, including a significant stint as a team member in various capacities at the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) – one of the nation’s leading technology-based economic development organizations and funders of seed/early-stage companies, as well as the south’s most active startup investors.
Ms. Johnson has been seen and heard on multiple outlets and forums, including National Public Radio (NPR), WPFW 89.3 FM (DC), The Mario Armstrong Show on Sirius/XM Radio and WYPR, Miami Herald, SxSW, Washington Business Journal, National Summit on Building 21st Century Urban Innovation Ecosystems at Rutgers University, Google Tech Inclusion Summit in Washington DC, and Black Enterprise. She was voted one of the Top 10 Most Powerful Women in DC Tech Startup Community in 2012.
Christine is a Member of the Technology Advisory Group for Miami Downtown Development Authority, and the Technology Advisory Committee for Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, as well as Board of Advisor for Manifezt Foundation. Past appointments include: Board Member, The Association for Women in Communications South Florida Chapter; National Advisory Board, Digital Harbor Foundation; Ambassador, Emerging Technology Center (ETC) Incubator; Advisory Board, The America21 Project; and National Advisory Council Member, National Association for Blacks in Bio (NABB).
She holds a B.A. from Notre Dame of Maryland University, a private, woman’s university in Baltimore, MD.
In addition to being passionate about her work in the entrepreneurial community, she is a published poet, champion of the healing arts, and former member of an Afro-Cuban folklore dance company.
Vice President, Economic Development, Life Sciences & Healthcare
Greg Horowitz serves as Vice President of Economic Development, where he focuses on bringing medical and life sciences jobs to Miami-Dade and promoting South Florida as a medical innovation hub. Greg joined the Beacon Council in 2021 after four years as Director of Economic Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in Miami, where he helped connect Israeli innovations to Florida in sectors such as cybersecurity, medical technology, water/agritech and travel tech. Greg started his career in digital marketing, working under Sean Ellis at online gaming pioneer Uproar.com. He later held marketing and product management roles at People Magazine, Sony Digital Ventures and Mediabistro, but his passion for mission-driven organizations eventually led him to the public sector. An avid runner, Greg has completed six marathons. He lives in Bay Harbor Islands, FL with his wife and two sons.
Vice President, International Economic Development
Ilona has been working in the economic development field for over 15 years. She comes to The Beacon Council from the Miami Downtown Development Authority (Miami DDA), an independent agency of the City of Miami. In the almost five years she worked at the DDA, Ilona led Business Development efforts promoting downtown Miami to domestic and international businesses and targeted investors. During her tenure, she worked closely on strengthening and growing downtown’s finance sector and the Wall Street South brand. The finance sector grew by 52% within the downtown district during her time at the agency, and some of her big wins include iSquared Capital, aXpire and Canaccord Genuity, among others.
Before joining the Miami DDA, she worked for Enterprise Florida (EFI), the state’s official economic development organization, for 11 years. At EFI she supported Florida companies with their global business and export development initiatives, and helped generate expected export sales of over $120 million.
At Enterprise Florida she also recruited foreign companies to the state of Florida, helped over 200 foreign companies establish Florida operations, and referred over 1,000 foreign direct investment leads to Florida counties statewide.
Ilona is a fluent Spanish speaker, and is proficient in French and Portuguese. She is a Certified Economic Developer, has a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University, and a Bachelors from Villanova University.
Vice President, International Economic Development
Stanley Rigaud is responsible for attracting job-generating business investments to the Miami community and maintaining an active working knowledge of the economic trends of Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida. He leads Miami-Dade Beacon Council’s efforts in helping to create a business climate that encourages the promotion and growth of the Trade & Logistics industry in Miami-Dade County. Stanley works closely with the volunteer-led Trade & Logistics Committee to create opportunities for industry growth through its three subcommittees focused on Education, Innovation and Marketing. Committee meetings typically include 50+ industry professionals from a cross-section of Miami-Dade’s thriving and dynamic trade and logistics industry.
Prior to his current role, Stanley spent 25 years at FedEx leading multi-functional teams that provided integrated logistics solutions for FedEx customers with high-value products and complex supply chain requirements in both air and ground operations.
Stanley also previously served as Director of Development for Rebâti Santé Mentale, an international non-profit organization dedicated to bolstering the continuity of care to underserved populations with different levels of mental health needs in Haiti and the United States.
Stanley is currently a Board Member for Rebâti Santé Mentale dedicated to strengthening capacity and awareness of mental health issues for underserved communities. Stanley also serves on the Advisory Committee for the Little Haiti EcoDistrict committed to urban development and rooted in Equity, Resilience, and Climate Protection for sustainable neighborhood development. Stanley is also a Year Up South Florida mentor to disconnected young adults seeking to navigate new experiences and shape their careers.
Awards & Recognitions
Stanley received the prestigious “Outstanding Service Award” during his tenure at FedEx for his extraordinary measures to assist an American couple traveling to China to adopt a little girl after their passports and visas were destroyed.
Rigaud holds a Master’s degree in Global Governance and a double-major Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations from Florida International University (FIU).
Director, International Economic Development
Madeline Mesa, International Economic Development Director for Miami-Dade Beacon Council serving in this role since October 2019. Responsible for promoting Miami as a global business destination focused on increasing quality jobs and investments based on business growth, retention, and expansion efforts. As part of my role, I also lead the Miami-Dade Beacon Council Aviation Committee promoting Miami Dade County as a global hub for the industry and supporting educational programs.
In my five years working for The Miami-Dade Beacon Council before taking over the Director position, I hold an Executive Assistant position for the President & CEO. In that role, I built relationships with stakeholders, board members, and external partners to have better opportunities for partnership and connections to form. I demonstrated leadership to maintain credibility, trust, and support with senior management staff.
And for the first three years at Beacon Council, I was the Economic Development Projects Coordinator.
I am self-motivated, always trying to improve communication and relationships to make things happen for the company.