Our management team has substantial experience in building world class data centers, investing in commercial real estate, managing institutional investment capital, and developing social impact initiatives for underserved communities.
Co-Founder & CEO
Craig K. Huffman has nearly two decades of experience as an entrepreneur. Most recently, he was a Co-Founder and Principal of Ascendance Partners. Ascendance Partners is a Chicago-based real estate private equity firm, established in 2006, focused on commercial real estate investments in metropolitan Chicago. Ascendance was one of the first institutional investors to acquire real estate on the south side of Chicago and has sponsored institutional real estate funds, in excess of $50 million AUM, for foundations, endowments, pension funds, family offices and high net worth individuals. Ascendance funds have successfully delivered above market returns to its investors. Prior to Ascendance, Mr. Huffman worked in diverse senior management roles in the sectors of entrepreneurship, education, non-profit and politics. Mr. Huffman serves on numerous philanthropic boards and is an advisor and investor for several emerging entrepreneurs. Mr. Huffman holds a B.A. from Morehouse College and a master’s degree and an MBA from the University of Chicago.
Co-Founder & Board Chairman
Vance Kenney is an established entrepreneur, business leader, and urban economic development expert in the Gary and Northwest Indiana region and is considered one of the pioneers in the ongoing redevelopment of Gary, Indiana. He is the Founder, CEO and Managing Partner of Advance Energy LLC, a multi-million dollar minority-certified fuel supply and transport company with customers including FedEx, Airport Car Rental Agencies at O’Hare and Midway, USS, Norfolk Southern, CSX, and many other regional and national firms. Mr. Kenney is also the Managing Partner of 504 Redevelopment LLC, a commercial real estate development firm committed to advancing underserved communities. In 2014, Mr. Kenney lead the effort to develop the South Shore Technology Center, a 60,000 sf data center set to be located in a downtown Gary property owned and managed by 504 Redevelopment LLC. He shelved plans for the data center upon learning that the 10 floor, 150,000 square foot historic office building did not have adequate floor to ceiling height along with other factors not financially prudent for the project. In addition, he is the Founder and President of V.R. Kenney & Associates, a business development consulting firm for companies such as Republic Services, the Skillman Corp and others. Mr. Kenney is an influential business leader who has served on numerous boards and commissions and holds a B.A. from Northeastern Oklahoma University.
Jeremy Diamond has over two decades of experience launching and leading technology companies. He has been instrumental building and scaling several technology businesses on a global scale, specifically companies with recurring revenue models. Notably, he was a founding team member of Capital IQ in New York City, scaling from pre-revenue, now generating in excess of $1.5B in annual recurring revenue. Mr. Diamond has held executive leadership roles at Morningstar, managing a global division with +500 full time employees, while driving exponential growth. While at Morningstar, he led investments in several start-up companies, serving on their advisory boards, which led to profitable exits. Mr. Diamond is an expert in go-to-market strategies optimizing product / market fit, optimizing revenue strategies, and maximizing industry vertical penetration. Mr. Diamond is an active advisor and board member to many private technology firms in Europe and the U.S. and holds a B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College.
Vice President of Impact
Micaela Vargas brings over seven years of experience in politics, education and business. A native of the South Side of Chicago, Ms. Vargas recently served as Chief of Staff to Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer. In this role, she managed Commissioner Gainer’s office and she served as the lead on legislation that impacted thousands of individuals and families in Illinois. Legislation drafted by Ms. Vargas was featured in the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business and the New York Times. In addition to Commissioner Gainer’s office, Ms. Vargas’ professional experience includes work for the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement and work as an independent political consultant. She currently serves on the board of directors for the non-profits Mujeres Latinas En Accion, in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, and the National Diversity Advisory Council for the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. Ms. Vargas holds a B.A from DePaul University.
Vice President of Investments
Mr. McNiff is responsible for underwriting new investment opportunities, financial modeling, and creating investment memos. Most recently, Mr. McNiff worked as a real estate private equity Associate at Ascendance Partners, where he analyzed new acquisitions and existing investments while co-leading execution of portfolio strategy for two (2) funds comprised of over $50M AUM. Previously, Mr. McNiff worked for McNiff Builders and Deutsche Bank’s Investment Banking Division where he advised corporations on financial transactions including M&A, corporate refinancing, public and private offerings of debt and equity, and leveraged buyouts. Mr. McNiff holds a B.B.A. from The University of Notre Dame.
Christie Hefner is a seasoned professional with more than thirty years’ experience at executive levels in both public and private companies, as well as multiple company directorships. Presently, her portfolio consists of advisory work for a company with patents to convert CO2 and methane to biodegradable plastic and artificial leather, a company that owns 30 newspapers and four TV stations, and a cannabis company. Ms. Hefner also serves as Chairman of the Board of Hatchbeauty Brands and on the Advisory Board of the Offutt Companies, a multi-billion dollar agricultural conglomerate, Previously, Ms. Hefner served as Chairman and CEO of Playboy Enterprises for 20 years making her the longest serving female CEO of a publicly traded company. Under her leadership, the company was transformed into an international multi-media, brand driven company. Ms. Hefner was one of the founders of both The Chicago Network and the Committee of 200, and is a member of Women Corporate Directors and National Association of Corporate Directors. Ms. Hefner holds a B.A. from Brandeis University.
Ken Porrello brings over 40 years of experience in technology strategy, technology implementation and cyber security. Ken currently serves on the board of SteelCloud, LLC, a leading provider of cyber security solutions to the Federal sector. Mr. Porrello chairs the Board of Advisors of the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University and serves as Executive Director of the CEO Perspectives program, a pre-eminent leadership development experience for senior executives of Fortune 500 and equivalent companies. Previously, Mr. Porrello served for 30 years as a member of Deloitte Consulting, where he served in a number of executive roles in the US and India. Mr. Porrello holds a B.S. and an MBA from Northwestern University.
Dr. Gregory Thomas
Dr. Gregory Thomas has served as President of Kennedy-King College (KKC) since July 2018. Prior to joining KKC, Dr. Thomas served as Vice President of Student Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights since 2012. In that role, he led the development of planning processes that resulted in two college strategic plans; created the Office of Planning, Effectiveness & Accreditation; played a key role in developing a college-wide Continuous Quality Improvement Model; led the development of the college’s First Year Experience program; and created a Male Success Initiative to enhance access, persistence, retention, and graduation of male students of color. Prior to that, Dr. Thomas was Associate Provost of Des Moines Area Community College; Vice President of Student Affairs at Weatherford College (TX); Dean of Student Affairs at Hillsborough Community College (FL); Executive Director of Enrollment Management and Deputy Vice President of Student Affairs at City University of New York/CUNY (NY); and Assistant Academic Dean at Trinity University (DC). He has a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Community College Leadership from Iowa State University; an M.A. in Teaching from Trinity University (DC); a B.A. in Communications from Howard University (DC); and an associate degree from Kingsborough Community College (NYC).
Ron Bush is President of Ron Bush Consulting, Inc. and Bush Communications, Inc. He is an accomplished public speaker, senior executive and consultant with 16 years of success within the information security industry across a range of sectors including healthcare, financial services, education, manufacturing, retail and local government. Mr. Bush’s broad areas of expertise include technology, IT security, social engineering protection, security and data breach risk assessments, information security policy and procedures, identity protection, and data storage. To share his insights on data protection, he has authored books and hosts a weekly radio show (also available via podcast and YouTube). He has been an adjunct professor at Calumet College in Whiting and Valparaiso University, and writes for various publications. He regularly speaks on information security at national and international events. Mr. Bush holds a B.A. from Colorado Christian University and a master’s degree from Denver Seminary.