Alliance Leadership

Craig A. Nielson, President/CEO

In September of 2016, Craig was hired as the first full-time President/CEO of ERGA after a 29 year commercial/industrial real estate career as a corporate account representative and site selector. Craig brings a broad base knowledge of successful negotiations with large corporations and investors throughout the country and the experience of working with corporate real estate departments both nationally and internationally. He started his career in 1987 in Mesa, AZ with Hart Corporation (Hart), an international industrial real estate firm after graduating from Arizona State University. Over the years, Craig managed other Hart offices and became a partner in the firm in 2000. Hart was sold to Newmark Grubb Knight Frank in 2015. Craig continues to hold a Real Estate Broker’s License and is a member of several professional organizations including Illinois Economic Development Association, Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR) and Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM). When he is away from work, he enjoys spending time with his wife and family, playing golf and racquetball.



JoAnn Sasse Givens, Director of Workforce Development

JoAnn provides Workforce Development to the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce and the Effingham Regional Growth Alliance. She has a broad business and workforce background having held VP, Director, and Management positions in Communications, Health Care, Municipal Government, and Environmental Services.  She has also worked as adjunct faculty for Rend Lake College, Kaskaskia College, and Lake Land College. 

She has received numerous awards including, The President’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Human Resources and served as a member of the Illinois Economic Development Corporation’s Marketing Council, The Illinois TIF Association, and The Illinois Enterprise Zone. 

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale where she graduated magna cum laude and received both the Robert W Davis Memorial Scholarship and the Archibald McLeod Award for Academic Excellence.  She is also in the process of completing her certification as a Community and Economic Development Professional (CEDP).

Away from work, she enjoys community theatre, spending time with her nieces and nephews, loves the outdoors, traveling, hiking, motorcycling, taking photographs and volunteering at her church.