[dropcap]C[/dropcap]hristiana Foglio believes she belongs to a privileged class: “Very few of us get to go to work, make a good living for our family, and at the end of the day have the satisfaction of knowing we made something better for another person.” This realization gives her “that pit-in-the-stomach passion” for what she does. It also propelled her, at the ripe old age of 30, to form Community Investment Strategies, a Lawrenceville-based development and construction business.
However, Foglio says she never envisioned herself in a hard hat. “I was an economics major and thought I’d be an arbitrageur,” referring to an investor who tries to reduce risk and profit with simultaneous trades that offset each other. But after college, she took an internship in New Brunswick’s economic development department and got interested in the dynamics of urban redevelopment. Then the idea of housing, particularly low-income housing, turned her head. “And I didn’t see any other woman leading the charge in that area.”
Foglio carved out a niche, focusing on affordable multifamily and senior housing. More than two decades and 3,000 rental units (valued at $400 million) later, Foglio says she strives not only to do well, but to do good. “Before starting any project, I listen to the tenants, put myself in their shoes, and think about what would make life better for them.” And, when they’re complete, Foglio visits her projects to make sure everyone is happy. “This comes from the heart, and it’s really what drives me.”
Happy employees are also important to Foglio, so she’s constantly thinking of ways to make the workplace family-friendly. “After all, my daughter has her own desk in my office,” laughs Foglio, saying she wants the preteen to feel a part of the company, too. Plus, she adds, “It’s good for productivity to show your human side to those who work for you.”
After all these years in construction, a hard hat is no longer foreign to Foglio. In fact, she’s developed what she calls “a passion for hats,” adding, “If I wasn’t called to do what I do, I’d make hats. Very flattering hats.”