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38 - Economic Development and Developers in the News

Econ dev news from 50 economic development executives and organizations in 25 states, and Canada.

Dane Carlson
Dane Carlson
13 min read
38 - Economic Development and Developers in the News
Photo by Steven Van Elk / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Welcome to the 38th weekly edition of Economic Development and Developers in the News.  (Here are all of the past issues.)

Today's issue contains economic development news from 44 economic development executives and organizations in 25 states, and Canada.


After more than 15 years as president of the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, Jim Dodson is retiring. The Board of Directors has hired Jomo Stewart to replace him as president and CEO. Stewart has served on and off in different roles for the FEDC.


Peterborough & the Kawarthas Economic Development awarded six local small businesses $5,000 each in funding to further support sustainable business growth, on Thursday. Sixteen entrepreneurs operating twelve small businesses successfully completed the five week online business training course offered by the Peterborough & the Kawarthas Business Advisory Centre. Based on the strength of their business plan and pitch, the six businesses were each awarded a micro-grant. (Entrepreneurship Officer Hillary Manion)


State and business leaders are applauding Connecticut’s economic recovery from the pandemic. At the Connecticut Economic Development Summit, state leaders discussed how the pandemic has resulted in a record number of people moving to Connecticut.

David Lehman, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, said he thinks there's "a lot to be excited about in the state." He noted budget surpluses, upgrades from ratings agencies and how the state leads the country in COVID-19 vaccinations.

Leaders of a neighborhood community organization in Fair Haven say they’re growing tired of surprises. Lee Cruz and Diane Ecton, co-chairpersons of the Fair Haven Community Management Team, wrote a letter to Mayor Justin Elicker asking for more transparency and communication from city government around development and public health initiatives in their neighborhood. Despite drafting a letter to Elicker, Cruz and Ecton have not sent it. The letter initially was included on the agenda of this week’s management team meeting for possible action, but the two leaders later made the decision to table that discussion after seeing what they believed was a good-faith effort from economic development officials.


Three promotions bring an updated leadership structure to the 73-employee city of Lakeland department that oversees community and economic growth. The Florida Department of Community and Economic Development will be led by Brian Rewis, 48, who served as interim director for the last six months. He will be assisted by: Teresa Maio, 52, the new assistant director of community development. She previously served as planning and housing manager and has been with the city since 2009. In her new role, she will coordinate planning, transportation, construction services and housing, according to City Manager Shawn Sherrouse. Alis Drumgo, 41, will head the newly created Division of Economic Development. He will retain his duties as manager of the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency. In his new role, he will market Lakeland “to the type of economic development desired,” Sherrouse said.


Jessica Hood, vice president of the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority, earned the designation of Certified Economic Developer (CEcD). Hood was previously certified as an Economic Development Finance Professional by the National Development Council, a thorough, four-course training series that explores the skills essential for the successful practice of economic development. It is estimated that fewer than 10 percent of all economic development practitioners nationwide have achieved both certifications. (Kevin Shea, president of the Georgia Economic Developers Association)

Robert Wardlaw, who has led Walker County government’s economic and community development efforts over the past four years, formally announced Dec. 1 he will retire at the end of the year. Wardlaw also plans to step down from his role as executive director of the Walker County Development Authority. An announcement about his successor will be made public soon.

The former project manager of the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority has been tapped to helm Walker County’s economic development efforts. Stephanie Watkins, who most recently coordinated regional economic development projects across 22 counties as the Southeast Industrial Development Association’s program director, started her new role this week.

According to local leaders, despite challenges, 2021 was a good year for business in Forsyth County and things could be looking up in 2022. At Forward Forsyth’s Economic Development Summit at Lanier Technical College, Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO James McCoy said “we’ve had a remarkable year, and this coming year is shaping up to be an equally, if not more, remarkable year.”

Two of the most prominent advocates for Midtown and Downtown Atlanta say the push for Buckhead to become its own city is based on a flawed perception of crime and a push toward racial and economic segregation, a move that will damage the city's ability to lure companies and jobs to the region. Midtown Alliance CEO Kevin Green and Central Atlanta Progress President A.J. Robinson said at Bisnow's Midtown and Downtown Debrief event last week that Atlanta Mayor-elect Andre Dickens has an opportunity to reinvigorate city services after two years of little activity and mounting frustrations among residents, especially in Buckhead. But if Buckhead does split into its own city, it could set a precedent that may lead other wealthy, majority-White neighborhoods to secede from their local municipalities, Robinson said.


The Will County Center for Economic Development presented it's annual report to investors last week.  “We’re really excited about this year. This is the first time our investors group, guests and friends are going to be meeting in person since March 2020. We’re really looking forward to that crowd interaction and getting a chance to get in front of people.” John Greuling, President and CEO of the CED said.


Economic Development Corporation Michigan City Executive Director Clarence Hulse recently joined other industry leaders to learn about the latest in economic development strategies. He completed the Advanced Economic Development Leadership executive education program and was awarded the Master Economic Development Practitioner certificate.


The executive director at the Dickinson County Economic Development Corporation has been selected as the next president of the Regional Development Association of East Central Kansas, the board of directors announced Thursday. Chuck Scott will replace Kent Heermann, who has served as president of the RDA since 1994. The transition will occur in the first quarter of 2022.

The economic development plan outlined by Kansas State University emphasizing innovation in agriculture, biosecurity and extension services is expected to create 3,000 jobs and encourage investment of $3 billion in the state during the next decade, officials said. The strategic initiative, referred to as the Economic Prosperity Plan, was made public Friday. It would leverage KSU’s strengths in food and agriculture systems; digital agriculture and advanced analytics; biosecurity and biodefense; and extension and outreach. (David Rosowsky, vice president for research at the university in Manhattan)

Gov. Laura Kelly announced Wednesday that 2021 has been "the most successful economic development year in Kansas history." The governor's administration has closed deals on 312 economic development projects with more than $3.69 billion in private sector investments that created or retained more than 12,000 jobs. "It shows that the fundamentals of the Kansas economy are very strong and we have worked to seize opportunities to grow our economy," Lt. Gov. and Commerce Secretary David Toland said of the business investment in an interview.


Louisville economic development leader and ex-Louisville Forward chief Mary Ellen Wiederwohl is stepping into the top role at a national think tank founded by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, according to a Wednesday announcement.


Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission celebrated a year of resilience, strength, and economic development advancements at its annual year-end meeting Thursday. This year’s event touched on major projects and initiatives, such as the rollout of the Jefferson EDGE 2025 long-term economic development strategic plan, the construction of the first model home in Terrytown, and significant economic development wins for the community. JEDCO also spent time addressing the organization’s impactful response to the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida. (President and CEO Jerry Bologna)


A report from a nonprofit organization that works to sustain Maine's coastal cities raised concerns that weak infrastructure and climate change are threatening Maine's waterfront economic development. The report from the Island Institute said factors such as a lack of financial support, dock maintenance, affordable housing and increasing risks from climate change have potentially made Maine's working waterfronts susceptible to an economic downturn in the future.


Businesses leaders and government officials met Friday at the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University for the 2022 Southern Delmarva Economic Forecast, expressing cautious optimism, and highlighting growth brought forth by investments. Speakers at the conference spoke to the 3 biggest challenges in the region, affordable child care, expanding broadband internet access, and transportation, as the 3 factors holding back growth. (Worcester County Economic Development Director Melanie Pursel)

The Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. doled out $460,800 in grant money to 144 businesses, the organization announced. The Digital Services Grant Program was designed to help small businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic that heavily rely on in-person business, such as salons, gyms, dance studios and art classes. Each business that was eligible and applied by the Oct. 1 deadline received $3,200 to put toward strengthening their digital presence and offerings. (Steve Primosch, AAEDC’s vice president of finance)


With construction on the downtown sewer wrapping up next year, it seems an opportune time to contemplate Orleans’ economic future. To that end the town has scheduled a series of workshops focused on economic development on Wednesday Dec, 15. The four focus groups will cover the business environment, arts and culture , environment and conservation and commercial real estate. The town has hired a consultant, Streetwise, to work on an economic development strategy that will attract a diverse set of businesses, The consultant is seeking community input through the focus groups.


Nearly two dozen economic development and trade organizations have formed the Winning Michigan Jobs coalition with the goal of helping the state regain a competitive edge for new jobs and investments. Winning Michigan Jobs will work with elected officials and community leaders to focus on main areas that member organizations see as opportunities to close the gap with other states in developing job opportunities. The coalition’s four main focus areas involve shovel-ready sites, incentivizing tools to attract and create new jobs, working closely with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and building workforce talent. (Randy Thelen, president and CEO of The Right Place Inc.; Maureen Krauss, CEO of the Detroit Regional Partnership)

Ann Arbor is looking to Dearborn for its next downtown development leader. Jeffrey Watson, Dearborn’s director of community and economic development, has been chosen from a pool of 122 applicants to be Ann Arbor’s first new Downtown Development Authority executive director in a quarter of a century.


Stan Gustafson brings a lot of experience to his new job in Aitkin. A North Dakota native, he has worked on economic development projects in Minnesota cities for a number of years. He has been hired as the executive director of Growth Innovations, formerly known as Aitkin County Growth Inc.


State Senator Scott DeLano, the Chairman of the Mississippi Senate Technology Committee, joined in a discussion with Mississippi business and technology leaders about the role technology platforms and digital tools are playing during the pandemic and growing the Mississippi economy. Participants also discussed Mississippi’s technology workforce future. The “Tech Forward Webcast: How Technology is Fueling the Mississippi Recovery and Growing the Mississippi Economy” was hosted by Rob Retzlaff, Executive Director of the Connected Commerce Council. Retzlaff hosted a second panel and was joined by Mary Martha Henson of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation, Laura Hipp with the Mississippi Development Authority, and Sheffie Robinson of Shamrck for a conversation about the digital workforce in Mississippi.


Less than three weeks after taking office, Tishaura O. Jones put developers on notice. St. Louis's new mayor vetoed two developer tax breaks that she said were too generous. And then she held up final approval of incentive packages for two other projects that had long enjoyed almost unwavering political support — the City Foundry food hall complex and another phase of development in the Cortex tech district. The moves forced the developers back to the negotiating table and quickly demonstrated what anyone who had been listening to Jones campaign early this year should have expected: The old way of doing development in St. Louis was over. Directing this shift in the city’s approach is Jones’ 28-year-old director of policy and development, Nahuel Fefer. Joining Fefer at the helm of the city’s economic development team is Neal Richardson. He was hired in June to replace the retiring Otis Williams, whose tenure at the St. Louis Development Corporation stretched back more than 20 years, to the Clarence Harmon administration.

The St. Louis Development Corporation is seeking input from residents, businesses, and organizations to help shape the forthcoming Economic Justice Action Plan announced in September of this year. Working with the consultant team hired for drafting the plan, the group has collected action items from several recent regional plans and is seeking input from the community on prioritizing their next steps.
“The mission of our action plan is to provide a framework for launching equitable opportunities to thrive for all residents by addressing historical barriers, economic inequities and closing the racial wealth gap,” says Neal Richardson, Executive Director at St. Louis Development Corporation.

New York

Christina P. Orsi, associate vice president in UB’s Office of Economic Development, has been named president of The John R. Oishei Foundation, the region’s most comprehensive private foundation. Orsi will be the first woman to hold that title in the organization’s history, succeeding Robert D. Gioia, who retires in January after 15 years of service. She was appointed by the foundation’s board of directors after a national search. She will begin her tenure on Jan. 24. Orsi brings to the Oishei Foundation a deep portfolio of economic development work, leading organizations and initiatives that have improved Western New York. At UB, she has led university-wide economic development efforts and built connections with the private sector to advance entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.

North Carolina

Nearly $71 billion in capital investment — that’s the potential pipeline North Carolina is sitting on when it comes to companies looking to relocate or expand. Chris Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, said his team is working on 213 recruiting projects totaling more than 69,000 potential new jobs. At least 22% of those opportunities come from foreign firms, Chung said. Germany, the U.K., Belgium, Japan, Austria, India and Turkey are currently the top source markets for foreign direct investment in the pipeline, he said.

The town of Hertford is one of 16 communities in the state that the N.C. Department of Commerce has added to its Community Economic Recovery and Resiliency Initiative. The Department of Commerce announced last week that 16 additional communities are being assisted with their economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic. (Kenny Flowers, assistant secretary for N.C. Commerce’s Rural Economic Development Division)

During this morning’s meeting of the North Carolina Department of Commerce Economic Incentives Committee, an entity headed by Toyota Motor Corp. — Toyota Battery Manufacturing Inc. — was approved to receive $338 million in Job Development Investment Grant funds that were included in the 2022 state budget. Committee members were told during the meeting that North Carolina won out over nine states considered for the project, all of which offered significant economic incentives. Toyota will invest at least $1 billion in the plant and create 1,750 new jobs at the 1,825-acre site just south of the Guilford-Randolph county line. A plan for a second phase of expansion, if the company so chooses, would bring the total investment to more than $3 billion and result in 3,875 total jobs.


A Dayton-based economic development group has launched a new fund to help local entrepreneurs and small businesses gain access to capital. The Entrepreneurs' Center announced Wednesday the "Rotunda Fund" — a revenue-based investment fund dedicated to clients of the Dayton organization. Described as the first of its kind for investors and entrepreneurs in the Dayton area, the Rotunda Fund does not require business owners to give up a percentage of their companies. Instead, the investment is paid back monthly as a negotiated percentage of sales over a period of five years, or at a 2x return to the fund. (Kim Frazier, Rotunda Fund manager and director of growth initiatives at the Entrepreneurs' Center.)

The Clinton County Port Authority’s Economic Development Week 2021 Campaign was selected as the winner for the Marketing Program category for the Mid-America Economic Development Council’s 2021 Annual Economic Development Awards. “The Port Authority is thrilled, and honored, to receive this recognition from the MAEDC,” said Clinton County Port Authority Executive Director Dan Evers. “I’m extremely proud of the excellent work of my colleagues on this initiative. It reflects the energy and creativity our team brings to community engagement efforts and all of our economic development program activities.”

The Shawnee Optimist Club received a variety of updates from the Allen Economic Development Group on Wednesday. AEDG provided updates on recent developments in Allen County, both industrial and rural. Members also learned that the past three years have shown that the trajectory of developments in the county is on the rise, and is projected to stay that way as well. Allen Economic Development Group's Dave Stratton, President/CEO, and Cynthia Leis, Business Development Director, were the guest speakers during the Optimist monthly meeting.


The Buda Economic Development Corporation hired Shannon Mumley as its new Economic Development Specialist. Mumley will assume her responsibilities today. Buda EDC Executive Director Traci Anderson said, “Communities are Shannon’s passion, and her drive helps accomplish her goals.

The Arlington Economic Development  Corporation has named an Amazon executive as its first-ever director. Broderick Green was selected after a national search by executive search firm The PACE Group. He will begin working in his new role Dec. 15. Green said in a press release that helping to rebuild communities torn apart by natural disaster helped spark his passion for local economic development. He has 13 years of experience in economic development and is currently senior manager of economic development for Amazon in Washington, D.C.

Austin, which has locked in several major corporate wins even in the midst of a pandemic, is bolstering its business recruitment, retention and expansion efforts. It’s doing so in a way that could foster more equitable development with a strategy that may draw the attention of more companies and cities, including San Antonio, as the race to land and keep employers and jobs becomes more intense. The Austin Economic Development Corp., which expects to secure its first CEO by the end of the year, will complement Opportunity Austin, a regional economic development initiative that’s had significant success. But unlike a traditional economic development corporation, the AEDC will focus on more inclusive development opportunities and on businesses receptive to an approach that addresses the city’s infrastructure needs.


Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin promised business leaders Friday he would slash “job-killing regulations” and implement policies to “start winning big time” in the race to lure businesses and jobs to the region — laying out educational choice, diverse energy investments and lower taxes as top agenda items in his early days in office.  Youngkin’s remarks —  which echoed many of the themes of his campaign — came at the 2021 Virginia Economic Summit & Forum on World Trade at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.  The Virginia Chamber of Commerce and Virginia Economic Development hosted the event with speeches from Virginia business leaders and the release of the 2030 Blueprint, the group’s goals for the state to support business growth over the next eight years. (Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Barry DuVal)

West Virginia

Kurt Zende is headed back to a familiar office, albeit in a new role. The Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce executive board announced Thursday that Zende, who had been with the City of Wheeling since 2005, would become the chamber’s new president. Zende replaces Erikka Storch, who left that role to become executive director of Project BEST. Zende is well-versed in economic and community development throughout the Ohio Valley, previously holding positions with the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street program in Steubenville, as well as with Wheeling as an economic development specialist.


During this year of uncertainty and health concerns, Community Hunger Solutions, a non-profit program of Vernon Economic Development Association, has been working very hard on continuing distribution as well as planning new projects and building new partnerships to help solve food access issues in our region.

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The Econ Dev Show is a podcast, weekday email newsletter, and blog of actionable strategies, fresh news, insights, and ideas from the economic development community and your host, Dane Carlson.

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Founder/Host of Econ Dev Show. Also: Sitehunt CEO and economic development consultant in Greater Houston, Texas.

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