Search continues for EDD director

Posted: Tuesday, September 09, 2003

A search is under way for a new executive director for the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District.

Randy Daly, who stepped down as president of the EDD board of directors, took the reins as interim manager in early August following the resignation of Executive Director Jim Carter, who left to take a job with a bank in Fairbanks.

In perfect world, EDD would have a new director by January, Daly said during an interview Friday. But much will depend on the responses to job advertising set to start this week.

"We'd love to have someone walk in off the street who was born and raised here on the peninsula with a Harvard MBA," Daly quipped.

Recognizing that isn't likely and knowing that conducting a proper search is beyond the capabilities of the EDD board, the board looked for outside help, going first to the local market of executive talent. That included approaching Norm Story, recently retired as head of Homer Electric Association, and Mike Nugent, former Agrium plant manager, also recently retired, but neither wanted the job so soon after stepping into retirement, Daly said.

Also on Daly's short list, was Sal Mattero, another recently retired Agrium executive who had been director of human resources. Mattero told the board he could conduct a search for a new director, and the board hired Mattero's new company, Reality Check Consul-ting, a move that holds a certain symmetry, considering EDD's prime function, Daly said.

"We are helping his new professional company get into the market place, which is the job of the EDD, so it's a win-win situation," he said. "The guy is probably more qualified than most of the people in HR (human resources) on the peninsula. He has about three decades of HR service. He knows how to ask questions that the rest of us might not even know to ask."

Mattero will conduct interviews with the 16 remaining board members, past directors, including Carter and Stan Steadman, EDD staff and other key players to determine what Daly called the "core competencies" for the job. Mattero is expected to make a presentation to the board Sept. 18, and then search for and interview prospective candidates, Daly said.

Meanwhile, Daly said EDD functions will continue without interruption.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough has a $50,000 contract with EDD, for which it is to receive a Compre-hensive Economic Development Strategy designed for the borough, as well as EDD's assistance in holding the annual boroughwide economic forum this fall. EDD also is expected to continue assisting borough communities in creating community economic development plans, Daly said.

According to Bonnie Golden, grants manager for the borough, the $50,000 also will help EDD continue its revolving loan program and the Business Innovation Center.

"Many funding organizations these days require projects to be identified in community plans so they know the project is a community priority, not just that of an individual," Golden said.

Borough funding for EDD was $90,000 a year during fiscal years 2001, 2002 and 2003, but in 2004, it was cut to $50,000.

"The proposal from the administration was to zero that out, but the assembly moved to fund it at the $50,000 level," said assembly president Pete Sprague of Soldotna, who has been a member of the EDD board of directors since 1999. "There was an amendment to add another $25,000, but that was defeated."

Ed Oberts, assistant to borough Mayor Dale Bagley, said the administration initially planned to spend the money internally and budgeted an equivalent amount for the Kenai Peninsula Borough Community and Economic Devel-opment Division to do essentially what the EDD is doing. He said it created no particular heartburn on the part of the administration that the assembly chose to fund EDD instead.

"That was fine," he said. "We can work with that."

Last week, the assembly approved two new appointments to the board, including Oberts, who will be the administration's appointee. Paul Shadura, a Kenai fisher, was appointed as a non-areawide public member. Both terms expire in December 2004.

Under EDD's bylaws, the borough controls appointments to four of the seats on the EDD board, Oberts said.

Sprague said although EDD has been in existence since 1988, it isn't yet ready to "stand on its own two feet" and might require some level of financial support from the borough for awhile.

Daly said it has been part of the EDD's ongoing five-year plan "to wean ourselves" from dependence on any single source of funding by 2007.

"That has been accelerated with the recent funding cuts by the borough," he said. "We will move aggressively, from a business plan standpoint, to make sure our revenues are not so dependent on one key client."

The borough funding is not a handout, but a contract, he said. The EDD, however, has and does continue to apply for and receive outside grants that fund some of its activities.

Assembly members recently received the EED's latest annual report covering FY 2003, which ended June 30. Economic strategies listed within included promoting a statewide economic development strategy, encouraging responsible oil and gas development in Cook Inlet, returning commercial fishing to profitability, expanding mariculture operations, coordinating vocational education and workforce development initiatives, developing a statewide micro-enterprise association, advancing a comprehensive strategy for the Kenai Peninsula visitors industry and sponsoring efforts to develop a marine fast-ferry service in Kache-mak Bay and a people-mover system between Kenai and Homer.

In the past fiscal year, EDD started the Rural Community Develop-ment Initiative, a program of technical assistance for nine communities within the region. It also hosted a variety of economic development and planning forums over the past few years, some boroughwide in scope, some targeting smaller communities.

For instance, the EDD hosted the Greater Kenai Peninsula Funding Summit on behalf of 13 communities and groups late last year at which leaders were given the opportunity to discuss various projects with representatives of 17 funding agencies and banks. The summit proved successful. The Denali Commission funded one project with $86,000, and five other projects moved beyond their initial stages, according to EDD.

Ninilchik received assistance from EDD with its first comprehensive action plan. The EDD also is assisting Sterling, Cooper Landing, Anchor Point and Seldovia with their plans and economic development initiatives.

With the help of grants, the EDD assisted the Livestock Producers Association, Kachemak City and other southern peninsula communities with a feasibility study for a new local slaughterhouse.

Assembly member Milli Martin of Homer said Thursday that as long as local communities are supporting and benefiting from EDD's efforts, she will support borough funding for the organization.

EDD also works to promote a year-round tourism industry on the peninsula. In 2002, participants at the annual Borough Economic Outlook Forum asked EDD to assist in developing a regional strategy and cooperative marketing program. EDD held three local forums and a regional visitor industry summit at which more than 100 small businesses and seven chambers of commerce participated. EDD has submitted an application for a $30,000 grant from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development to provide funding for a visitor profile study and marketing analysis.

EDD provides aid to new and financially strapped nonprofit and for-profit groups at its Business Innovation Center in Kenai. The center, financed with a federal grant, mentors and assists small businesses with administrative, marketing and financial advice.

Along with the Juneau Economic Development Corp., EDD is working to create a statewide micro-enterprise association to assist rural communities.

Since 1994, EDD revolving loan programs, funded with the help of the federal Economic Development Administration, have leveraged more than $1.6 million in private sector funds, resulting in the creation of 38 jobs, according to EDD's annual report. Meanwhile, the agency's Micro-Loan Fund, also capitalized with private donations, made three loans in the past year totaling $6,500, resulting in three new jobs.

EDD helped create a regional Workforce Development Coalition last year and spent $20,000 of its own money to hire a consultant and analyze the region's work force development. More than 70 businesses were interviewed.

EDD also distributes economic information to a variety of organizations and maintains a resource library used by the public.

EDD is one of 12 Alaska Regional Development Organizations at work stimulating economic development through local initiatives and regionally customized solutions to development problems, Daly said.

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