After scouring the entire North American continent, the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District has found a new executive director.
John Parker, a native of Nova Scotia, Canada, has been selected to head up the EDD, which works to promote and develop business interests throughout the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Parker arrived on the peninsula Tuesday and said Wednesday that he's eager to begin meeting the area business and political leaders he'll be working with in the future on economic development issues.
"I think the first thing to do is meet the people who are important to moving the process ahead," Parker said from his new office at EDD headquarters in North Kenai.
He'll get a chance to do just that this evening at an EDD open house from 6 until 8 p.m. at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai.
Parker was selected from a group that originally included nearly 40 applicants from Alaska, Canada and the Lower-48 states, according to Sal Mattero of Reality Check Consult-ing, the group that conducted the search.
Mattero said that when the EDD board of directors enlisted his help finding a new director after Jim Carter resigned in August, he felt a search shouldn't be limited to just Alaska.
"I asked (the board) if they just wanted someone local of if they truly wanted to find the very best person," Mattero said.
When the board directed him to search high and low for a new director, Mattero said he felt free to search both nationally and internationally for someone with the qualifications to head up the EDD's various development programs.
The EDD currently helps spur local business through its Business Innovation Center, which helps small businesses get off the ground; by hosting a variety of community economic forums; and by working with the private sector to secure business development grants and loans. The EDD is funded through a contract with the Kenai Peninsula Borough, as well as grants from outside sources.
In Parker, Mattero said he's satisfied the EDD is getting a leader who's capable of working with a variety of government and private sector groups something that's essential to the group's future on the peninsula.
"That is something that was identified by the board as being very important," Mattero said. "The different city, borough and state government positions can be so varied, I wanted someone who could work with everyone."
Parker said his past experience in economic development mainly includes work in rural, northern communities which means he's right at home on the Kenai.
"I'm more of a rural economic development kind of person, as opposed to urban," Parker said. "In rural areas, you deal with a lot of different issues than you deal with in cities."
He said he sees himself as a consensus builder whose philosophy is based on the fact that the more cooperation there is between individual business, government and nonprofit agencies, the better chance everyone has at success.
"The first step will be to meet with people who have ideas about economic development. Obviously, we're going to have to work in partnership with other organizations," he said.
Parker said he's also looking forward to working with local Native groups, who he believes can help play a major role in developing the area's economy.
"The Native population here maybe hasn't been involved in the process as much as they could be," he said. "I'd like to change that."
Over the next few weeks, Parker said he'll be meeting with various community groups to find out what direction to take. He'll then find out where the EDD needs to go from the board's perspective before implementing any new plans for the future.
For now though, he's just getting settled in to his new position and said he's excited to be helping the EDD get off to a fresh start.
"It's always good to have a fresh perspective, fresh ideas to bring to the table," Parker said. "I'll certainly bring that."
Parker believes the Kenai Peninsula's wealth of cultural, historic and natural resources will enable him to have no trouble finding new ways to grow the area's economy.
"I look at this area, and there's so much opportunity. It's really exciting to know that things can be done here," he said. "It's not like you're without assets or without tools. They're all around you."
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