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Published: Thursday, 4/27/2006

Development chief has busy agenda

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Boxes are haphazardly stacked in a back corner of the bare office collecting dust because Gary Thompson, the new executive director of Oregon on the Bay Economic Development Foundation, said he hasn't had time to unpack.

Making his office feel more like home is on the back burner because he's been too busy trying to master a job he's held for just over a week.

"I'm trying to inject myself in the process as soon as I can," he said.

Oregon's development foundation is a nonprofit group of about 115 members that was formed in 1993 to promote growth in Oregon.

Mr. Thompson was recently hired to succeed Dean Monske, who went to the Regional Growth Partnership of Northwest Ohio, from a pool of 40 applicants. He will be paid $62,500 annually.

Mr. Thompson said his main job responsibilities focus on retaining existing businesses in Oregon, attracting new ones to the city, and becoming an advocate for the business community.

"We think he's going to do a great job at that," said Tracy Sallah, president of the foundation's executive board. "He has a lot of enthusiasm for Oregon and its continued success. He really has what it takes to keep Oregon on the map when it comes to development."

While he plans to pick up where Mr. Monske left off, Mr. Thompson said he will also try some new things.

For instance, instead of asking businesses to send someone out to see Oregon, he plans to ask the business to provide a predetermined formula that outlines what it needs in a particular area to be successful and work from there.

He foresees his biggest challenge to be "balancing the traditional rural lifestyle in Oregon with the growth it needs to be successful" and proposes to use the city's master plan as a guideline.

Mr. Thompson, 35, has lived in Oregon since 2002, but grew up in Toledo. He graduated from Waite High School in 1988 before attending the University of Toledo, where he majored in accounting and graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration.

He is also a certified public accountant.

After graduation, Mr. Thompson spent several years at five different companies to gain experience in different areas. He held a variety of positions, including staff accountant and head bookkeeper. He also worked in sales, where he performed a broad range of tasks.

While an employee of one of those firms - the design firm SSOE Inc. of Toledo - he was a representative to Oregon's development foundation.

After attending several of the foundation's monthly meetings, he said it occurred to him that it would be a good idea to pursue working for the foundation.

"Given my background in education, accounting, and sales, I thought it might be a nice fit with my experience," he said. "I see myself here actually for quite awhile."



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