Sunday, Dec 04, 2016
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Growth partnership leadership search delayed

Toledo's Regional Growth Partnership had hoped to have a permanent, new chief executive officer by April, but now it looks as if the search won't begin for months and an appointment won't be made until near year's end.

The delay resulted from a study that outlines a new, combined city-county approach to development, a concept that has the development agency as a unit within the growth partnership.

Growth partnership board members said they should wait until the agency's future role is clarified, which will shape what its CEO will do as well as what the agency's funding will be and where it will come from.

Complicating the matter is that a main funding contributor now, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, is putting a 0.4-mill levy on the ballot for renewal in November.

The authority contributes $1.35 million a year to the partnership, or nearly half of the agency's $2.75 million budget for 2004.

"It would be foolish to recruit a new CEO until we can put together a plan," said Robert Maxwell, a partnership board member. Future funding for the agency must be defined so a CEO candidate knows what he or she has to work with, he said.

Susan Gilmore, the partnership's treasurer and a member of the board's nominating committee, said, "We want to recruit the best candidate, someone who will be willing to make a long-term commitment to the community, but we're in a horrible position to go out and recruit."

The opening occurred when Don Jakeway left the agency's CEO spot in October to become the top executive at the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Since then, board member William Brennan, president of Associated General Contractors of Northwest Ohio, has been named acting CEO and Eileen Granata, a senior vice president, has been named acting chief operating officer.

A search committee of five to six was to be established to find a new agency leader. Mr. Brennan named Dennis Johnson, president of Brooks Insurance Agency Inc., to head the committee and, at Mayor Jack Ford's request, Jay Black to be a member. Mr. Black is the city's chief of staff.

The other three to four members of the panel have not been chosen.

The plans to proceed have been postponed because of the $132,000 study by Hammer, Siler, George Associates of Silver Spring, Md., that promised to redefine the roles of several development agencies in the region.

The firm's report was due last fall but was delayed for months. It was released this month, and city, county, and port authority officials said they intend to create a city-county development agency this year, probably within the growth partnership.

They also said they probably will divert $1.5 million to $2 million from city and county development efforts into a larger growth partnership.

The process of getting area communities and the players involved to agree on a final plan could take months, officials have said.

Even before the Hammer, Siler study came out, the growth partnership absorbed the former Regional Technology Alliance, which means more such related duties.

Mr. Johnson said yesterday he will take with Mr. Brennan this week to determine if it makes sense to start recruiting a new partnership CEO before the November levy election, and whether to hire an executive recruiting firm.

"Clearly, the role [of the agency] is changing, and the job of the CEO has changed," Mr. Johnson said.

In recent months, a number of board members have said privately they think the new CEO's salary will have to be $150,000 to $200,000, or more, to attract quality candidates.

The agency's first CEO, Rick Weddle, was paid $145,000 a year when he left seven years ago to take a development post in Phoenix. He also received a $20,000 bonus in his last year. His new post paid $185,000 at the time. Mr. Jakeway's salary here was nearly $166,000, but he is getting $200,000 in his new job.

Growth partnership officials said they have received no applications or resumes for the CEO position, but they have received several pitches from recruiting firms.

Contact Homer Brickey at:

homerbrickey@toledoblade.com

or (419) 724-6129.

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