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Published: Friday, 10/26/2007

Interim LCIC chief welcomes challenge

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Schramko Schramko
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Tim Schramko knows that what he says these days - and to whom he says it - is vitally important.

Mr. Schramko, a University of Toledo business professor, is the likely temporary replacement for Shawn Ferguson, who headed off being fired as the chief executive officer for the Lucas County Improvement Corp. by submitting his resignation on Tuesday.

Of all the reasons offered to explain Mr. Ferguson's fall as the county's economic development leader, several county officials said the main one is that he didn't communicate well with others, especially Commissioners Ben Konop and Tina Skeldon Wozniak.

"Communication has always been his fatal flaw," Commissioner Pete Gerken said.

Mr. Schramko, an associate professor of entrepreneurship and management at UT who has more than 30 years' experience in health-care administration, said his duties as a teacher have prepared him to be able to convey his message of economic development to all of the commissioners.

"Communication is how I live," Mr. Schramko, 60, said yesterday. "If I can't communicate with my students, they can't learn. I'm going to take that same style with the commissioners. I'm a huge believer in communication and specificity."

Mr. Ferguson could not be reached for comment yesterday, but he previously told The Blade he thought he had been a "good communicator."

Mr. Schramko met with Ms. Wozniak, Mr. Konop, and Mr. Gerken individually Wednesday to earn their endorsements. The commissioners then announced him to the LCIC executive committee as their choice to be Mr. Ferguson's interim successor.

But the committee elected to interview Mr. Schramko next week.

Considering the county's financial contribution to the LCIC - about $500,000 of the organization's $700,000 budget this year - having all three commissioners in his corner is important for Mr. Schramko.

But if Mr. Schramko has any hope of keeping his new position, his working relationship with Mr. Konop is crucial.

Mr. Konop is in charge of the national search to find a new, full-time chief of economic development, and it was Mr. Konop who roundly criticized Mr. Ferguson's performance.

One of his chief complaints was Mr. Ferguson's lack of aggressiveness in recruiting new businesses to the area, which Mr. Schramko said would be one of his chief priorities.

"I commend Mr. Konop for having extraordinarily good insight," Mr. Schramko said. "You have to aggressively work to create and retain jobs in order to have growth. That's what we all should be striving for."

Mr. Schramko helped develop the business plans for UT's Science and Technology Corridor and Office of Global Initiatives, and spent 22 years as a vice president for then-St. Vincent Medical Center.

He said he was a chief developer in 1977 of the LifeFlight helicopter program in Toledo.

UT President Lloyd Jacobs praised him in a statement: "Tim Schramko is an accomplished faculty member in the field of entrepreneurship and management. We are thrilled that the Lucas County commissioners have chosen to leverage his expertise for the benefit of the LCIC."

And on Wednesday, Mr. Konop praised Mr. Schramko as someone who wasn't "afraid to challenge the status quo" and wouldn't "accept the current situation as is."

But when asked what Mr. Schramko will do in his time steering economic development, he chose generalities over details.

Mr. Schramko, who will continue to teach at UT during his tenure with the LCIC, said he will maintain lines of communication with all of LCIC's partners, help bring a positive attitude to an organization swamped in turmoil, and work on current and new development projects.

He also said he's going to work to create jobs - something the permanent LCIC chief almost certainly would have to pledge to do.

But while Mr. Schramko is expected to leave office after his 90-day term is up, he wouldn't deny being intrigued by the idea of becoming the county's full-time point man for economic development.

"I'm being given an opportunity to lead an organization that is very high-profile, and I'm prepared to do that," Mr. Schramko said.

"If my leadership proves to be beneficiary for the LCIC and the opportunity arises to continue in that capacity, I would have to re-evaluate the situation.

"But for now, I have a job to do."

Contact Joe Vardon at: jvardon@theblade.com or 419-410-5055.



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