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Published: 9/16/2010

Regional growth unit CEO may leave

BY SHEENA HARRISON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Steve Weathers, president and chief executive officer of the Regional Growth Partnership in Toledo, could be leaving to take a similar job in Savannah, Ga.

Members of the growth partnership board said Wednesday they were unaware that Mr. Weathers interviewed in the past few days with the Savannah Economic Development Authority. Mr. Weathers is one of two finalists for the job, which the Georgia agency hopes to fill by the end of the month.

Mr. Weathers, who has led the key northwest Ohio economic development agency for five years, did not return repeated calls for comment Wednesday. A Savannah newspaper reported he is a native of the neighboring state of South Carolina.

David Waterman, chairman of the growth partnership board, said Mr. Weathers had been out of the office this week and the two had not spoken about the job as of Wednesday afternoon.

The agency's board plans to discuss the job search with the CEO, Mr. Waterman said.

"We'll certainly want to talk to him about his motivation and what he's thinking about right now," he said.

Lynn Pitts, interim president and CEO of the Savannah agency, is being considered for the Georgia position. The agency expects to choose its new chief executive in the next two weeks, and the job will pay $200,000 to $300,000, said David Paddison, a board member and vice chairman of the Savannah organization's succession planning committee.

The growth partnership, which is a private, nonprofit organization, declined to disclose Mr. Weathers' salary. He was paid about $165,000, with potential bonuses, when he was hired in 2005. The Toledo and Savannah agencies are similar in size and budgets. Savannah's group has 11 employees and a 2010 budget of about $3.5 million, while the Toledo organization has about 20 employees and an annual budget between $3.5 million to $4 million.

The local budget includes Rocket Ventures, a venture capital program for technology start-ups.

Mr. Paddison declined to say why Mr. Weathers was being considered for the Savannah position, but said candidates were weighed on strategic ability, leadership and integrity, commercial acumen, political savvy, and consensus building.

The organization began seeking candidates in the spring after the previous executive, Rick Winger, announced in January that he would retire on July 1.

Savannah considered 15 candidates selected by the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., Mr. Paddison said.

The Georgia agency hopes the new CEO will help the city "expand beyond traditional economic development," Mr. Paddison said.

Mr. Weathers was credited with performing a similar role while leading Rocket Ventures. "He played an important part in developing our visibility in the technology sector," Mr. Waterman said.

Mr. Weathers previously had been chief executive of the Tucson Association of Realtors, president and CEO of the Greater Tucson Economic Development Council, and vice president of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

Bruce Baumhower, a board member with the Regional Growth Partnership, said Mr. Weathers has been "a real talent" during his time in Toledo.

He said Mr. Weathers has followed through on his goals to help diversify the local economy.

"We asked Steve to help us develop that segment of our economy, and I think he did a great job with that," Mr. Baumhower said.

Contact Sheena Harrison at:

sharrison@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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