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Published: Wednesday, 9/29/2010

Regional growth leader gets Georgia job

BY SHEENA HARRISON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Steve Weathers, CEO of the Regional Growth Partnership, will head the Savannah Economic Development Authority. Steve Weathers, CEO of the Regional Growth Partnership, will head the Savannah Economic Development Authority.
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After nearly two weeks of speculation, Steve Weathers, president and chief executive officer of the Regional Growth Partnership in Toledo, was chosen Tuesday to become the new CEO of an economic development group in Georgia.

Board members of the Savannah Economic Development Authority voted unanimously at a morning meeting to hire Mr. Weathers, said David Paddison, a board member and chairman of the Savannah organization's succession planning committee. Mr. Weathers, 49, is expected to start his new job Nov. 8.

"We're thrilled to have such a high-caliber economic development professional locating to our city, and we expect great things," Mr. Paddison said.

Mr. Weathers was in Savannah Tuesday to hear the development group's hiring decision and meet with Savannah leaders, Mr. Paddison said.

In a statement issued by the Savannah group, Mr. Weathers said, "I cannot imagine a better and more exciting opportunity than to serve as the next president and CEO of SEDA, one of the most respected economic development organizations in the country. I look forward to working with such an exceptional group of staff, board of directors, and community leaders to attract new business to Savannah."

Mr. Weathers did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday. His new job will pay $200,000 to $300,000 a year, Mr. Paddison said in an interview earlier this month.

Jim Hoffman, vice chairman for the Regional Growth Partnership, said he did not know when Mr. Weathers' final day with the Toledo group would be and the organization has not selected an interim executive.

"The staff there is very capable of running it without Steve in place for a short period," he said.

The growth partnership's board chairman, Dave Waterman, said a search committee has been formed to find a replacement for Mr. Weathers and is expected to meet sometime next week.

"We're getting our plans in place, and we'll move on," Mr. Waterman said. "I wish Steve well."

Mr. Hoffman expressed confidence that a highly qualified replacement will be found. "This is one of the best jobs in the country in economic development, and I'm sure we'll have plenty of good candidates," he said.

The Savannah organization began seeking CEO candidates in the spring after its previous chief executive, Rick Winger, announced in January he would retire July 1. Mr. Weathers was one of two finalists for the job, along with Lynn Pitts, the group's interim president and CEO.

Regional Growth Partnership board members found out about Mr. Weathers' candidacy for the Savannah position about two weeks ago.

Mr. Weathers has headed northwest Ohio's lead economic development agency since 2005. In that period, the organization has helped bring 7,000 jobs and $2.2 billion in new construction investment to metropolitan Toledo, according to the Savannah group's press release.

Mr. Weathers also is credited with bringing 70 new companies to the Toledo area while leading Rocket Ventures, a venture capital program for technology start-ups that is affiliated with the growth partnership.

Prior to coming to Toledo, Mr. Weathers was 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.

In an interview with The Blade last week, Mr. Weathers did not say why he was considering the Georgia job. However, he noted that he has family members in the Savannah area.

Contact Sheena Harrison at:

sharrison@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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