LEDC scaling back following levy failure 2011.12.07

Written by David Green.

Following the failure of a county-wide economic development levy last month, the Lenawee County Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) faces a restructuring move.

LEDC chair Paul Heidbreder announced last week that the organization’s budget will be trimmed by more than half and the staff will be cut to two people.

President and CEO James Gartin will leave the organization due to budget cuts caused by the difficult financial situation in Lenawee County. Gartin will continue in his current role through December and will be retained as a consultant through March 2012.

“We’re going to really miss Jim,” Heidbreder said. “He’s played a key role in helping local businesses expand here and he’s worked closely with dozens of businesses considering relocating to Lenawee County. The fact is our local governments are under huge budget pressure from state revenue sharing losses and the downward pressure on real estate values.” 

The LEDC had hoped to ramp up county economic development efforts and promotion with funds from a countywide levy.

“The people said they aren’t interested in being taxed more on their property,” Heidbreder said. “The vote was a sign of how difficult times are and ultimately tells me that our efforts have never been more important.”

Additional personnel cuts will be made.

“The LEDC is no different than any other non-profit group right now,” Heidbreder said. It’s tough to raise the funds to do what’s necessary to promote and keep Lenawee County in the game of job attraction and in the business of job retention. The current staff will stay in place through the balance of December.”

The LEDC is going to seek candidates for their new executive director position over the next several weeks.

Tim Robinson, current chief operating officer of the LEDC, has accepted one of the two new positions in the organization. Robinson’s new title is operations manager. He will report to the yet-to-be-determined executive director.  Robinson has been with the LEDC for more than three years and resides in Adrian.

Other restructuring includes scaling the board back to a much smaller operational board and developing a “CEO Advisory Group” that will meet quarterly to receive updates and provide advice and counsel to the board on issues facing industry, education and finance.

The new board will be headed by newly appointed board chair Doug Kapnick of Adrian. Heidbreder, an Onsted resident and Blissfield native, will move to vice chair.  David Hickman of Tecumseh will fill the roles of secretary and treasurer. Adrian’s Steve Krusich, Tipton’s Jim VanDoren, Adrian Township’s David Maxwell and Promedica’s Tim Jakacki will also serve on the board.  

Heidbreder acknowledged the challenges the group will face but expressed optimism in the organization’s future. Working for economic development is too important to leave behind, he said, and there are several possibilities to follow through on. The organization has more than 25 potential projects under consideration and Lenawee County is in the top five in contention on at least four potential projects.

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