Search for EDC leader will remain a local one

Search for EDC leader will remain a local one

Previous CEO's contract was terminated in June, after less than a year on job

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign County Economic Development Corp. hopes to hire a new executive director by April 1, the group's vice chairwoman said.

But this time, the group won't conduct a national search and won't look solely for an economic development professional, Lori Gold Patterson said.

Instead, the group will seek someone with "real roots" in the region who has a dynamic personality, a sense of the community's assets and an understanding of the group's strategic plan, Patterson said.

The economic development group has been without an executive director since June, when it terminated its employment contract with Mike Kirchhoff, who had been CEO for less than a year.

Kirchhoff, a native of Altamont, had served in economic development positions in Kansas City, Mo., and Indianapolis before taking the Champaign County job.

His five-year contract called for an annual salary of $110,000 a year. Gold said the group hopes to advertise for the position soon, but has not yet made public a salary range for the job.

The economic development group — which is supported largely by public-sector contributions from cities, villages, the University of Illinois and Parkland College — has been squeezed financially in the past year and is seeking to ramp up contributions from the private sector.

It has recently come under scrutiny for the makeup of its board — namely whether its nearly three dozen members are representative of the broader community.

Patterson, who chaired Wednesday's meeting of the board of directors in the absence of board Chairman Cameron Moore, said the group has in recent years worked to increase the number of women on its board.

Its female members now include Patterson, Betty Brennan, Laura Frerichs, Becky Von Holten, Jill Guth, Liz Kellner, Diane Marlin and Judy Wiegand.

But the board lost black representation after Preston Williams retired as Urbana school superintendent in 2013 and Arthur Culver resigned as Champaign school superintendent in 2011.

Patterson noted at the outset of Wednesday's meeting that Champaign City Council member Will Kyles and Martel Miller were attending to get a better sense of the board makeup.

When the board went into closed session to consider personnel issues, both Kyles and Miller were invited to remain in the room while other guests and staff members were excused.

Patterson said lack of diversity has been "a major concern" of the board.

On Tuesday evening, the economic development group outlined its strategic plan to the Champaign City Council.

Champaign Planning and Development Director Bruce Knight said the group may need to increase communications with the city, perhaps making quarterly reports and bringing "showcase" businesses to the council's attention.

In other developments:

Social services group to come to Urbana. Erik Kotewa, deputy director of the economic development group, said a social services organization plans to open an office in Urbana employing about 30. Kotewa said he has been working with the group since October, but could not yet disclose its identity.

Apprenticeship program could expand. Kotewa said Flex-N-Gate Corp. is looking at growing the apprenticeship program at Guardian West, in hopes of getting homegrown industrial talent for the auto parts plant.

Collaborative space in Champaign. Board member Matt Wavering of Coldwell Banker Commercial Devonshire Realty said he has been approached by someone wanting to establish a collaborative workspace in downtown Champaign, similar to [co][lab] in downtown Urbana. Wavering said contacts had been made for a possible space, but nothing has been finalized.

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