Agency beginning process to find replacement for its retiring CEO

Agency beginning process to find replacement for its retiring CEO

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign County Economic Development Corp. is preparing to seek a successor to its chief executive officer, John Dimit.

Plans call for advertising the position in April, reviewing applications and interviewing candidates in May and recommending a successor in June, said Gary Burgett, chairman of the economic development group's board of directors.

It's hoped the new chief executive officer will begin work in September, Burgett said at Wednesday's board meeting. Pay will be "commensurate with experience and qualifications."

Dimit has led the agency since 2008, when he was hired as an interim replacement for Jeanne Gustafson, who left in November 2007.

The board later made him permanent CEO.

Dimit joined the agency shortly after retiring as executive director of the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission. He continues to serve as president of the Urbana school board.

The economic development board is looking for a replacement who has experience working with diverse constituencies. The organization derives its financial support from area cities and villages, area colleges and universities, the state and, to a lesser degree, utilities and private investors.

A three-page draft of what the board is seeking says the new CEO "should have a history of generating support by successfully engaging, partnering and building alliances with a wide range of constituencies."

It describes the ideal candidate as "a strategic visionary thinker" who can quickly earn "credibility, respect, trust and confidence."

That candidate should have "prior executive-level experience developing and managing budgets" and "a track record of being able to execute on key commitments ... within defined time frames."

The draft calls for experience in a "high-level community leadership role" including five to 10 years in economic development.

Candidates should have at least a bachelor's degree in business or public administration, economic development, finance, economics or planning. A master's degree would be desirable, as would a Certified Economic Developer credential.

The economic development group, with offices at 1817 S. Neil St., C, has a $600,000 operating budget and a staff of eight, according to the draft.

Airline exits discussed. Board member Bruce Walden, whose responsibilities at the University of Illinois include Willard Airport, said people with stakes in the airport continue to discuss possible changes in its governance.

He said a "leakage" study of how many passengers Willard loses to other area airports has been authorized by the UI and will likely be done in the next four to six weeks.

Air service to area airports has changed since the last leakage survey.

Walden said Direct Air, which provided service between Springfield and Florida, suspended flights Tuesday.

Earlier, low-fare carrier AirTran announced it would end service to Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, where it had flights to both Atlanta and Orlando.

Since then, Frontier Airlines has announced new service from Bloomington to both Denver and Orlando, and Allegiant has announced new service to the Orlando area.

Several board members suggested that without low-fare carrier AirTran, the Bloomington airport will see fare increases from other airlines — perhaps putting it on a more even playing field with Willard.

Several communities have used revenue guarantees as a way to attract air service. Walden said new air service at Willard is "not going to happen without significant financial commitment beyond what the university can do."

Board member Tom Costello said that even with revenue guarantees, there's no assurance that any airline will stay for the long term.

Several years ago, Delta pulled out of Willard after receiving $1.35 million in revenue guarantees from the community.

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