3 locals in running for economic post
CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign County Economic Development Corp. hopes to have a new executive director by week's end, its vice chairwoman said.
Lori Gold Patterson said Wednesday that three people remain in the running for the position — all of them local — but she would not identify them.
Each was to be given an opportunity to describe to the group's board, staff and financial supporters a vision of where he or she can take the group and to answer questions, Patterson said.
The board, staff and financial supporters would be asked to fill out questionnaires about the candidates, and the group's selection committee will consider those responses, she said.
A special meeting of the group's board of directors could be called "within days" to consider the selection committee's recommendation, she said.
Patterson called all three finalists "exceptional candidates" and said they are "very different" in what they would bring to the group. Some have public-sector experience, while others served in the private sector.
The economic development group has been without an executive director since last June, when CEO Mike Kirchhoff was let go after 10 months on the job. He started a new job in September as president and CEO of the Clinton (Iowa) Regional Development Corp.
Kirchhoff's annual salary in Champaign County was $110,000, and board members said they were disappointed he didn't increase private-investor support for the group more than he did.
Patterson would not specify a salary range for the new director, pending negotiations with a successful candidate.
The economic development group — which bills itself as a public-private partnership — has the mission of attracting new businesses to Champaign County and retaining existing ones.
The group has a budget of $870,203 for the fiscal year that ends in June. But only about $80,000 of its revenues come from private investment.
Support from governmental units and the University of Illinois amount to $325,000, and most of the remaining revenue comes from state grants.
In other business, the group:
— Approved Rantoul Mayor Chuck Smith as a member of the economic development board. He will take the seat previously held by former village administrator Bruce Sandahl, whom Smith recently dismissed.
— Was told by Rick Manner, executive director of the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District, that attendance by "70-plus" labor union representatives was "helpful" in getting the sanitary district board to vote to sell 6.3 million gallons of treated wastewater a day to Cronus Chemicals.
Cronus is considering a site west of Tuscola for a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant. The company is also considering a site in Iowa. The plant is expected to employ up to 200 people permanently, and it's estimated that 1,500 to 2,000 people would be needed to help build the plant.
"They are spending enough money that it looks like they're serious in coming to Illinois," Manner said. "They're obviously interested in making it happen."