About a month after both organizations' boards of directors voted to enter into a management contract, the leaders of SPEDA (Somerset Pulaski Economic Development Authority) and the Somerset Pulaski County Development Foundation formally signed the agreement Thursday afternoon during SPEDA's April meeting.
The management contract gives SPEDA full control over the Development Foundation, which had led the community's industrial recruitment efforts since 1965 but will eventually be dissolved. With the new organization launching with a broader focus, both entities will be managed during the transition by SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler.
"The signing of this agreement is a true milestone for this community," Girdler said Thursday, extending his gratitude to the Foundation board.
"It's the beginning a new era and I appreciate the willingness of [Foundation Director] Martin Shearer and Foundation Board Chairman Michael Hail in particular to work with all of us to ensure such a smooth transition to take place," he further stated.
Girdler added his appreciation of Somerset Mayor Alan Keck and Pulaski County Judge-Executive Steve Kelley, who are members of both boards, as well as the rest of the SPEDA Board for their efforts.
Judge Kelley, who worked throughout his first term toward the development of SPEDA, acknowledged the contract as a "huge gesture of trust" on the Foundation board's part and thanked his fellow members for that trust. With Mayor Keck having just completed his first three months in office, he counted SPEDA's official launch among the highlights thus far.
The city and county created the quasi-government entity through an interlocal agreement to address all aspects of economic development including workforce development, tourism promotion, community collaboration and overall business creation, expansion, retention and attraction.
"Chris and the SPEDA organization as a whole has really hit the ground running and the community is being well served by this type of leadership and the dedication of our board members," SPEDA chair Brook Ping stated. "Community collaboration is key to any area's success and the Foundation's cooperation and willingness to work together with us will produce great things for our community."
As the meeting progressed, Mayor Keck reported that SPEDA should be moving into office facilities at the Energy Center this month.
Girdler also announced plans for SPEDA to host a quarterly series called the "Industrial Leaders Breakfast," the first of which has been scheduled for August 15 at the Hal Rogers Student Commons on the campus of Somerset Community College. He noted that the idea came from recent meetings with businesses, economic officials and government officials.
"One thing that kept being brought to the forefront was the importance of existing businesses," Girdler said, "the importance of job retention as much as job creation."
The meeting closed with an executive session to discuss personnel and the acquisition of property. No formal action was taken when the board returned to open session. The next regular meeting should be May 2 at 3 p.m.