Six apply for new economic development position in Boyle

There are six applicants for the new chief operating officer position with the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership.

After asking for internal applicants from any of the EDP’s member agencies, the EDP posted the job on its website until July 7, EDP President and CEO Jody Lassiter said. The applicants are now being vetted.

“We had very specific qualifications referenced in the job description, so we are determining next steps based upon those qualifications,” Lassiter told the EDP board of directors last week.

“Who is we?” Danville City Commissioner Denise Terry, who attended the meeting, asked Lassiter.

“I in consultation with the other officers,” Lassiter said.

The EDP approved hiring the new position, which will be a second-in-command under Lassiter, in its 2017-18 fiscal year budget. The duties of the new hire, who would be paid as much as $75,000 annually, include providing services to local businesses so Lassiter can focus on attracting other businesses to the community; fundraising from the business community for the EDP budget; and helping with workforce development.

Addition of the position created a lengthy debate at the EDP’s June meeting, with several Danville officials including Terry questioning how certain the funding for the job is. The budget anticipates $40,000 from the City of Danville that will only be given as a “matching grant” for other new contributions to the EDP; and $30,000 in new “Chairman’s Circle” donations from businesses that haven’t been received yet.

EDP Chair Ben Nelson has said the EDP will do whatever it can to raise the planned funds, including starting a community campaign, asking individuals to contribute and be matched by the city. If the EDP doesn’t get the funding, Nelson said he will recommend cuts in other areas rather than to the new position.

“We need additional talent to help drive the economic development of this community. That is first and foremost the primary objective,” Nelson said in June. “If I fail on my revenue side, I will slash additional expenses to retain that head count.”

Evaluating Lassiter

The EDP board also discussed its annual evaluation of Lassiter at last week’s meeting. Nelson said an early step in that evaluation was seeking out input from an unprecedented number of people on how they think Lassiter is doing.

“We reached out to probably the largest sample I’ve ever experienced as a leadership development executive. We asked 134 folks to give us feedback on Jody,” Nelson said. “So if anybody in this room says, ‘we’re not trying to get a good sample,’ come and see me.”

Nelson said four of the 134 said they weren’t going to provide feedback and 24 did provide feedback — a response rate that was “not as rigorous as we might hope.”

Nelson further broke down the response rate by different groups:

• “peers and fellow staff members” — 56 percent;

• other economic development leaders from around the state — 50 percent;

• EDP board — 47 percent;

• Chairman’s Circle donors — 40 percent;

• City of Danville — 40 percent;

• Boyle County Fiscal Court — 29 percent;

• Industrial Foundation — 29 percent;

• Industrial Council — 17 percent; and

• business community — 0 percent.

“I’m here to tell you it’s our job to make sure this executive gets good feedback — what’s he doing good? What’s he need to do better?” Nelson said. “… I think it’s very important this board be fully engaged in the oversight of Jody’s performance management.”