GH Seeks New Economic Developer

February 6, 2004
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GRAND HAVEN — Hoping to maintain the momentum built up behind key initiatives, The Chamber of Commerce is moving quickly to hire a new economic development director.

The Chamber last week immediately began searching for a successor to Tricia Ryan, who leaves Feb. 20 to take a job as senior economic development manager for the Portland (Ore.) Development Commission’s Business Retention & Expansion Division.

Chamber President Joy Gaasch hopes to find a successor as soon as possible.

“We need to get rolling on this right away because we have so many irons in the fire,” Gaasch said.

During Ryan’s tenure in Grand Haven, she helped to institute new economic development initiatives that enabled The Chamber to place a much higher emphasis on employer outreach and retention. and support for industry, including the formation this year of several business roundtables. The organization most recently has begun setting the stage for significantly stepping up efforts to recruit new employers and industry to the Grand Haven-Spring Lake area, an issue that has not been a high priority for several years.

“Tricia’s expertise and commitment to her role as northwest Ottawa County’s economic development professional has been exceptional,” Gaasch said. “Her talent, creativity and dedication to our organization and our community will be difficult to replace.”

The Chamber will seek a new economic development director who has at least five years of experience and a strong background in business retention and development, working with small businesses on financial issues, and in community marketing, Gaasch said.

Ryan joined The Chamber as vice president of economic development in June 2002. She previously spent three and a half years serving as executive director of the Newaygo County Economic Development Office.

The allure of the West was the calling for the 31-year-old Ryan. She and her husband, Tom, have wanted to move there. Portland, a community of some 2 million people that’s developed a hip reputation and is attracting young professionals in droves, was their top destination.

When they visited Portland for the first time in 1999, “We just fell in love with it,” Ryan said.

“I want to be part of the energy they’ve created out there,” said Ryan, who’ll work primarily with the high-tech sector in Portland.

“It’s a cool city. That’s where we knew we wanted to be,” Ryan said. “We want to stake out a claim some place we’ve never been and start from scratch.”

The position with the city of Portland is also a perfect fit professionally for Ryan. The city’s economic development policies, as well as the general attitude of the populace, place a high emphasis on in-fill development and redevelopment of urban areas and on environmental protection.

“That is a way of life there,” she said. “It’s an understanding between the city and the development community that doesn’t even have to be spoken.”               

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