Bob Schroeter

New Clallam County Economic Development Corp. director underscores priorities

PORT ANGELES — The next director of the Clallam County Economic Development Corp. has pledged to work hard to foster communication, cooperation and collaboration.

Bob Schroeter will become executive director and CEO of the nonprofit organization known as the EDC next Monday.

He discussed his plans for the EDC in a joint meeting of Clallam County and Port of Port Angeles commissioners Monday.

‘More active, engaged’

“What we are going to be seeing is a far more active and engaged, nonpartisan EDC that tries to build on that collaborative work that we will be doing together to show success,” said Schroeter, a longtime Lewis County municipal attorney and executive director of the Washington Association of Conservation Districts.

“In order to do this, talk is cheap. You’re going to want to see results.”

The Clallam County EDC helps existing businesses succeed and works to recruit new businesses to the region.

While confidentiality agreements prevent the EDC from touting the sum of its recruitment efforts, the organization will do a “better job of showing that transparency,” Schroeter said.

The taxpayer-supported EDC has been without a permanent director since Bill Greenwood stepped down at the end of last year.

Interim Executive Director Douglas Sellon will remain chairman of the EDC board when Schroeter takes the helm early next week.

Schroeter, who has a law degree from Gonzaga University, has worked as Comcast director of government affairs in Oregon and as director of operational support at the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board in Olympia.

He served for more than 20 years as a municipal attorney for several jurisdictions in Lewis County, which is similar to Clallam County in size and reliance on timber.

“We’re going to find solutions together, and we’re going to do it the Clallam County way,” Schroeter said, “not Bob Schroeter’s way, not Lewis County’s way but the Clallam County way.”

Bypassing roadblocks

In order to bypass inevitable “roadblocks” to economic development, Schroeter said he would be “riding the circuit.”

“If you don’t hear within six months, any one of you, that Bob’s been out in the community, he’s been active, he’s been engaged to an extent that we haven’t seen before, then I’ve failed,” Schroeter said.

“And hold me to account.”

Director of Operations and Finance Jennifer Linde will keep her current role at the EDC. Linde developed new reporting metrics to measure the EDC’s failure or success.

“Jennifer is the core of the EDC right now, and for good reason,” Schroeter said.

“We have a foundation with Jennifer, with this board, with this organization.”

Schroeter said the EDC will hire a third staff member to work half time as administrative coordinator and half time as communications director.

“We are doing what we can with a lean force,” Schroeter said.

The EDC received $150,000 from Clallam County in 2015 and 2016 and has requested $125,000 from the county for 2017. Commissioners will consider an appropriation to the EDC later this spring.

Private-sector support for the EDC has grown from 32 businesses in 2014 to more than 115 last year, EDC officials said.

Looking ahead, Schroeter said the EDC would be more engaged with nonprofits, government leaders, teachers, firefighters and “every aspect of this community that are interrelated to economic development.”

“We have to find partnerships,” he said.

All six commissioners of port and county governments reacted positively to Schroeter’s remarks.

Commissioners

“I am energized by your presentation and you haven’t even started working yet,” Port Commissioner Connie Beauvais said.

“Part of our mission as port commissioners in this new age is to get people in communities out of their silos and working together collaboratively. We can do so much if we all work together.”

Port commission Chairwoman Colleen McAleer said she was “inspired” by Schroeter’s energy and perspective.

“It, I think, will take you and the EDC very far,” she said.

Port Commissioner Steve Burke predicted that Schroeter would “get to know the port commissioners pretty well” because their mission statements are “exactly the same.”

Clallam County Commissioner Randy Johnson said he appreciated that Schroeter comes from another rural county that is facing similar issues.

“We’ve all had these silos before in this county and we all recognize that we need to work together,” Johnson said.

County board Chairman Mark Ozias said he appreciated Schroeter’s commitment to nonprofit organizations.

“I think as an industry sector, if you will, that’s probably one of the least recognized but most important across the county,” Ozias said.

County Commissioner Bill Peach encouraged Schroeter to work the port to meet economic development objectives.

“Don’t be shy about getting out to the public and saying ‘Here’s what is going on,’ ” Peach said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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