MUSKEGON — After restructuring into a private-sector-led group, the economic development organization for Muskegon County brought back a prior chief executive.
Jim Edmonson started Monday as president and CEO at Muskegon Area First.
Edmonson previously ran Muskegon Area First from 2004 to 2007. Directors hired his firm, Baton Rouge, La.-based Edmonson Associates, to help transition the organization from a public to a private-led organization and ended up hiring him for the new version of Muskegon Area First.
“Every era in a community’s history has different economic development needs,” said Mike Olthoff, board chairman at Muskegon Area First and CEO of Nichols Paper & Supply Co. in Norton Shores.
“In 2019, Muskegon County needs to support its current employers with a skilled workforce as it continues to grow the county’s manufacturing base with local company expansions and attraction of new companies to fill needed niches in our economy,” Olthoff said in a statement. “The MAF board feels that Jim Edmonson is perfectly suited to launch a new direction for Muskegon Area First and have the agency address the current economic development needs of Muskegon County.”
Edmonson has worked for 43 years in economic development. His initial months will focus on establishing the new organization, which retains ties with local governments in Muskegon County. The early work will include developing revenues and a first-year budget, as well as reorganizing staff.
“Honestly, I did not consult with MAF to become its next president and CEO,” Edmonson stated. “But board members were very persuasive and this is an incredible time to be involved in Muskegon County economic development. Look around, Muskegon County is going through a historic community transformation. As a county resident, I am thrilled to be asked to be a part of it.”
In the prior structure, Muskegon Area First was supported by service fees and memberships by cities, villages and townships in Muskegon County. The board of directors consisted of public and private sector representatives.
The previous board of directors at Muskegon Area First, first formed in 1999, began to explore a transition after former President and CEO Ed Garner left in October 2017 for a regional small business development position. Interim President and CEO Darryl Todd led the organization through the transition and remains to work on business and talent development.
The Muskegon Area First Procurement Technical Assistance Center will continue to provide businesses government contracting support services throughout a 13-county region.