Kazmierski, who most recently headed the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corporation, is charged with leading a team of six economic development professionals to recruit, expand and retain businesses that create jobs in the Reno-Tahoe region.
The move to hire Kazmierski comes at a time when EDAWN is merging some administrative operations with The Chamber and as state government pursues new economic development initiatives, including the addition of a cabinet-level position within Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office to tackle these challenges.
With so many changes pending, former EDAWN CEO Chuck Alvey decided to step down after 12 years at the helm.
“Given the significant changes at the state level with the governor’s and legislative leadership’s proposed recommendations for economic development, and efforts underway to combine efforts with the chambers, it makes sense for me to accelerate my timeline and allow the organization to quickly recruit a new leader who can be on board and actively involved in all of these exciting changes,” Alvey said in a statement announcing his departure in May. “It’s important that the organization have a leader who will be a part of those planning discussions, and be around to implement them long term.”
The search process for a new leader took longer than expected, but EDAWN officials feel they got the right person for the job.
“The challenge was identifying what our goal was” and determining who fit that role best, said Steve Anderson, chair of the search committee.
Hundreds of potential candidates were culled to a handful of qualifying applicants, Anderson said, and though some had the right experience and credentials, others lacked communication skills. Only Kazmierski had the right measure of all three.
Because collaboration and teamwork are essential to EDAWN’s success, the CEO has to “be diverse in your communication skills, and effective,” Anderson said, adding that Kazmierski exhibits these qualities.
Kazmierski brings economic development leadership and financial management experience to the position, having served as president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corporation (CSREDC) since 2005.
Kazmierski assisted in the attraction and expansion of more than 70 companies that resulted in the creation of more than 10,000 new jobs in the Colorado Springs region. Prior to his appointment as CEO, he was the organization’s chief operating officer from 2001 to 2005 and managed the daily operations of the nonprofit corporation, its 14 employees, volunteers and contract workers, and a $1.4 million budget.
During his tenure at CSREDC, Kazmierski established a business attraction program that nearly doubled the number of company prospects, increased the number of jobs announced and exceeded a 70 percent closure rate for companies that visited the area and announced a relocation. Additionally, he and his team developed a business retention and expansion program that was nationally recognized. The program significantly reduced lost jobs, succeeded in the retention of the U.S. Space Foundation and initiated a “Think Local” initiative supported by city and county governments in the Colorado Springs area.
Kazmierski joins EDAWN as the state government moves ahead with restructuring economic development through Assembly Bill 449, and as EDAWN works as an economic development partner with The Chamber — the result of the merged Reno-Sparks and Northern Nevada chambers of commerce — to achieve greater efficiencies and less duplication of functions.
EDAWN and its partners reported helping 17 companies move to or expand in the Reno-Tahoe region between July 1, 2010 and June 30 this year, creating 670 new jobs compared to the 11 companies and 513 jobs reported the previous year — a 55 percent increase in the total companies and a 31 percent increase in the total jobs created year over year.
Bringing Kazmierski to northern Nevada rounds out a year of many changes and steady improvement for economic development programs across the Silver State.
“It’s kind of a whole new day for economic development and business in the state and region,” said Tray Abney, director of government relations for The Chamber. “I think we’re putting the mechanisms in place to make things better. I think the foundation is in place. We all just got to get to work on it.”
Kazmierski said his job is all about selling the region to businesses. But in order to do so, “It had to be a place I could believe in,” he said.
Turns out northern Nevada is just the place for Kazmierski.
“I was impressed by the sense of community, the depth of national companies in the area and the groundswell of regional support for economic development,” he said.
Kazmierski said he intends to focus on attracting new businesses to the region, growing those already located here and spurring entrepreneurial growth.
“It’ll take me a little while to understand the community,” he said. “I know we can’t fix it all, but together we can make a difference.”