NCW Economic Development District hires McWhite for executive director post
By Zach Johnson
CHELAN - After a month-long process of advertising and interviewing potential candidates, the North Central Washington Economic Development District (NCWEDD) have hired Karen Francis-McWhite as their new executive director.
Although the official announcement came at their regular board meeting on Jan. 11, the NCWEDD made the hire after the hiring sub-committee brought in McWhite and two other candidates for a short meet-and-greet in the last week of December.
What made McWhite the choice?
"Karen was the hiring committee's unanimous choice because of her federal grant management experience and her dynamic relationship and partnership building skills,” Wenatchee Valley College Business Industry Liaison and NCWEDD Treasurer Stacy Luckensmeyer said. “She’s worked extensively on programs that serve business communities - where she has successfully adopted and adapted pre-existing relationships with municipal and gubernatorial agencies, service providers investors, business associations educational institutions and businesses across industries and sizes, in both metro Denver and in rural communities. Her successes with those collaborative experiences make her an ideal fit for how we work, in both the EDD and in the region.”
“Karen is very excited about the position because she understands the potential for growth that exists for our Economic Development District, and she’s looking forward to building new relationships and researching and applying for funds from previously untapped sourced,” Luckensmeyer said. “These efforts will allow us to multiply the impact of the organization’s work in the region. This position will also bring her back to Washington State and to families and friends in the valley.”
"Karen is excited to return to Central Washington, bringing with her a passion for supporting all economic stakeholders, from students, workers and micro-entrepreneurs to large employers, investors and anchor institutions. After running a federally-funded program at Central Washington University, Karen retrained as a lawyer at Michigan State University, and subsequently worked with B Lab, a nonprofit supporting socially and environmentally responsible for-profit businesses. With B Lab, Karen spent the last few years designing and launching business education, marketing and technical assistance programs to support small and medium enterprises in New York City and Colorado. In addition to working with stakeholders across the EDD community to advance inclusive and sustainable economic development, Karen looks forward to training to backpack the Enchantments, Nordic skiing in the Methow, completing a wine tasting tour of the wineries in our region, and eventually building a straw bale homestead for her, her daughter and their extended family," stated an NCWEDD news release.
While there might have been a little uncertainty in terms of the EDD staying financially viable past June, according to Luckensmeyer things are going well. “The EDD - as well as the projects and grants that are underway - are in a solid position for the long term,” Luckensmeyer said. “We’ve worked hard to get here over the last four months and the future looks promising.”
• TOTA partnership
One of the projects discussed at the meeting was the Thompson Okanogan Tourism Association (TOTA) partnership, which is a project to promote the region with particular emphasis on the Interior Cascades section of the Highway 97 corridor and all its tributaries.
The EDD still owes $10,000 on their original $30,000 contract that was signed last February.
“The next step with the TOTA partnership is to connect as many of the tourism folks in our region with the data and information that TOTA has to share with us,” Luckensmeyer said. “Currently, the EDD is five months into an 11-month contract extension with TOTA. We have some beautiful visual and tangible results from the Route 97 promotions - like the website and publications - and now it’s time to see if we can measure the impact in additional ways that are meaningful to our area.”
In the meantime, the EDD plans to schedule a regional summit sometime during the summer to get the local tourism entities and TOTA to collaborate on successful marketing strategies. More information can be found at ncewedd.com.