Marion County Industrial Foundation hires new executive director

Following a three-month national search, the Marion County Industrial Foundation has hired a new executive director “to lead the county into a new era of economic development,” according to a press release submitted by Freddie Higdon, the foundation’s president.

Starting Oct. 1, Patrick Ford, a West Virginia native, will become the new executive director.

According to Higdon, Ford has more than 30 years of experience in economic development and city planning.

“Our search was led by a local committee in partnership with a national consultant,” said Higdon. “Our search committee volunteers put in a lot of time and were very thorough in this process. Mr. Ford met all our qualifications and expectations. We are excited to see what he will bring to our community.”

Ford has served as the executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle (of West Virginia) since 2009. According to the press release, under Ford’s leadership, the region experienced an economic expansion that diversified their economy and attracted more than $500 million of investment, added approximately 3,000 jobs, and cut the unemployment rate in half from 13 percent to 6 percent.

With degrees in city planning from the University of Virginia, Ford has spent his career moving through the ranks as a land development consultant in Virginia and Maryland, a city planner in Pennsylvania, and an economic development official in West Virginia. He’s looking forward to bringing his experience to Marion County.

“The executive director job in Lebanon/Marion County community is very dynamic,” Ford states in the press release. “I am looking forward to working with the industries located in Marion County, and also having the opportunity to have input into the growth of downtown Lebanon and tourism in the county.”

Outgoing director, Tom Lund, is planning to remain with the organization to assist with the transition, as well as introduce Ford to contacts throughout the state and provide knowledge of the industrial foundation’s current projects and history of success.

“The Marion County Industrial Foundation has had unprecedented success in the recruitment and development of new industry in our community,” said Larry Tatum, the foundation’s vice president. “We have literally set the standard in the state for recruitment and job opportunities. We are happy to have Pat join our team, and anticipate continued success in our economic development pursuits.”

As part of the national search effort, the industrial foundation put out a call for candidates who possessed superior industrial development skills, but who could also work to improve the retail and restaurant options and capitalize on tourism and recreational opportunities in the city and county. Workforce development issues will also be a challenge for the new director, along with developing a strong social and traditional media presence.

“The search committee, made up of eight members of our community, reviewed, with the help of a national search group, 15 applicant resumes and video interviews,” Dr. David George, co-chair of the search committee, states in the press release. “We chose to pass forward three outstanding candidates to the MCIF Board. After interviewing those three candidates, the board unanimously selected Pat Ford as Tom Lund’s successor. Mr. Ford is a supremely qualified candidate who will inherit a position that has been expertly led for several decades by Mr. Lund. Pat and Tom working together will be a ‘dream team’ for the Lebanon and Marion County communities. Pat and his wife, Alecia, will be wonderful additions to our community.”

According to Ford, all of his professional experience has led him to this opportunity.

“While my most recent work has been recruiting manufacturing and heavy industry, this position will allow me to use my experience in community planning, tourism and downtown revitalization to help make Marion County the dynamic community that everyone knows it can be,” Ford states in the press release. “Alecia and I fell in love with this community during our visits. We have shopped, dined, walked the trail in the park and truly enjoyed the Yellowstone Bourbon at Limestone Branch. We are looking forward to making our home here and becoming part of this community.”

About the Marion County Industrial Foundation

The Marion County Industrial Foundation (MCIF) is a non-profit, municipality sponsored, economic development organization. The foundation owns and develops four industrial parks in Lebanon. The foundation also builds speculative industrial buildings and leases or sells these buildings to industrial clients. The foundation also owns an industrial incubator, which it leases to new start-up industries. Founded in 1974, the MCIF provides Marion County with development programs that are designed to improve our economic recovery and growth by increasing productivity of our industrial sectors, through employment opportunities and new industry development.

(Story originally appeared in the Lebanon Enterprise)