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[June 08, 2014]
23-member board of directors guides PEDCO's efforts [The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo. :: ]
(Pueblo Chieftain (CO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 08--If the Pueblo Economic Development Corp. is a good ol' boys network, no one told Alice Birch. The longtime president of US Bank in Pueblo is completing her ninth year on the board of directors of the job creation group.
"That kind of bothers me when they say the old boys group. That irritates me. There are quite a few women on that board," Birch said when asked about the recent resurfacing of old claims that PEDCO doesn't look out for all of Pueblo.
Voters didn't accept such claims in the past. In 2006, a group put a question on the ballot seeking to shift more of the job recruiting work to City Hall. Voters rejected the measure by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent.
And they don't appear to be buying them now. Met with heavy public opposition, a group of Pueblo City Council members is backing away from its criticism of the city's half-cent sales tax fund for economic development and PEDCO.
Among the reasons why such claims never gain traction, PEDCO can point to 23 of them that distinguish the group from many other organizations. That's the number of people who serve on its board of directors.
Diverse membership PEDCO board seats are occupied by a diverse group of men and women, all of whom are at the top of their fields in business, government and colleges.
Terms generally run for three years with most of the slots filled by voting by the group's 205 dues-paying members.
Some on the board, such as Black Hills Energy Vice President Chris Burke and St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center CEO Brian Moore, are new to the community. Others, such as developer Bob Leach and Kathy Worthington of Xcel Energy, are longtime or lifelong residents.
"It's a big board," acknowledged Steve Wright, the group's 2014 chair and co-owner of an Ameriprise Financial Services office in Downtown.
Beyond overseeing PEDCO's operations and staff of 4workers, board members also volunteer their time to assist in recruiting jobs, Wright noted. They are broken up into small teams and assigned to specific prospects to develop.
"Talk about people that work hard for this community. I don't know if the citizens will ever really realize the time and effort those board members put in to make PEDCO work," Wright said. "PEDCO is really a small organization size-wise with 4 1/2 staff members. A lot of work is done by volunteers on the board." Of the 23 members on the board of directors: z Sixteen comprise PEDCO's voting board. Of those, 12 are elected to three-year terms by a vote of PEDCO's general membership; two are appointed by Pueblo City Council and two are appointed by the Pueblo County Commission.
z Seven are nonvoting "ex-officio" members. They represent the top executives of the area's chambers of commerce, colleges and municipal governments.
Women on the board often hold leadership spots.
Birch chaired the group in 2011.
Former board member Judy Fonda of Premier Mortgage, who was among the members involved in the recruitment of Vestas, served as chair in 2009.
Vidmar Motor Co. cofounder Barbara Vidmar is in line to chair the group next year.
Birch also rejects claims that PEDCO isn't inclusive in other ways.
"I think it's very representative. Besides the ex-officio members, you've got the City Council, you've got the county side of it, PCC, CSU, both chambers, Pueblo West. It's pretty inclusive," she said.
Andrew Lang agrees.
Thirteen years ago, Lang, the chief operating officer of TR Toppers candy toppings, moved his family to Pueblo from Chicago to work at another company recruited to the city. He was encouraged to run for the PEDCO board and has since served as chair.
"You see a really good mixture of business people that have been in Pueblo their entire lives and those who have not. I think that mix is really good," Lang said.
Local expansions supported Wright said critics also miss the mark when they charge that PEDCO isn't looking out for existing businesses. He rattled off a list of businesses the city has helped to expand: Big R, Walter's Brewery, Trinity Packaging, Solar Roast, among them.
"I'm frustrated because I don't know how to get the word out to the community that we truly do help, and want to help, local folks," Wright said.
PEDCO's membership is open to all and the group routinely reaches out in a bid to get more businesses to participate. The group's quarterly meetings include membership updates and introductions of new members.
A nonprofit, PEDCO's yearly minimum membership dues of $1,000 go to fund its operations.
Its work extends to overseeing two business incubators, the Business and Technology Center in Downtown and the federally supported VINS plant at the Airport Industrial Park. The VINS plant applies new protective metal coating on used military and nonmilitary vehicles and equipment.
PEDCO also welcomes contributors who pay less than the $1,000 membership fee. They are not eligible to vote in the group's elections. Currently, there are 61 at the contributor level in addition to the 205 at the full membership level, the organization said.
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