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Economic development chief search beginning

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

The search for a new Paducah Economic Development leader has begun following the resignation of Chad Chancellor a week ago.

Chancellor, who has been PED president/CEO for four years, announced he is stepping down to start his own business to focus on bringing jobs to the South and, ironically, helping communities find qualified candidates to lead their economic development efforts.

"I'll probably do some head-hunting (among other things)," Chancellor said. "I would like to help communities find the right people."

Economic development is an industry unto itself, according to Chancellor.

"You have to have a developer's mindset, just as if you were a landowner developing a subdivision," Chancellor said, pointing to the need to understand all the variables that go into a project, such as taxes, zoning, politics and finances. 

Ken Hunt, PED board chairman, is leading the search panel - composed mostly of the organization's executive committee - to find Chancellor's replacement. The group has met and designed a search strategy, he said. Ideally, the group would like to hire someone in time to have some overlap with Chancellor, who is scheduled to leave Sept. 16, Hunt said.

"Right now, we're meeting weekly," Hunt said. "We may step it up once we identify the folks we want to talk to."

The group will cast a broad net, then work down to a half-dozen candidates or so and decide how many to bring in for interviews. For now, the field is open.

"I don't think we'll limit ourselves to any one geographic area," Hunt said. "Obviously someone familiar with Kentucky and the South, someone with a feel for the way things work in this part of the country" would be a good candidate, he said.

The group will advertise in trade publications and may consult head-hunter organizations, said Hunt.

Sandra Wilson, president of the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the search committee, and was also involved in the hiring of Chancellor. She has a good idea of the most important qualification for the position.

"For me, it's someone who can sell our community and close the deal," Wilson said. "You have to be willing to make cold calls, and have a vision of selling this community over all the other communities throughout the whole country. You have to have the talent to close the deal."

Hunt agrees with that assessment. He also feels the area itself, with its high quality of life, access to transportation and a quality workforce, has a lot going for it. 

"Paducah does a pretty good job of selling itself," he said.

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

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