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Steve Gilbert stepping down as PEDC executive director

Steve Gilbert_3
PEDC executive director Steve Gilbert

Steve Gilbert on Tuesday announced his resignation as executive director of the Paris Economic Development Corporation.

He said he has accepted a job as a vice president with Harrison, Walker, Harper with his resignation being effective Jan. 28.

His new position will continue his work in economic development through the private sector, he said.

He told the PEDC board about 30 minutes into its meeting.¬†As Gilbert finished his director’s report — which comes early in the agenda for every regular PEDC meeting — he had a surprise announcement.

“I wanted to let you know that I’ve accepted another job. I’m going to be moving into a private-sector opportunity to do site location and economic development consulting,” Gilbert said.

“It’s been a pleasure working here — more often than not a pleasure — and I’m in love with our community, and I think there are high hopes for Paris’ future,” he said.

Gilbert said he will be available during the transition period.

In a letter to the board, Gilbert noted the turnover that occurred in the PEDC board during 2013.

“With any organization, more often than not, new leadership brings new ideas and a new direction. During 2013, the new members of the PEDC board … have taken a new direction with our community’s economic development efforts,” he began.

“Unfortunately, in the last year I have endured numerous public assaults on my integrity and professionalism. I chose to take the high road for the benefit of the Paris community. After much soul-searching, I began to look for other opportunities where my knowledge, skills and abilities could be maximized,” Gilbert said.

He told the PEDC board he is proud of the PEDC’s record of results during his four-year tenure as executive director.

“I am honored to have played a significant role to insure the growth of Paris’ employment base and better access to good jobs for the citizens of Paris, Lamar County and Northeast Texas. I have high hopes for the economic future of the Paris community. I wish the best for my colleagues, friends and associates,” Gilbert concluded.

At the end of the meeting, board chairwoman Rebecca Clifford said Gilbert’s announcement took her by surprise.

“I heard about it when you heard about it,” she told reporters. “I was completely taken by surprise. I appreciate all the work he has done,” Clifford said.

In lieu of Gilbert’s decision to step down, the board tabled a scheduled vote to approve the PEDC’s plan of work for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

“We kind of need to circle the wagons over the next three or four weeks, board member Bruce Carr said, considering the impending change in leadership, and a motion to table carried unanimously.

The board will meet in special session the latter part of next week to discuss with Gilbert the transition, probably in executive session.

During executive session, the PEDC approved incentive packages to Campbell Soup:

  • in the amount of $500,000 to assist with the company’s single-serve juice line that relocated from Sacramento, Calif., to Paris, resulting in 50 new jobs and a $25 million investment; and
  • $100,000 to assist with Campbell Soup’s investment of more than $500,000 to construct and install a solar panel array to aid with storage of the company’s incoming tomato paste product.

By rule, the Paris City Council must also sign off on the incentive agreement on Campbell’s single-serve juice line, but that’s not expected to be a problem. The PEDC can decide on its own all incentive agreements of $400,000 and under.

The board also approved the sale of land to Zulu Internet Services — a provider of Internet service for Northeast Texas — plus the design of the water line to reach the property, and an agreement with Oncor to provide electrical service.

The property is on the west side of Northwest 34th Street, across the street to the west from the city’s industrial park.

The PEDC has been talking with the company for some time, using the code name Project Crown, Gilbert said, “and so we’re ready to close the deal.”

Gilbert told two reporters, during a break just before the PEDC went into executive session, that he was scheduled for an interview later this week with another company in Oklahoma, but decided earlier Tuesday to accept the position with HWH and withdraw from the interview process with the other entity.

Regarding what he will be doing for HWH, Gilbert said the company contacts with companies and contacts with communities, to assist in economic development site location and negotiate incentives and to bring financial tools like new market tax credits and other kinds of financial mechanisms into projects.

“It’s kind of like I’m going into another facet of econmic development, only coming at it from the private consulting side vs. the community economic development side. I’m excited about it, and I’ll be traveling. To start, the sites that we’ve talked about are not in Texas, so I’ll be hitting the road,” he said.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

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