In an interview with the Independent, EDC Board President Doug Quimby had this to say about CEO Mike Kazmierski's departure:
"I think the board thought that we needed to perhaps change some of our strategy and focus, and go in a different direction than we've been going. I think Mike didn't think as much change was necessary as we did, and he probably recognized when change occurs, the board wants change sometimes. That's easier if they have a new CEO. So he chose to resign. Mike is a very talented, capable guy."
At first, Quimby wouldn't discuss the direction the board wants to pursue, but then said, "We're going to focus on the industry areas in which we have competitive advantages, and we're going to put our resources into those kind of companies and assets. We're going to make job creation and attraction primary."
Asked to elaborate further, he added, "Sports, health and wellness, aerospace and defense, military, software and technology. They have been our target groups for the EDC for a while. They were recommended by [Operation 6035, an economic development study], but if you notice where job enhancements have been coming from, it hasn't been in those sectors." He said he was referring to call center and retail jobs, which aren't considered primary jobs.
"Not that those jobs are not good ones — they are," he said. But he added that the community needs more jobs like the ones that would come from a WalMart data center and expansion of Agilent Technologies, which are both eyeing Colorado Springs and received City Council approval this week for incentives.
He also said the board will work to involve the community more, work better with other similar organizations (such as the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce), work more with the county on economic development, and seek "new cooperation and effort with the city." That, he said, means having the mayor be "more visible and involved with economic development."
The idea is to turn economic development into "the job of the whole community, not just the EDC."
Quimby said he's not interested in the CEO position permanently. Within the next four to six months, a new CEO will be selected, he said, through a national search and consideration of local candidates as well.
"Ideally, it would be a local person, because they know the community," Quimby said. "We don't have a person in mind, though."
————— ORIGINAL POST, 10:35 A.M. ————-
Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp., resigned today effective immediately, the Colorado Springs Business Journal reports.
A person at the EDC referred calls to board president Doug Quimby, who will serve as acting CEO until a replacement is found, but she warned that he was inundated with calls and might not respond quickly or at all.
Kazmierski's resignation comes at a time when Colorado Springs is vying for a WalMart data center (the deal seems almost assured), and expansion of Agilent Technologies plan on Garden of the Gods Road. Several other companies have announced the addition of jobs as well, including Entegris, a tech company that said it would add 100 jobs in the next five years.
The Journal reported that board member Debbie Chandler said Kazmierski voluntarily stepped down.
“He essentially said he has done a good job and has dne the job he needed to do, but feels that it is time for new leadership,” she told the Journal. “The board was taken by surprise, but with all the new leadership on the City Council and the mayor’s office, he felt this was a good time to leave.”
Kazmierski, 57, a retired military officer, served the EDC as chief operating officer from 2001-2005, and as CEO since then.
He declined to discuss his resignation but said he'll remain in the job until June 30.
His pay, which is partially tied to economic development goals, such as job creation, dropped to $182,145 in 2009 from $195,200 in 2008. Last year's figures are not yet available. He openly acknowledged during an interview several months ago that his pay fell because the EDC didn't meet its goals.
Kazmierski was unusually frank during an EDC luncheon last winter where he emphasized that jobs are everything to the economy and community, and acknowledged that Colorado Springs has a hard time competing with other cities. During comments to the City Council on Tuesday this week, as Council members considered whether to approve an incentive package for the WalMart data center and Agilent's expansion, Kazmierski called the available incentives here "pitiful" compared to what other cities can offer.
He also seems to have grown less patient with factions in the community with which he apparently doesn't agree, such as a ploy by the Americans for Prosperity movement led by radio personality and staunch conservative Jeff Crank.
When Crank earlier this year demanded that candidates for mayor and Council sign a pledge not to raise taxes, Kazmierski called the pledge "silly," and later changed the word to "dumb," noting that residents must invest in their community to make it attractive, livable and desirable to incoming business and industry.
There's no question Kazmierski understood the product he was selling. He has been the city's biggest cheerleader, traveling extensively to meet with high level business executives, one of whom told him his first reaction to the word Colorado was SNOW. Kazmierski invited the executive to visit Colorado Springs, a visit which happened to coincide with an unusually warm early spring day. The executive quickly changed his mind about what Colorado Springs has to offer and that it's not wrapped in a winter blanket half the year, Kazmierski said.
He also helped organize trips to Austin several years ago and Oklahoma City this spring to observe how other cities grapple with unemployment, economic development and public/private partnerships.