Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Phillips to Retire as Head of Southwest Washington Business Recruitment Group

The long-time president of the Columbia River Economic Development Council has announced that he will retire from the business recruitment non-profit effective May 21.

Bart Phillips, hired as CREDC president in 2000, tendered his resignation at a Monday morning meeting of CREDC's board of directors.

CREDC, which is funded through member dues and government grants and made up of 130 members governed by a 41-member board of directors, has come under recent fire by the Washington-state Port of Vancouver and Clark County officials for the group's perceived lackluster performance in luring new businesses to Southwest Washington state.

The CREDC board said it will begin a search for a new president, a position that was earning Phillips $150,000 a year. In the interim, Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council executive director Lisa Nisenfeld will handle the day-to-day operations of CREDC.

Last November, the governing board for the Vancouver port cut 25 percent of its annual financial support for CREDC citing disappointment with the non-profit's recent inability to create local jobs.

The port move comes after a similar shellacking of CREDC's efforts by the Clark County Board of Commissioners around the same time. The county board criticized the non-profit for a lack of communication with area partners and failing to support local companies.

CREDC describes its mission as promoting "job creation and investment while maintaining the county's exceptional environment and high quality of life." Clark County currently faces an unemployment rate over 12 percent.

Port commission President Jerry Oliver told The Columbian in November 2010 that a year prior CREDC had promised 12 leads to businesses that could benefit the port by expanding or relocating. Oliver said that not one lead that met the criteria materialized.

While the port board split 2-1 in its vote to reduce funding to CREDC, the lone dissenter Oliver stated that he actually wanted more drastic cuts to port funding for the group. Following the approval of the $10,000 cut to CREDC funding by the port, the commissioners signaled that further cuts could be expected if CREDC did not address the port's concerns by June of this year.