((L-R) Jon Stark and Roger Lee | Photo courtesy of EDCO)
Rainier Precision owner Jeff DeRoux describes the transitions at Economic Development for Central Oregon (EDCO) as a time to be thankful and excited.
On November 17, EDCO’s Board of Directors announced CEO Roger Lee had resigned after serving for 22 years. Lee has accepted a job with Summit Bank, where he will serve as a commercial loan officer and relationship manager. He will remain CEO until December 10.
The board appointed Jon Stark as the interim CEO, beginning January 3, 2022. Stark has been with EDCO and Redmond Economic Development Inc. (REDI) for 13 years, most recently as REDI senior director.
“First and foremost, all of us are thankful for the hard work and effort Roger Lee has put into the business community in Central Oregon,” DeRoux said. “Roger’s legacy will continue to benefit the region for many decades to come.”
DeRoux said EDCO is a unique and special organization, that as a business owner, he can’t help but feel supported by what EDCO offers to the community. Now in its 40th year, EDCO is a nonprofit corporation supported by private and public members and stakeholders, whose mission is to create middle-class jobs in Central Oregon by recruiting new employers to move to the region; helping entrepreneurs start new, scalable businesses; and working with businesses that are already here to grow their operations.
DeRoux worked with Stark to relocate his business from Seattle, Washington, to Redmond in November of 2020.
“Jon’s approach and enthusiasm for businesses here is second to none,” DeRoux said. “Jon will not only thrive in his new role as CEO, he also will help lead EDCO into the future.”
EDCO’s Executive Committee plans to search for a permanent CEO in 2022, estimating it could take six months to a year to find a replacement.
Carolyn Eagan is the president of EDCO’s Board of Directors and the City of Bend’s Recovery Strategy and Impact officer. She said EDCO is fortunate to have an outstanding economic developer leader in line to follow a legendary one. “It will be a smooth transition from Roger to Jon leading ECDO’s team,” Eagan said. “It’s rare to have an economic development leader serve for 22 years.”
Eagan is excited Stark has accepted the role as interim CEO and looks forward to seeing where he will lead EDCO. “His 13 years of successes in Redmond and serving REDI have absolutely prepared him for a larger role in the region.”
Eagan shared Oregon Economic Development Association has recognized both Lee and Stark as Economic Development Leaders of the Year. Lee has received multiple awards and accolades for his work, most recently named the 2021 Oregon Economic Development Leader of the Year by OEDA, while EDCO has grown to be the largest private economic development organization in Oregon. “EDCO and the region would not be where it’s at without Roger Lee’s contributions to the organization for the past two decades,” Eagan shared. “We thank Roger for all of his insight, dedication and leadership during that time.”
Reflecting on his 22 years as EDCO’s CEO, Lee shared it was amazing to watch Central Oregon’s traded-sector businesses grow from 250 to almost 1,000 businesses, and watching ten industries build a diverse foundation, instead of the region relying on tourism and construction, historically.
Lee said there were several factors leading him to make the decision to resign as EDCO’s CEO. “It’s time for me to learn something new and time for EDCO to have a new leader,” Lee said, adding he’s worked for nonprofits for most of his career and is eager to do something different.
Lee leaves EDCO in a solid leadership and financial position, allowing the EDCO team to focus on the work needing to be achieved to provide support to businesses looking to grow, start or relocate in Central Oregon. “At the end of the day, EDCO exists to benefit the citizens of Central Oregon,” he said.
Lee said economic development is a team sport, adding he’s one member of EDCO’s team of high-achieving professionals. He’s confident EDCO’s staff and its 45 board members will continue the nonprofit organization’s success. “Jon will be a great quarterback for the team,” Lee said. “He is an economic developer, and he understands business development. He’s also really good at coaching and managing people.”
Lee shared EDCO has been good to him and his family for many years, and he’s honored to have had the rare chance to make what he’s hopeful will be a lasting contribution to Central Oregon’s business community. “I’m excited about the future impact EDCO will continue to have in the region, for Jon’s very capable leadership in the interim and the opportunity for a career change with Summit Bank.”
Stark is honored and excited to have the opportunity to serve EDCO’s exceptional team, its board of directors and the Central Oregon business community. “And,” he said, “to continue the legacy of Roger Lee’s accomplishments while leading the organization into the future by creating jobs, wealth and capital investment across the region. As the interim CEO, I get to pick up the legacy and work closely with EDCO’s team and business and community leaders to build the region’s future.”
He knows several factors including the workforce shortage and supply chain issues could present challenges along the way. “We still don’t know if there will be ripple effects from the pandemic,” he said. “What we do know is we can work together to manage what we can, and our economy is still showing strong signs of companies wanting to invest in Central Oregon.”
Under Stark’s leadership, Redmond’s economy has seen rapid employment growth, including more than 80 percent growth in manufacturing jobs in the past decade. “I’ve had great success in developing talent; helping people reach their greatest potential by empowering them and making sure they have the tools they need to be successful,” Stark said.
DeRoux said Stark connected the dots and helped his 61-year-old company overcome the challenges it faced finding adequate real estate when there were plenty of large parcels, but none that fit his budget. “Jon connected me with a private landowner, we purchased a one-acre lot — it was the easiest real estate transaction I have ever been a part of,” DeRoux said. “Jon has the connections here to get these types of deals done. He connects you with the right people, and you move forward.”
DeRoux describes Stark’s leadership style to that of a coach of a large team of resources helping businesses succeed in Central Oregon. “When I first called Jon to learn more about Central Oregon business opportunities, I felt relieved after speaking with him. He provided so much insight, and listened carefully to our challenges,” DeRoux said. “I had the answers I needed after speaking with him.”