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New head of WREDC: Abraham Algadi to begin duties May 1

WORTHINGTON -- After months of searching for the perfect candidate, the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. (WREDC) has found its next manager.

Abraham Algadi, who was most recently the city administrator in Pine Island, officially accepted the position on Monday.

"My first reaction is I wanted to try to live up to the expectations of the leadership of WREDC and (city administrator) Craig (Clark) and the Nobles County community in general," Algadi said. "I think they've placed a lot of trust and confidence in me. I can assure you it will not be misplaced."

The process of finding a new manager began months ago with many qualified candidates.

"I think the number was 14 or 15 applicants and we had a really good pool to choose from," said WREDC board president Jason Turner. "We narrowed it down to four to interview. After that, we selected three for a second interview. Ultimately, we got somebody who is a great fit for what we have started here in Worthington."

What made Algadi stand out what his experience in the biosciences, Turner said.

"Ultimately, the guy we hired we thought was maybe stronger in attracting industry, mainly in the bioscience area," Turner said. "He's had a lot of experience and a lot of background in that area already.

"With what we have going here already with the bioscience park in place and the BAC out there and being utilized right now, but also is going to be opening up in the next year or two for a new incubator business, we felt like we wanted to go with somebody that specialized in the bioscience area to attract new industry."

While serving as Pine Island's city administrator, Algadi helped push for a bioscience park --named Elk Run --within the city.

"The thing that really stood out there was he spearheaded an effort to open up a bioscience development over there," Turner said. "It got started and they have the infrastructure in place and invested a lot of money into it and fell victim to the times of the last few years. Ultimately, there was a new mayor and city council elected over in Pine Island and they decided they wanted to go a different direction. He had lost his job over there, which we think hopefully will be Worthington's gain and their loss."

In January, Algadi was abruptly released from his position as the administrator.

"It was disappointing," Algadi said. "I had a really good council prior to the election that cared about the town, and we had a very level-headed mayor."

Algadi is expected to begin his duties May 1.

"He's very excited," Turner said. "I think he's one of those guys that feels like he didn't finish what he started there, so he's anxious to see where we're at here already -- having some bioscience businesses in place and being able to add to that."

Algadi brings experience not only in the biosciences, but with city planning and loan fund administration as well.

"I can bring with me my Rolodex, to use an old term," Algadi said. "I can bring my contacts in the field, and I have already actually begun to make some phone calls and let people know where I'm at."

Attraction to Worthington

Prior to being Pine Island's city administrator, Algadi spent nearly 15 years as the executive director for that community's Economic Development Authority, giving him myriad experience to bring to Worthington.

"I do not claim to know it all, of course," Algadi said. "I know there are issues and challenges that are unique to Worthington on social, on economic, on land use and different things. I intend on learning those."

But it was the community that attracted him to apply for the opening.

"To be honest, primarily looking from afar at Worthington, I saw that the community works very, very well together," Algadi said. "They seem to have a leadership that worries more about the merit of the idea than the personalities, which is really important to me."

With more than 12,000 residents, Worthington is a much larger community for Algadi.

"Pine Island is only 3,200 people or so," he said. "Worthington represents a much more dynamic challenge. It's vibrant from the standpoint of its composition with the recent immigration and some of the issues Worthington has dealt with. It speaks volumes, frankly, how other cities in Minnesota can address such drastic changes over time. I know it hasn't been easy, but I think Worthington is better for it."

Along with improving Worthington, Algadi is also hoping to work with surrounding communities.

"The other issue I feel would be important, and I've dealt with that, is the opposite side of the coin," he said. "Rochester is a dynamic and economic engine for the whole state and for southeast Minnesota, for sure. It's a regional service center. Worthington, for instance, is that regional service center. It generates some similar discussions and similar issues in the community.

"Part of my job, I think -- and you have to coordinate that with the policy makers -- is to really reach out to the other communities that we could be serving, both in terms of the kind of technical support we can provide and in terms of understanding the challenges they're having, and seeing if we can be of service."

Family life

Algadi is married and he and his wife, Becky, have six children between them -- the youngest being Petra, a sixth-grader.

Algadi grew up in Jordan and attended the University of Jordan in Amman.

"What brought me to the states is my continuing education," he said. "My BA (Bachelor of Arts) was in archeology, and I realized very quickly that I'm not going to be making a lot of money digging up old artifacts unless I became like Indiana Jones or something. I figured I better finish up my education, and I came to Texas State to continue my studies in geography and urban planning. At first, it may not seem related to archeology. After I finished my masters, I realized they were related."

He spent time in Florida as a cartographer, as well as an urban planner and director of planning before finding his way to Pine Island.

In his spare time, Algadi enjoys building model airplanes.

"In my neighborhood, almost every kid has a model airplane that I built for them," he said. "In the summer, instead of flying kites, all you see is a bunch of electric-powered airplanes no bigger than 28 inches or so and weighing less than eight ounces buzzing around the neighborhood. When I come home, some of them have broken the wing or broken the motor shaft or something, so they are waiting for me at the driveway saying, 'Can you fix this for me, I just crashed.'"

He is planning on attending the April 18-19 Regional Bioscience Conference in Worthington, but will let his daughter finish the school year before his family makes the full-time transition.

"We're really excited," Algadi said. "My daughter and wife love what they saw so far. We're looking forward to making new friends and meeting Worthington people."

Daily Globe Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323.