WORTHINGTON — After six years as executive director of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp., Abraham Algadi is taking on a new role.
Algadi has been invited by a group of his colleagues to join an ongoing project in the Rochester area, where he will provide consultation to the private sector and help developers navigate the planning and zoning process. His last day with WREDC will be Sept. 16.
The move is a happy one for Algadi in terms of his personal life. His wife has been living and working near Rochester, and the commute to spend time with one another has been difficult. Algadi said it will be a relief to live together again, and added that their daughter has recently begun schooling at the University of Minnesota Rochester.
"I'm excited to be there close to her, as well," Algadi said.
Algadi is dedicated to the idea of working with local talent rather than trying to attract outside developers, and the WREDC has been further evidence to him that his approach works.
"It was a reaffirming of a belief that true economic development comes from within (a community)," Algadi said of the last six years of his career.
His philosophy in leading the WREDC has been to take existing infrastructure and use it to fulfill a community need.
"I'm proud of what the board has done — not just here in Worthington, but in outlying areas as well," he said, pointing to anticipated child care facilities in Brewster and Rushmore as examples.
Statistics, while not comprehensive, are a good measure of the WREDC's success under Algadi's leadership.
Algadi said the WREDC has given more than $150,000 toward women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses. It total, the businesses he has worked with through the WREDC have grown from 42 jobs to 180 jobs and from $600,000 in local tax base to $5.5 million.
"The proudest moment is doing all of that without a tax-based incentive," Algadi added. The WREDC has been able to support community growth without creating TIF districts or offering tax abatement — which Algadi sees as positive.
One step Algadi hopes the community will take in the future is to "streamline the economic development review process." He added that red tape is sometimes a barrier to development, especially in rural areas.
"These challenges are not market-driven; they're regulation-driven," Algadi said of problems like rural housing and child care.
City and county governments are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of their citizens, Algadi said, but nothing else.
"(Local governments) are ill-equipped to handle economic development," he said. "They don't speak business language as well."
For this reason, Algadi advocates for a partnership approach between the public and private sectors. That's where he believes the WREDC can play the strongest role in the local economy — by welcoming investors and connecting them with projects.
"We're going to build on our momentum," he concluded.