Midland native named CEO of International Economic Development Council

Nathan Ohle, a native of Midland, an internationally recognized expert in economic development and leader of public, private and non-profit organizations, began today as the new President and CEO of the International Economic Development Council ( IEDC), headquartered in Washington, D.C.

According to an IEDC press release, Ohle, who until recently served as CEO of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP), was unanimously selected by the IEDC Board of Directors at the end of last year from a pool of more than 100 applicants after a nationwide search. which started in June. He succeeds Jeffrey Finkle, longtime CEO of IEDC.

“I am honored and delighted to serve as President and CEO of this exceptional association dedicated to providing leadership and excellence in economic development,” Ohle said in a statement. “The responsibility to lead IEDC is humbling, but I am confident that in partnership with the team, the Board and the members of IEDC, we will continue to create equitable economic opportunities in communities of all sizes. »

Todd Greene, 2022 Chairman of IEDC’s Board of Directors, said Ohle “has an innovative mindset and dynamic worldview that will secure IEDC’s commitment to propelling economic progress for the many IEDC members and stakeholders”.

While leading RCAP, Ohle nearly tripled the organization’s budget and team, expanding economic development work, access to clean water and sanitary sewage, disaster recovery, and the capacity building of rural and tribal communities across the country.

Ohle led RCAP’s operations and strategic planning, serving over 3.4 million rural and tribal residents in 2020. He was also recognized as one of the “40 Rising Stars Under 40” in Development economy on an international scale.

Ohle has been a leader in economic development for more than a decade at the federal and state levels, serving as a senior advisor to the US Economic Development Administration and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. He holds two bachelor’s degrees from Michigan State University and resides in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and two children.

IEDC sat down with Ohle for a Q&A.

Q: You are sitting at your desk and see a job posting for the next President and CEO of the International Council for Economic Development. What went through your head?

Several years ago, my wife asked me what job might make me consider leaving RCAP. I loved RCAP and still do. The work, the mission and the people make it a special place to work every day. The answer was that if Jeff Finkle retired, the IEDC would be an interesting opportunity. My experience and passion lies in economic development, and IEDC is the thought leader and driver of the economic development profession.

My economic development journey began while working for Jennifer Granholm, then Governor of Michigan. We visited the Electrolux manufacturing plant in Greenville, which provided jobs for thousands of residents. When the company announced it was closing the facility, the community was devastated.

The governor spent an entire afternoon talking with the workers, listening to their stories, and understanding that the community had no relief plan or economic development strategy to compensate for the loss of Electrolux. This experience lit a fire under me to try to ensure that no community had to go through this type of economic upheaval without a plan in place.

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work at the state and federal levels, leading teams around specific urban approaches to economic growth, engaging in broader strategies to drive rural opportunity and to learn from so many leaders across the spectrum of economic development. IEDC is the leader in this space, and the opportunity to build on its success is like no other. It’s one that I take very seriously and I’m excited to start.

How do you see the economic development profession today compared to five years ago? What is IEDC’s role in shaping this future?

We are at a critical moment in the field of economic development. Economic promoters will continue their momentum for regional thinking, collaboration and more holistic action. They will not only address common economic development issues such as job creation and small business growth, but also other critical issues within the economic development ecosystem that generate more equitable economic opportunity.

To generate more equitable economic outcomes in communities of all sizes, economic developers will tailor approaches and investments to communities and focus on capacity building, better use of existing assets, resource coordination, and collaborative working and inclusive with communities. Collaboration, rather than competition, is vital.

Future approaches focus on building regional economies and how new local businesses will take advantage of these regional assets and opportunities. Economic developers will continue to prioritize small businesses and entrepreneurs alongside employers of all sizes, and create the quality of life, talent, and infrastructure needed to drive prosperity, anywhere.

Ultimately, it is up to all of us to drive approaches that will lead to wealth creation strategies that benefit everyone. We need to come together to lift each other up, share and collaborate. This is where IEDC will continue to lead, unite and collaborate. I am thrilled to hear voices from across the economic development spectrum to understand where IEDC can build on its foundations and impact of the past decades and how we can work together to shape the future of our industry. and our profession.

As you take on the role of CEO, what leadership qualities will you rely on most in the weeks and months ahead?

For me, leadership starts with listening. I plan to spend a lot of time getting to know leaders across the country, hearing what issues and opportunities are being seen and felt in this industry, and learning firsthand how IEDC can continue to build on its strong service base. and progress. I believe in collaboration and look forward to engaging with others to find ways to work together and bring a more collective voice to issues that matter to the economic development community.

What excites me most about leading the organization is creating a vision for the future and helping to implement it. It’s not just about “big ideas”, although I’m known for thinking big. A leader must be able to see opportunity in an organization where others cannot, help others see and shape that opportunity, and create the space and capacity for that vision to happen. concretized. Sometimes that means you or your organization shine, and sometimes it means creating space for others to shine, all with a common purpose that generates opportunity and value for those we serve.

Lack of diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as economic and environmental justice, are key issues facing our members and the communities they serve. What will be the role of the IEDC in helping to solve these age-old problems?

In too many places across this country, the zip code where you were born dictates your ability to thrive. We are at a time when all organizations need to recognize and understand the role they can play in addressing disparities, especially those in marginalized and vulnerable communities where economic and environmental progress has languished. Greater equity requires us all to do more and better.

IEDC members know what issues are most important to their community and how to solve them. IEDC’s mission to provide leadership and excellence in economic development for our communities, members and partners means we must advance conversations and actions around the lack of diversity, equity and inclusion. in our industry. Eidc’s Equity in Economic Development Playbook and Fellowship Program are initiatives in this direction. We remain committed to helping address these issues, providing space for conversations, and advancing new ideas, with the ultimate goal of driving more equitable economic outcomes for all.

IEDC staff have a long and hallowed history of being Ohio natives and loving everything. What can you tell us about your upbringing in Michigan that could be this cool, if possible?

First of all, I have to start by saying Go Green! I am a Spartan through and through and you will see me openly defending green and white all year round. Of course, Michigan is the best! Where else can you show off your hometown by showing someone your hand? Seriously, our Michigan roots run deep.

The people of Michigan are welcoming, polite yet tough, resilient people with an optimism that lingers even on the coldest days. We know our state is special, but we’re modest in our approach, unless of course you’re talking about football or basketball, where we regularly beat the Buckeyes (and yes, that’s just a gimmick of the State of Michigan; as of now, UM doesn’t quite have bragging rights yet). My wife and daughter cannot be consoled when the Detroit Lions lose “again” at football.

Michigan’s pride and love runs deep, as does our love for the people of our home country. Michigan is resilient, humble, and undervalued. Anyone who has visited or lived there knows how beautiful it is…a hidden gem that when explored shows you its true beauty.

Everyone has adopted coping mechanisms during this pandemic. What’s the favorite new “thing” you and your family hope to keep when we’re finally past COVID?

We are one of those families who had a “COVID puppy”. Evangeline (Eva) is a one and a half year old Basset Hound puppy and sister to Penelope, our other Basset Hound. When they’re not napping or anxiously waiting for food, they run around the yard trying not to trip over their ears.

Eva’s favorite thing, however, is also another one of our COVID traditions — and that’s going to the beach. We are less than three hours from the ocean in Delaware and have spent weekends throughout COVID at a little-known beach on Fenwick Island. The beach gives our family peace and a chance to relax. It’s like a world away from our everyday life. It has become our respite during the toughest times of COVID and it will be a tradition that will last a lifetime.