For the first time, Marshfield has a director of Economic Development.
Duane Lavery comes to Marshfield from Atoka, Tennessee, in the Memphis region, where he served as the economic development director for Haywood, Tipton and Lauderdale counties.
Though he has not been in Webster County very long, Lavery has found his new home to be a warm one.
"People have been incredible," he said. "The local leadership has been very, very welcoming. Out on the street, in stores — people have been very friendly."
Lavery works out of the second floor of the Webster Electric Cooperative. A recent visit to his office revealed bare walls that he plans to remedy, but a desk with tidy stacks of information that show where his focus has been.
"I'm setting up shop here, but I'm spending more time getting the lay of the land," he said. "I've been meeting with a lot of leadership and trying to set up a plan of action."
That plan will include six-month, one-year and three-year benchmarks for Marshfield-area growth. Lavery notes that he is no stranger to being the first to hold a position.
"This is my fourth job that has been essentially a startup," he said. "That part of it isn't unknown or mysterious. I understand the challenges of startup organizations."
Something that separates the Marshfield "startup" is its community growth plan.
"They've already got a plan they’ve been working on for three years," he said. "They've gone through this process to grow Marshfield, and I’m excited to be part of that team."
Lavery sees Marshfield as a city on the move, with a new interchange that is going to create new development opportunities.
"The key factor with economic development right now is far and away a skilled workforce, and that’s difficult when you have a 3% unemployment rate," he said.
The local population is expected to grow, and Lavery said that workforce development of the population is important. He referred to the growing population as a pipeline.
"What we need to do as a community — as the pipeline develops — is we've got to make sure they have the right skillsets to fill the jobs of the future," he said.
With the work it has done to prepare for its growth, Marshfield is poised to do well, Lavery said.
"Marshfield, from what I've seen, is well positioned for growth, and I’m excited to be on the team," he said.
Lavery holds the distinction of being a certified economic development professional through the International Economic Development Council, an organization he has been involved with since its founding. He earned his certification in 2003. There are fewer than 1,000 certified economic developers, Lavery noted.
John Benson, who serves as Marshfield’s city administrator as well as a member of the board of GRO Marshfield, the organization that drive’s the city’s development, sees Lavery’s hire as an important next step for local growth.
"I'm really excited to have Duane joining us," Benson said. "He brings a great range of economic development experience that I think will be hugely beneficial to the future of Marshfield."
Benson said that it’s no coincidence that the timing of Lavery's hire occurs as the city is wrapping up its growth plan, as a major component of that plan is the economic development of the community. Lavery will be an important point person for implementing that plan, Benson said.