Greater Grays Harbor Inc. selects Andre “Dru” Garson as new CEO

Andre “Dru” Garson was offered and has accepted the position of CEO of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc.

In addition to being a Development Specialist with the Alaska Department of Commerce and Community Economic Development in Juneau, Garson has worked with disadvantaged regions of Alaska to develop and establish economic development and tourism programs. Garson has his master’s degree in resource recreation and tourism, and has worked in many regions of Alaska to develop tourism and workforce development with focus on key industry clusters in that state.

According to Board Chair Mike O’Dell, Garson’s qualifications aligned well with the projects that the board has established in their strategic planning for the organization.

“We are excited about the assets Dru will bring to the community, and believe he is well qualified to not only complete community projects that are in process, but also to establish new directions and relationships essential to the success of GGHI,” O’Dell said.

Garson, who is finishing a project for the state of Alaska, will be starting as CEO of GGHI in September, and is looking forward to being here.

“There are a lot of similarities between the economy of Grays Harbor and many communities that I’ve worked with throughout Southeast Alaska,” he said. “I’m excited about moving to Grays Harbor and look forward to meeting and working with the local business community.”

Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. CEO Tim Gibbs resigns

Tim Gibbs, CEO of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc., tendered his resignation to the board at last night’s meeting, citing his need to be closer to his family in Kentucky.

“It has been a great privilege to lead this organization,” Gibbs said. “This is not a choice I made lightly, and I will miss Grays Harbor.”

Gibbs has been CEO of GGHI since it began in January of 2012; before that he was the executive director of the Grays Harbor Economic Development Council, which, along with the Grays Harbor Chamber of Commerce, formed the single organization.

Gibbs leaves GGHI in a position of strength, with growing membership and collaborative partnerships with local governments, businesses and non-profits.

“Tim’s work has set Greater Grays Harbor up for success. He has worked tirelessly, building relationships with so many partners for economic development in our area,” said Larry Kahl, Past Chair of the board and COO at Grays Harbor Community Hospital.

Mike O’Dell, Board Chair, noted that last year the board underwent a strategic planning process, identifying goals for GGHI.

“We know what the challenges are that lie ahead, and we have a plan to meet those challenges,” O’Dell said. “Tim was a steady guide in the days when the merger was new, but now, we’re a mature organization that is equipped to go forward into the future, and that’s in no small part due to his leadership skills these first few years.”

At the meeting, the board formed a search committee to look for Gibbs’ replacement. The board agreed that it will be a nationwide search.

“Tim set a really high bar, and we want to find someone who can lead this organization and all of Grays Harbor,” said Donna Rosi, Vice Chair and General Manager at Grays Harbor Radio.

GGHI events and everyday operations will continue as usual, Kahl emphasized.

“Tim was a great find, and we’ll miss his talent and skills. He helped us move the bar forward, and left us in a better position than we were. He helped us become a better organization, combining a Chamber and and EDC into a financially strong organization with influence in the community ,” said Randy Ross, Vice President and Commercial Loan Officer at Bank of the Pacific, and former Board Chair. “Although we are saddened by his departure, we know it’s the right thing for him. We’ve learned a lot from him. Now it’s time to move into the next chapter, and we will find someone who can move us to the next level.”

Greater Grays Harbor Inc. Annual Legislative Sendoff – good food with good people

Business leaders throughout Grays Harbor had lunch with state legislators at the annual Legislative Send-Off luncheon held in Aberdeen yesterday by Greater Grays Harbor, Inc.  VP of Operations at Imperium Renewables John Gillespie said things are looking up at the Port. “We’re excited about our future at Grays Harbor, with organizations like Greater Grays Harbor [Inc.] who can foster continued growth by attracting business, and providing a conduit to policy makers – basically this event is an example of that. 
His company has expanded to 39 employees in the 5 years there, investing over 2 million in capitol improvements in the past year.
As they head to Olympia to convene for the state’s regular session that begins on January 13, State Senator Jim Hargrove noted recent strides in cost cutting. “Over the last 5 years, through the great recession we have resized government. We have cut 12 billion dollars out of carry-forward government in this state. Like we eliminated the General Assistance Unemployment Cash Program, that’s probably why you see so many people pan handling out here because there’s no cash available for some of those people that are unemployable. We’ve cut the TANF or the welfare program -the grants, and put a hard 5 year time limit on it, so that’s definitely affecting people, budget savings.
Hargrove also said they’ll be discussing ways to keep businesses in Washington, noting the recent Boeing contract extension with Machinists in Washington.
Representative Steve Tharinger (D-Dungeness) speaks to business leaders in Aberdeen.
Representative Steve Tharinger (D-Dungeness) speaks to business leaders in Aberdeen.

Larry Kahl introduced guest speaker John Gillespie, VP of Operations at Imperium Renewables

Former House Speaker Lynn Kessler emceed the event

GGH Inc. celebrates Business Recognition Awards at annual Leaders Banquet

If you missed the banquet, here’s a short review of those recognized.  Here’s a link to a YouTube video of the winners with an explanation in their own words of who and what their business is and why they are a part of the Grays Harbor County business community:  “GGHI Business Recognition Award and Leaders Banquet 2013.”

Included in the celebration activities was a newly established award honoring a long time supporter of Grays Harbor’s employment and businesses.  The “John Loyle Award Spirit of the Community” award was presented to Linda Loyle and family in honor of John’s selfless dedication to the Grays Harbor community.  Another award that was given for the first time was the “Ambassador of the Year Award”.  Angie West of Express Employment Professionals to recognize her outstanding contributions to our county and the businesses that call Grays Harbor home.

  The banquet was attended by over 200 members of the business community of Grays Harbor.  Along with the celebration of the Business Recognition Awards, the attendees had the opportunity to raise funds for the GGHI (Greater Grays Harbor, Inc.) Education Fund that supports career, technical education and entrepreneurial activities and allows local schools to compete in the application process for the award of the $6,340 raised at the banquet through the raffle and auction.  This was the biggest amount ever raised for the Education Fund. 



Synopsis of Winners and Finalists:

Category                      Winner                                                                 Finalist

Non-profit                    Grays Harbor Community College             Coast Harvest

New Business            Wishkah River Distillery                                 Flowers by Pollen

Small Business           Dunsire Printers                                               Techline

Large Business          Five Star Dealerships                                      Levee Lumber

Letter of Intent Signed For Grays Harbor Paper Mill

Cesar Scolari, the CEO of Elliot Rust Holdings, LLC commented that the Tacoma-based company is “ proud and excited to be a part of bringing the paper company and the family-wage jobs back to the Harbor. The parties must complete their due diligence, a formal Purchase and Sale Agreement has to be completed and submitted to the court for approval. This process will take approximately 60 days.

The new Company will be led by former CEO and industry veteran, John Begley. “We are looking forward to completing the sales process and again doing what the mill does best-making paper,” states Begley.

“We could not be more excited for the Harbor,” said Leonard Barnes, Deputy Director of the Port of Grays Harbor, and Randy Ross, Account Executive for The Durney Agency, in a joint statement. The two co-chairs of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. “We know that this is a crucial employer in the Harbor, in an industry that is our local heritage, and it is a point of pride to us how hard Tim Gibbs (GGHI CEO) has worked to help make this deal come to fruition.”

Many people worked very hard for a long time to make this a successful outcome,” said Jack Durney, Hoquiam Mayor. “Personally, I can hardly wait to see steam once again coming out of the stack and the parking lot full again with cars of people who have been put back to work!”

Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. has worked tirelessly with our partners to reach this point; we will continue to stand with this new company to ensure its success, and to ensure the employment opportunities for the residents of Grays Harbor County.