Task force to study EADA position

by Tom Coombe

Ely’s economic development organization has taken both immediate and long-term steps to fill a void in its office.<BR><BR>Bill Henning, executive director of the Ely Area Development Association for nine years, retired at the end of May.<BR><BR>And while the future of the position remains unsettled, the EADA is continuing its work with assistant director Cindy Fenske running the group’s Community Center office and board member Jeff Sundell and city clerk-treasurer John Tourville serving - temporarily - in Henning’s capacity.<BR><BR>“Currently John and myself are picking up any slack that there might be,” said Sundell.<BR><BR>The EADA has also formed a committee to recommend how to fill the position.<BR><BR>“We’ve got three people from the (Ely Area) Joint Powers, two from the EADA and two from the city that have formed a task force,” said Sundell.<BR><BR>Named to the task force were Joint Powers representatives Paul Kess, Jack Willis and Lee Tessier, Sundell and Betsy Leustek from the EADA, and mayor Frank Salerno and city council member Dan Przybylski.<BR><BR>The group hasn’t formally met yet, and it’s expected they’ll explore several options, including filling the position in its present structure or perhaps meshing duties with another existing position, such as the city’s clerk-treasurer post. Previously, Tourville has expressed interest in taking on some economic development duties.<BR><BR>The EADA’s funding situation is likely to be a key factor in the board’s decision on filling the position.<BR><BR>Henning’s position with the EADA was part-time - 18 hours per week. He was compensated $25,896 per year, but the job had no insurance benefits. <BR><BR>The last two years, funding for the EADA has been in jeopardy while city officials have battled budget deficits. Those financial issues could play a role in deciding how the EADA fills the position.<BR><BR>Henning, a 57-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y. and a retired Air Force pilot had been with the EADA since 1995.<BR><BR>Under his watch, the area made several advances, including the deal that brought SATO Travel (now Navigant Integrated Services) and nearly 100 new jobs to Ely, the construction of a new facility for the Minnesota Department of Revenue, continued development of the city’s business park, and the completion of a fiber-optic connection to Ely.<BR><BR>Henning, who was appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to a seat on the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, will continue to serve in that capacity.