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City hires economic development director

Melissa Topey • Mar 23, 2014 at 2:00 PM

A new economic development director is coming to Fremont — or rather, coming back.

Fremont Mayor Jim Ellis on Friday announced Joseph Smith will be the city’s new economic development director, replacing Mike Jay, who is scheduled to retire at the end of March.

Smith was born in Fremont and attended Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic.

“It is great to be back” said Smith, who will make about $69,000 a year in the position. “I have done a lot of different things. I can take them all and help Fremont”

One of the things Smith has done is found a consulting firm, Old Town Consultants, in June 2013 to offer start-up assistance to small businesses.

Before that, he spent about 11 years as administrative assistant to Chief Justice Thomas Moyer, until Moyer’s death in 2010. He has also held various positions in public radio for about 22 years, including working at NPR’s Washington Bureau as well as on “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” When Smith left Washington, D.C., in 1990, he moved to Cleveland, where he reported on Ohio business news.

“This position will require the right combination of creativity and precision, a deft touch of working with business and political leaders, while addressing the needs of a broad range of stakeholders,” Smith wrote in his cover letter. “The position places an emphasis on developing long-lasting business relationships, a Rolodex that draws connections to state agencies and development foundations, and communications skills that effortlessly move from the complex world of social media messaging, to the more tactile forum of a town hall meeting”

As a reporter, he has the skills to know who needs to be at the table in order to form a coalition to promote communication. That may be one of his biggest assets to helping his hometown, he said.

So churches, community organizations and community leaders can expect a phone call from Smith.

He sees the biggest challenge for economic development in Fremont as the same for most small cities.

“How do you improve the wellbeing economically of everyone in the community while helping small, mid and big business at the same time, and do it all in a 60-hour work week?” he asked, laughing.

Smith hopes to bring everyone together, walking the same path, to find that answer.

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