James Edmonson has 25 years experience in both the economic development field and as an entrepreneur who’s run three companies over the years, most recently a maker of custom wood cabinets and tables.
The lessons of running his own companies provides Edmonson valuable experience as the new chief executive officer and president of Muskegon Area First, where part of his job is to support entrepreneurs who are pursuing a dream and trying to grow their business.
“It gives me a great appreciation for the people sitting across the desk from me and the difficulties they encounter. I know what it’s like,” said Edmonson, who started at Muskegon Area First on April 21.
He succeeds Todd Battle, the 5-year-old regional economic development agency’s first-ever director who left at the end of March for a similar position in Kenosha, Wis.
Edmonson, 50, has run WoodWorks of America in Muskegon, a woodworking firm he and his wife bought when they returned to Michigan from Watertown, N.Y., 18 months ago because they “missed the sandy beaches.”
In Watertown, Edmonson was head of a countywide economic development agency. He previously spent four years as director of the City of Muskegon’s Community and Economic Development Department.
Edmonson also ran a regional economic development agency in Thibodaux, La., where he lived for several years from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. During that period, he also owned and ran two businesses in Louisiana — a retail clothing store and a courier service that returned lost luggage to airline passengers.
Edmonson’s knowledge of the community and several years of experience “will prove extremely useful in working on our local projects and with area businesses,” said Roland Crummel, chairman of the board for Muskegon Area First and supervisor of Laketon Township.
“It was a blend of his talent” that made Edmonson stand out from the field of 14 applicants for the position, Crummel said. “He’s just the kind of person who quietly gets things done.”
The position with Muskegon Area First provided Edmonson an opportunity to return to economic development work, he said. He applied for the position after he was approached about the job.
“I miss it and I like doing it. I’m glad to be back doing it,” Edmonson said. “It certainly fits with what I’ve been doing the last 25 years.”
Edmonson will work with Muskegon Area First’s board to set goals and objectives for the future, although the agency’s primary focus will remain in job creation and retention, as well as “identifying those industries that match the assets we have here and getting in front of site selectors and decision makers and proceeding accordingly.”