The job qualifications, in fact, couldn’t have better matched Ed Garner’s experience if he had written them himself, he said.
“It matched my resume almost like a kid glove,” said Garner, who joined The Chamber last Monday as vice president of economic development.
The former head of a small business development center in Kent County, Garner succeeds Tricia Ryan, who held the job for two years before leaving a month ago for a position in Portland, Ore.
A Muskegon resident who previously worked in the banking industry, Garner has been involved in the economic development field since 1997, including serving four years as head of Kent Area MicroBusiness Loan Services. He previously served as director of the satellite campus in Muskegon for the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center at the former Muskegon Economic Growth Alliance.
At MEGA, Garner focused on small business services, business retention, expansion and attraction, and program development, as well as created a U.S. Small Business Administration guaranteed loan program for women and minorities.
Chamber President Joy Gaasch said she was impressed with Garner’s experience in small business development and retention, developing financing packages for small businesses and working on economic development projects — areas he’ll have responsibility for overseeing at The Chamber.
“He brings a real large amount of diverse skills to the table,” Gaasch said. “He has a balance of skills in addressing economic development issues and helping small businesses be successful.”
Gaasch doesn’t see the role of the economic director changing with the change in personnel, although given Garner’s background, The Chamber may tweak the position in the future once he settles into the job and as the needs of the business community evolve. In the last two years, The Chamber’s economic development efforts have placed a greater emphasis on business retention, recruitment and support through services such as industry councils.
“If there are things where he’s a good fit, we are certainly going to evaluate shifting things around,” she said.
Thee stronger pushes The Chamber has made in recent years in economic development and support for business also drew Garner to the position, he said.
“I kind of liked what I saw with the way they’ve positioned The Chamber,” Garner said.