New development director readies to roll up sleeves
The hiring of their first community development director means that Washington County is officially in the economic development business.
Chris Eng is responsible for attracting new business to the region and strengthening ties among existing commercial establishments, local governments and consumers.
“I have a passion for economic development, making connections between businesses and communities, helping people find jobs,” Eng said. “I’m just excited to have this opportunity.”
Eng’s annual salary is $101,629. He will work within the Washington County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. June 29, the HRA was renamed the Washington County Community Development Agency, or CDA.
The changes are the culmination of a strategic plan launched by the county in 2014. Based on the results of the plan, the board requested a change to a state law that would expand the HRA’s powers to include economic development. A bill supporting this measure was passed in a legislative session earlier this year.
The board gave final approval by 4-0 vote at their June 28 meeting.
“By statute, we had to go to the state legislature to get these economic development powers,” said Commissioner Karla Bigham, who added that they studied similar initiatives by Dakota and Carver counties.
In addition to attracting new business, the CDA will also support smaller cities like Newport and St. Paul Park with loans and other resources.
“This a great tool in the tool box for our communities,” Bigham said. “They all are going to be able to utilize Chris and his knowledge.”
Eng’s previous experience includes vice president at Northland Securities, economic director at the Duluth Economic Development Authority, and director of business and economic development for the city of Duluth.