The former head of a world trade center in San Diego is in line to become the top executive at the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.
Steven W. Weathers, who resigned Nov. 20 as president and CEO of World Trade Center San Diego, was the unanimous recommendation of a special IDA committee that sifted through more than 100 applicants during a search process that lasted almost a year. His appointment was approved Monday during a special IDA board meeting, conditioned on Weathers signing an employment contract with the agency.
Weathers, who joined the San Diego trade group last year under a one-year consulting contract, has previous experience running economic development authorities in Savannah, Ga.; Toledo, Ohio; and Tuscon, Ariz. He also was managing director of a $22.5 million venture capital fund that was created as part of a public-private partnership in Toledo to provide early stage funding for companies in the alternative energy, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and materials fields.
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said that while the search committee had “a plethora” of good candidates, Weathers was the only one who had experience managing other economic-development agencies, as well as involvement in venture capital and world trade – three key areas for the IDA.
“We were very lucky to get someone with Mr. Weathers’ background,” Poloncarz said after the IDA meeting in which the agency’s board authorized IDA officials to negotiate an employment contract with Weathers. “He wanted to come to Buffalo.”
Weathers said he was contacted by the executive search firm that the IDA had hired to help it find a new chief executive. Between the skills and experience that the IDA was seeking in its new leader and Weathers’ desire to settle down with his family, he said, the Buffalo job was a good fit.
“I’ve run some authorities like this before. I think I’ve had a good, diverse economic-development background,” Weathers said.
One priority, Weathers said, will be to work with the region’s other economic-development and community groups to build partnerships and improve the transparency of the IDA’s efforts to improve the local economy.
Weathers, whose family still lives in the Toledo area, plans to relocate to the Buffalo Niagara region with his family. The agency is expected to negotiate a three- to four-year employment contract with Weathers that would pay approximately $145,000 a year, plus the opportunity to earn a bonus, Poloncarz said.
“As you build your career, you move around,” said Weathers, who has an 11-year-old daughter. “But your family comes first, and you need to build some roots.”
That eased concerns among some members of the IDA search committee that Weathers might view Buffalo as another brief stop on his career path. “We’re not looking for someone for a year or two. We’re looking for someone who will be here for many years,” Poloncarz said.
Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana, a member of the IDA search committee, said Weathers was “far and above” the other candidates to succeed the retiring Alfred D. Culliton, who has led the IDA for the last seven years. “He just stood out,” Caruana said.
Before taking the job in San Diego, Weathers was president and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority from 2010 to 2012. Before that, he was president and CEO of the Regional Growth Partnership in Toledo from 2005 to 2010.
While in Toledo, he also managed the Rocket Ventures venture capital fund, created in 2006 using a $15 million grant from the State of Ohio, combined with $7.5 million that was raised from private investors. The fund made equity investments in 17 technology-based companies and provided grant funding to 33 other startups.
“I believe he has the right experience and the right personality to succeed in this community,” Poloncarz said.
Weathers resigned Nov. 20 from his post at World Trade Center San Diego, citing personal reasons, according to a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Weathers had been vice president of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. from 1990 to 2001.
He is expected to start work here Dec. 16, Poloncarz said.