KEOKUK – A restructuring at Lee County Economic Development group has resulted in the elimination of CEO Joe Steil’s position effective immediately.
The group issued a statement Thursday afternoon indicating the group needed to eliminate Steil’s position to help meet the commitments of the group’s 2023 fundraising campaign. Steil was hired in the fall of 2016 to replace Steve Bisenius, who had led the group for more than eight years.
Dennis Fraise, the current chief operating officer for LCEDG said current staff and board will absorb the position.
“I can’t speak to what will happen down the road, but we won’t have a functioning CEO,” Fraise said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re in a transitional phase obviously, and there’s a plan moving forward that Dana (Millard) and I working on, along with the board. We have a good partnership and a great board.”
The decision to eliminate the position came before the City of Fort Madison balked at the final payment in a five-year pledge to the group on Tuesday night. Several city paid and elected officials were not happy with a presentation last month, when Steil clarified some information as to the length of the city’s current funding commitment to LCEDG. However at Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Brad Randolph said not budgeting the fifth-year commitment to LCEDG was an “oversight” on the city’s part.
Steil was not at Tuesday’s meeting where Fraise addressed the city council on the progress LCEDG is making in the area, highlighting some of key areas of growth and reputation of the group’s state and nationally recognized Grow Lee programs.
Fraise said, as with any organization, return on value is always being evaluated.
“Like any organization, public and private, you’re always looking at percentage you pay on wages. That’s always a concern. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to make tough decisions and say, ‘what’s the best thing for our stakeholders and how do we return value’,” Fraise said.
He said the board and staff will be absorbing Steil’s responsibilities. Millard, the LCEDG marketing and communications director, said the move won’t slow down the strides the group is making.
“I don’t foresee this slowing down our momentum at all. As we move forward with Lee County 2023, we have that capacity to execute our plans,” she said.
Lee County 2023 -Forward Together is the group’s current five-year strategic plan.
Steil wasn’t able to be reached for comment, but did send an email to the Pen City Current after the announcement was made. Steil also sits on the Mid-American Port Authority and the Southeast Iowa Regional Riverboat Commission, and the Tri-State Summit – Broadband Task Force, in addition to other volunteer groups.
“I wish the Lee County EDG SUCCESS in the future for the mutual benefit of all SE Iowa and the area,” he wrote.
LCEDG Board chairman Dave Schwarz was unable to be reached for comment.
LCEDG established a capital campaign goal through 2023 of $1.3 million to $1.6 million, to implement an aggressive public/private economic development initiative in Lee County.
According to the statement from LCEDG Thursday afternoon, efforts will continue as planned throughout the county.
“Through their five-year plan, Lee County EDG will enhance support for existing businesses and increase new business attraction, better prepare students and the workforce for careers in the area and increase employment opportunities for Lee County residents.
Lee County faces challenges that need to be met with a bold action plan to further develop our economic base and create a vibrant future for Lee County. These include:
Supporting existing industry expansion and retention
Developing effective efforts to attract skilled workers and expand training for existing workforce
Significantly expand outreach marketing of Lee County to new types of industries/technologies
Focus resources on communicating with key stakeholders in Southeast Iowa
We appreciate all the hard work and dedication Joe Steil has put into the organization as a board member and CEO,” the release indicated.
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