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Executive director takes helm at CDC

Steve Vassallo officially took the helm as the Pagosa Springs CDC (Community Development Corporation) executive director at last Monday’s meeting.

Vassallo was selected to head the CDC last June after an extensive search that examined candidates from across the U.S., as well as in Archuleta County.

Vassallo’s experience in economic development stretches back 23 years. A graduate from the University of Mississippi and the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma, Vassallo was the executive director of the McMinn County, Tenn., Economic Development Authority (EDA) before becoming president of the Madisonville, Ky., EDA. Vassallo went on to become the president of the McKinney, Texas, EDC before taking concurrent positions as the president of the Madison County, Miss., EDA and president of the Madison County Development Foundation. Prior to his current endeavors, Vassallo worked as an economic development specialist with the Austin, Texas, economic development consulting firm Johnson and Associates.

As the first order of business, Vassallo will conduct interviews over the next two weeks with local community leaders and other residents for a “community assessment.” That assessment will, according to Vassallo, provide an overview of the area’s strengths and weaknesses as well as economic and resource needs.

The interviews conducted by Vassallo will be used by the CDC, in part, to construct a five-year strategic plan. With that plan in place, both Vassallo and the CDC board should have some clear direction as to how to proceed with community and economic development.

A CDC casts a wide net in addressing a variety of issues associated with economic development: affordable housing, childcare availability, education (early childhood education and workforce training), small business assistance (providing loans, grants, technical assistance and other incentives), infrastructure and amenity development (to encourage businesses to move here) and “nonprofit incubation” (i.e. helping to establish local nonprofit organizations).

As such, several of the people to be interviewed by Vassallo represent agencies that have immediate knowledge of social and economic issues that currently impact the county and the area’s ability to further develop.

Vassallo will also interview local government officials and business leaders.

With data in hand, Vassallo intends to host a “Strategic Planning Retreat” on Monday, Aug. 30 at 2 p.m. in the South Conference Room of the Ross Aragon Community Center. While the public has been invited to attend, Vassallo will select panel members from the interviews he conducts over the next two weeks.

jim@pagosasun.com