Whether he was planning it or not, the new Salinas economic development director will hit the ground running when he takes the post next month.
Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue and City Manager Dave Mora announced Friday that Jeffrey Weir, a veteran of economic development in Arizona and Colorado, will lead the community's efforts to revitalize its economy.
And he already has his marching orders: establish a Salinas Valley "enterprise zone," create a local economic development corporation and help diversify the city's economy. Weir's salary will be $145,000 a year.
Salinas had an economic development specialist about 15 years ago, Mora said, who worked in the office of the city manager. The position was eliminated during a round of cutbacks and never renewed.
"Jeff has business background and a vast array of personal business and economic development (experience) at a different location," Donohue said at a press conference where Weir was introduced. "But he'll be a quick study."
Weir, who was recruited by a professional search firm, said he decided to come to this area because it is beautiful, the people seem willing to work and he likes new opportunities.
"I'm tickled to death to be here," he said. "I'll try to help the community achieve its potential. I know that's a strong desire."
Weir, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, was the economic development director in Kingman, Ariz., from February 2006 until June. According to The Kingman Daily Miner, the city cut funding for his department and the position was eliminated July 1. The same report said Weir is suing his former employer for $81,000 in unpaid wages and benefits.
Weir worked as an economic development administrator in Oro Valley, Ariz., from March 1999 to January 2006, where he started a business retention and expansion program and assisted a private developer to create a 300-acre high-tech business park, according to his resume.
In Salinas, creating an economic development corporation, an organization that would be spun off in three years, was one of the goals the council set at the beginning of the year, and one of the ideas Donohue campaigned for when he ran for mayor. The council set aside $750,000 over the next three years to finance the plan.
Donohue has long stressed the importance of economic development for Salinas, a city with a young population that has struggled to pay for services while fighting crime. Economic growth is the key to peace and an improved image, he's fond of saying.
"The reason why I'm excited is the (plan) is a centerpiece of economic development," the mayor said. "But for that, we have to have the right person, and now we do."