The Ottumwa Courier

April 17, 2014

Guiding our growth

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — An organization designed to help Ottumwa grow has found a new employee in Indiana.

The Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) board has chosen Sharon Stroh as the group's new executive director.

“We are confident she will hit the ground running,” said Greg Gardner, president of OEDC. “We are excited to find a candidate with Stroh’s experience and desire to support our community and business development efforts."

According to a press release from the group, Stroh is coming from her position at SE Resources in northeast Indiana, where she was consulting on work that included project management, strategic planning, nonprofit board governance and fund development. She has also worked on building community-owned fiber optics for rural areas.

“Ottumwa has demonstrated its commitment to economic development," she said in the same statement. "I am looking forward to being a part of the team that will strengthen the local economy. There is great potential here.”

Stroh spent 13 years as the CEO of the Steuben County Community Foundation, growing assets by 800 percent. Under her leadership, the foundation earned accreditation for "Ethical and Operational Standards."

Tom Rubel oversees a regional economic development office at Indian Hills Community College.

"I believe Ottumwans need to be welcoming, responsive and give her an opportunity to get to know our community and work with the OEDC board in ... creating strategies for the future," Rubel told the Courier.

He found that the candidate had several of the key features economic development people seek in a leader.

"It’s my understanding she brings a solid experience in economic development to the Ottumwa community, is a hard worker and a visionary type individual who has a strong appreciation for cutting-edge technology and how it can enhance the Ottumwa community and region," Rubel said.

While Rubel, an OEDC board member, was not on the interview committee, he did, with the full OEDC board, get to vote on which potential employee would get the offer.

"They bring the top three candidates to the board, and then we vote," he said.

Former executive director of the Ottumwa Economic Development Corp., David Barajas Jr., had started in early 2011 and stepped down at the end of 2013. The vacancy has stood until now.

While in Ottumwa, Barajas helped with the creation of the Young Professionals Organization,\ and pushing the importance of broadband possibilities.

Barajas accepted a new position in Marshalltown.

"What we need to do now," said Rubel, "is continue what we have a good start on, which is collaboration and projecting a mentality of optimism for our community. The power of people coming together is really significant. I think we have a movement of collaboration in this region today that maybe we didn’t enjoy years ago."

Gardner said Stroh does bring a "capacity for relationship building" to the job of leading OEDC.

Stroh will begin her new duties on June 16.

— News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark