Bringing it all togetherNew Port Authority Executive Director Randy Olson is ready to take Red Wing to the next level, he said.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
New Port Authority Executive Director Randy Olson is ready to take Red Wing to the next level, he said.
The city seems poised to become a “technology leader,” has had changes such as bringing in Mayo Clinic Health System and the port is implementing its relatively new strategic plan.
Olson, who started his new position July 9, said the community is in a good place to capitalize on many of those and other assets by working together.
Participation in the US Ignite initiative, a national program aimed at spurring development of next-generation Internet applications and services, will help Red Wing’s goals of expanding technological businesses and branding the area, he said.
“I think we can really leverage the fiber and broadband infrastructure in Red Wing to bring in new businesses,” he said.
Olson said he will be working to execute and build on the port’s strategic plan. That also will encompass a goal of bringing the different economic development groups in the area together under the port’s leadership and working on other various plans that have been in place for a while.
“It’s important to have the port aligned with their missions,” he said. He has been and will continue to meet with local business and economic leaders, he said, and wants to make sure everyone can work together on their strategic goals.
One of those goals for Olson is to find new ways to fill vacancies downtown.
“People often judge the health and vitality of a community by its downtown,” he said.
Those solutions might not include only retail, he said. Office space or other uses for the storefronts still fill the area with people and thriving businesses, he said.
He said business retention also is key, as is reminding businesses looking to expand that Red Wing should be their first consideration.
“Overall businesses are very uncertain about expansion right now,” Olson said. “We need to be mindful of the fact that we’re still emerging from this recession.”
The Port Board chose Olson as the finalist for the position in early June, and negotiations were ongoing until his official hiring was announced earlier this month.
There were some “hurdles with city policies,” such as the set city pay scale, Personnel Committee Chairman Chris Simonson said then, but eventually they reached an agreement.
Olson’s salary was finalized at $90,000 annually, the city reported.
Most recently Olson was working in economic development for the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls, Minn. He also has led similar efforts in the public and private sectors, including work as the former state director of Minnesota’s Small Business Development Centers. His background includes work with manufacturing and technology startups as well.
Port Board members went through dozens of applications, reviewed questionnaires and held interviews and community presentations in their search for a new director.
Throughout the lengthy interview process, Olson had the chance to learn more about Red Wing and talk with local leaders.
“The more I got to understand the position … the more interested I was in it,” Olson said.
He said he was also drawn to the citizens’ participation in the process. “I’ve been very impressed with the level of community engagement here.”