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Red Wing Port Authority determines director finalist

After months of searching, the Red Wing Port Authority Board has chosen a finalist for the executive director position.

Members decided Friday to start negotiations with Randy Olson, who has led economic development efforts in the public and private sectors.

The personnel committee now will work out details with Olson for the position. Committee chair Chris Simonson has said the board hopes to have a new director in place by the beginning of next month, if not sooner.

The board came to a consensus on hiring Olson during a special meeting Friday morning; members John Sachen and Mike Schultz were absent.

"We needed an economic development professional," Port President Mike Grove said. "Someone that has the experience ... and will be able to hit the ground running."

Olson fit the bill best, he said.

Simonson said the Red Wing is trying to focus on moving forward technologically, and much of Olson's background is in technology and business startups.

Olson was state director of Minnesota's Small Business Development Centers. His work with hundreds of small businesses "seals the deal," Port Board member Scott Adkisson said.

Mayor Dennis Egan and member Marilyn Meinke said the community had reinforced that Olson likely was the best fit.

In their search for a new executive director, port members sifted through dozens of applications, sent out and reviewed candidate questionnaires, conducted face-to-face interviews and asked the top three finalists to give a presentation and participate in a community open house.

During his presentation, Olson discussed ideas for increased marketing, programs to help business startups, especially technological ones, new ways to revitalize downtown outside of retail and more.

He cited specifics such as establishing an angel investor network and creating an ambassador program to promote the city throughout the country and even the world. He also suggested a summer event that would draw a younger population.

Olson said the port should bulk up its ability to provide financing and loans to businesses.

If an agreement can't be reached with Olson, the board likely would reconvene to figure out where to go from there. They could consider opening up the position for more applications again, members said.

The other two finalists were Mike Ericson, most recently Hugo, Minn., city administrator, and Larry Thompson, who has been city administrator in cities throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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