UPDATE: Longtime Development Specialist Leaves Lawrence County Agency

NEW CASTLE, Pa. – A search for a new executive director for the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp. will follow selection of a new CEO for the Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce, officials with Forward Lawrence said. 

Forward Lawrence, a collaboration of the entities, said in a news release Friday morning that Linda Nitch, LCEDC’s executive director since 1999, was no longer with the organization. 

Nitch separated from LCEDC voluntarily Feb. 1, Kimberly Koller-Jones, president of the regional chamber, said in an email. 

“We really appreciate all the work she’s done over the last 20-plus years,” Lisa Nentwick, LCEDC’s president, said during a phone interview Friday morning after the release was issued.

“She has more than 20 years of dedicated service to be proud of,” Koller-Jones said. “I am uncertain as to her future plans, but the departure was amicable, and we wish her nothing but happiness.”

According to the news release, Nitch, who had served as LCEDC’s executive director since 1999, helped secure more than $33 million in grants and low-interest loans for several businesses and $27 million for the construction of business parks, remediation of brownfield sites and construction of speculative buildings.

Additionally, she was recognized as a Ford Foundation Fellow in Regionalism and Sustainable Development and served as past-president of the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association.

Nitch’s departure leaves vacancies in the leadership of both Forward Lawrence organizations. Nearly a year ago, the chamber announced the departure of Alex McCoy, who had been its CEO since June 2017.

The search for a successor to Nitch is on hold until a new chamber CEO is selected, Nentwick said. The chamber received resumes from “several qualified candidates” in response to a CEO search launched Wednesday.

“We’d like to get a CEO in place before we make any other decisions so that they can have some input on what we do with the organization,” she said.

“Our current focus is on replacing the [chamber] CEO who will assist in selecting the next executive director,” Koller-Jones affirmed in her email.

After the first search for a new CEO proved unsuccessful, the chamber and development corporation boards focused on “building a strong foundation for the next administrator,” an initiative that included “an honest look at internal and external operations, the delivery of core programs and services and the critical relationships needed to move Forward Lawrence forward,” she continued.  

“We introduced a new look, new membership levels, a new loan program and a robust scope of work and activities for 2023,” she added.  

The chamber had planned to leave the search open for about three weeks, but based on the response, it might end it sooner and begin interviews by the end of February, hopefully filing the position by April 1, Nentwick said. 

The search is being conducted by Kismet PEO in Sharon, “and I must say I am impressed by both the quality and quantity of applicants we have received thus far. I expect the first round of interviews to be conducted in the next few weeks,” Koller-Jones said. 

In the meantime, the Forward Lawrence entities continue to work with consultant Katie Klaber “to complete a third-party evaluation of operations to review and revise policies, procedures and practices that will better position our organizations to jointly implement the recommendations of Forward Lawrence,” she continued. The steering committee’s members include Lawrence County Commissioner Loretta Spielvogel, who “has been instrumental to integrating the initiatives of the county with those of Forward Lawrence,” she said.

The release also directed “all current and future economic development projects” to Diane Richardson, assistant director of LCEDC, at richardson@lawrencecounty.com. Richardson is “a certified economic development professional with more than 20 years of proven experience in the field,” according to the release. 

“We’re in good hands with Diane,” who would be a “qualified candidate” for the executive director position if she is interested, Nentwick said.

Pictured at top: Linda Nitch, former executive director of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corp., and Alex McCoy, former CEO of the Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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