Columbia hires new economic development director

She will begin her position in January.

The city of Columbia has hired a new director to spearhead economic development in the mid-Missouri area.

According to a news release, Stacey Button, who is currently the director of economic vitality in Flagstaff, Arizona, will begin her position in January 2015.

“I see my position as enhancing and continuing with the entrepreneurial coinage that has already been established there,” Button said. “I hope to continue in Columbia with my philosophy of engaging with organizations, community leadership and businesses, so that we can all have success.”

Button will also serve as the president of the Regional Economic Development Initiative, or REDI, a group that promotes economic development in Columbia and Boone County. The mayors of Columbia and Hallsville, city administrators of Ashland and Centralia, as well as executives in private companies like Boone Electric and administrators of MU all serve on the board of REDI.

“Our new president has experience working with traditional economic development tools,” said Todd Culley, CEO of Boone Electric and a board member of REDI. “But she also has work experience with business incubation and its next phase: acceleration.”

Button said that she wanted to work not only to bring established companies into Boone County but also encourage start-ups and new companies.

“I want to encourage entrepreneurial success,” Button said. “But I also want to ensure that businesses that start in Columbia stay in Columbia and grow.”

Button will receive a $130,000 salary, a car allowance, a moving allowance and the city’s standard employee benefit package, according to the release.

Button’s appointment comes shortly after the REDI board decided to send a letter of concern regarding Proposition 2, a ballot measure to increase development fees in the city. The letter expressed concern that fees would hinder growth and quality of life.

But debate over the letter raised questions about REDI’s role in Columbia’s politics and the delicate balance its new director may have to walk to keep various public and private parties at the table.

“Stacey will be president of REDI but also the economic development director and as such, an employee of the city,” Culley said. “It’s a delicate balance between those two assignments.”

Culley said while it can be difficult to manage a partnership between public and private entities, he is glad that the partnership exists and wants to focus on the process REDI encourages, not its conflicts.

“I’m not saying we should be satisfied with the status quo but there are so many good things happening here,” Culley said. “I think we could celebrate those a bit more.”

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