Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 19, 2018

Raber resigns from WEDG

Mar 07, 2018

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


After 21 years as the director of the Washington Economic Development Group (WEDG), Ed Raber has announced that he plans to leave the position at the end of March to pursue a position in Dubuque.

Last week, Raber told the WEDG Board that he had accepted the position of Vice president with the Greater Dubuque Development Corp (GDDC). He explained the corporation is a larger sister organization to WEDG.

“I’m looking forward to being part of that team and working on probably a number of very challenging things that they have scoped out and would like to have as the next project.”

Raber believes that the WEDG Board will post for another director soon. He said that he provided the board members with a framework and some contacts within the industry.

Raber said that this would be the third time he has lived in Dubuque. He first moved to the town with his family when he was attending middle school. He moved back shortly after graduating college for his first job out of college.

Raber said that he started with WEDG on Sept. 19, 1996. He remembers his first days on the job being the men’s golf outing. When he was first hired, Raber served double duty as the WEDG director and the Chamber of Commerce director. He said that after about a year, Raber encouraged the Chamber of Commerce to hire Susan Wellington as the chamber director. After that, Raber said he was able to focus all his attention on economic development in Washington County. He said that he is very grateful to Ann Moore and Harvey Holden, who really stepped up to help with the first fundraiser at the time to allow WEDG to have a full-time staff person. Raber said WEDG was formed in 1986, but was a volunteer organization and didn’t have any staff.

Since being director, Raber said that he has learned Washington County is a county that has been built by entrepreneurs. He said the county is not particularly built around businesses that have decided to locate in Washington County.

“I think the number one thing people think I do is attract businesses that aren’t from here to come here,” he said. “That happens so very rarely. Really the focus is on how do we work with our existing businesses that are here and how do we potentially find businesses currently doing business in Washington County that have a reason for being here.”

In the future, he said it is unlikely the future WEDG director will spend much time trying to attract business to Washington County. He said when it does happen, the company is looking for something specific Washington County has. Over the two decades he has served in Washington County, Raber said he is most proud of helping businesses expand. He said Engineered Building Design has built another plant. Companies like ACH Foam Technologies have doubled in size. He also said he is very proud of the development of the Iowa Renewable Energy biodiesel plant in Washington.

Of course, he said, the list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Riverside Casino & Golf Resort. Raber said WEDG had helped get the Washington County Riverboat Foundation up and off the ground. Raber served for many years on the foundation.

“That has been a labor of love of mine,” Raber said, “helping an organization like that get off the ground and do some fairly important work in the region.”

Raber said that the GDDC had approached him about making the move. The group had contacted him and Raber said they had conversations for several months. He also said that his family happened at this point to be at a window where his daughter Meredith is graduating high school this spring and his son Henry has not started high school yet.

‘We weren’t necessarily out looking for that, but it happened to line up with the window of time I had that a really excellent by national standards organization was looking for someone with my background,” Raber said.

Raber commented that he would still be in town for the Chamber/Main Street/WEDG banquet on march 19. He said he looked forward to one more banquet with some great speakers.

“it is a great event, and I am glad I will be here for that,” he said.

He stressed people keepiogn track of how the county is doing, should not just keep track of the subtractions of jobs the county has experienced. While several businesses have left Washington County, Raber said the county currently has more jobs and more employed people than it ever has.

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