New leader of Orleans EDA sees a community on the rise

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 March 2021 at 9:02 am

Michael Dobell

MEDINA – The new leader of Orleans Economic Development Agency has more than a decade of experience working for major hotels in Buffalo, Rochester and Minneapolis.

Michael Dobell, 36, of Lyndonville said he brings a customer service focus to the job as executive director for the EDA. He started the position last week and succeeds Jim Whipple, who has retired but is staying on in a part-time advisory role through the end of April. Whipple led the EDA for 15 years.

Dobell, 36, was director of sales and marketing at Hyatt Regency Buffalo the past five years. Prior to that he worked for the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis and Radisson Rochester Riverside. In that career, it wasn’t just the hotel he was promoting to clients: it was the overall experience in the community.

Dobell sees a similar message in his role with the EDA. Businesses will be looking at the “total experience” in Orleans County.

“How can we best showcase the entire community?” he said. “We’re in this together. It’s really a team effort.”

Dobell said it will take the efforts of local and state officials, as well as citizens in the county, to make the community an enticing place to live and work.

He sees lots of assets for the EDA to promote to businesses, especially the 300-acre Medina Business Park, which is one of the largest certified shovel ready sites in the state. Whipple in the EDA worked more than a decade to create the park with infrastructure.

“What Jim and his team have done the past 15 years is an amazing job,” Dobell said the EDA conference room at 121 North Main St., Albion. “He laid the groundwork to take Orleans County to the next level.”

Photo by Tom Rivers: The 300-acre Medina Business Park is one of the largest certified shovel-ready sites in the state. It has all the infrastructure in place.

Dobell lives in Lyndonville with his wife, Clancy. She is the daughter of Lynne Johnson, the Orleans County Legislature chairwoman. Dobell was drawn to the Lyndonville community because it is similar in size to where he grew up on a dairy farm in Andover, Allegany County. Dobell was active in the 4-H program as a kid. He earned a bachelor’s degree in financial planning from Alfred University.

“In a small town there is the camaraderie of the community and the business owners,” he said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to be part of the up and coming Orleans County development.”

Paul Hendel, the Orleans EDA board chairman, said Dobell is a “forward-thinking” leader who will make serving the local businesses and prospective companies a priority.

“He is a great fit for this organization and the entire county,” Hendel said. “He has the knowledge, skills and personality, and he has a proven track record in sales.”

Dobell is one of the three full-time staff for the EDA. Hendel agrees with Dobell’s philosophy that economic development will take the work of many in the community.

“As an organization we cannot exist in a bubble,” Hendel said. “We need support from towns, village and county and our state legislators.”

The EDA is in a good position with several sites that should be attractive to companies around the county. Hendel praised Whipple for bringing municipal partners together for EDA projects.

“Jim did a great job putting Orleans County on the map,” Hendel said. “Jim was a superstar for the agency, in my opinion. With Michael, I see a person with lot of same skill sets as Jim and a vision to take organization to the next level.”

Hendel said the economic development business is also about relationships, and building trust with business leaders. Orleans in recent years has welcomed several companies from Southern Ontario, Canada.

That Canadian province has been a “great partner” in bringing jobs to Orleans County, Hendel said.

Hendel expects to see more economic development as more progress is made getting Covid-19 under control.

“We are primed to just explode with the assets in our county and the infrastructure,” Hendel said.