Orleans EDA chairman steps down

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2014 at 12:00 am

David Lewis led the agency the past 8 years

David Lewis

ALBION – The leader of the board of directors for the Orleans Economic Development Agency is stepping down after eight years in the position.

David Lewis of Waterport has agreed to stay on the seven-member board, but he will not continue as chairman of the EDA. He has been on the board for 15 years. The EDA board is expected to pick a new chairman at its Feb. 14 meeting.

Lewis is retired from Kodak as a senior research associate. He traveled the world for the company, and chose to settle in Waterport at Oak Orchard on the Lake.

He was praised by EDA officials for a steady hand and calm demeanor leading the organization through staff restructuring early on as chairman.

“He’s been a great chairman,” said Jim Whipple, CEO of the Orleans EDA. “He’s a very easygoing, level-headed guy who doesn’t get fazed.”

With Lewis as chairman, the EDA helped facilitate one of the biggest economic development projects in the county’s history, the construction of a $90 million ethanol plant in Medina in 2007.

“That was huge,” Lewis said. “Watching that was just incredible.”

The plant uses about 20 million bushels of corn annually to produce about 55 million gallons of ethanol. It has a big ripple effect in the agricultural industry, giving farmers an insatiable buyer for corn locally. Many farmers have invested in new grain storage facilities and improved land since the ethanol plant opened.

The EDA has worked with many developers and companies with projects in the county in recent years. It also has kept up a commitment for a small business program, providing businesses with training and low-interest loans.

The agency has worked with some larger companies to access state grants and loans, and also to get a discount on property taxes.

“We need to do whatever we can to create employment,” Lewis said. “I think we’re doing the best we can.”

The agency will soon have a new chairman. It also is looking to fill one vacancy.

Orleans County legislators George Bower and Ken Rush were the legislative representatives on the board, but both didn’t seek re-election in November.

They have been replaced on the EDA board with new legislators, John DeFilipps of Clarendon and Ken DeRoller of Kendall. DeRoller was already on the board as an at-large member. That spot is now vacant. The Legislature will appoint someone to fill that spot.