Orleans EDA seeking new leader with impending retirement of CEO

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 November 2020 at 10:21 am

Jim Whipple has facilitated numerous projects around the county

Photos by Tom Rivers: Jim Whipple, chief executive officer and chief financial officer for the Orleans Economic Development Agency, holds a sign that will be displayed in front of the 300-acre Medina Business Park on Maple Ridge Road. Whipple is retiring Jan. 15 after more than 15 years as leader of the Orleans EDA.

ALBION – The Orleans Economic Development Agency is seeking a new leader due to the impending retirement of Jim Whipple, who has been the chief executive officer and chief financial officer for more than 15 years.

Whipple is leaving with high praise from the EDA board of directors, who say he has the county well positioned for new businesses and expansions, especially with the 300-acre Medina Business Park. That site is one of the largest certified shovel-ready sites in the state. It has all the infrastructure in place.

“He has done a phenomenal job,” said Ken DeRoller, who has been on the EDA board for 19 years.

Whipple brought and engineering background to the job and used that to develop the Medina Business Park, working with local municipalities to put the infrastructure in place.

“He understands Orleans County and he is low-key,” DeRoller said. “He gets down and grinds it out and gets results.”

Whipple, 64, of Lyndonville will retire Jan. 15. He will be available part-time to assist the next CEO in the transition.

Whipple said he has enjoyed being part of a team that assists small businesses, larger manufacturers, agricultural businesses, and projects that boost the county’s tourism.

“It has been awesome working with so many great people,” Whipple said at his office at 121 North Main St. in Albion.

He praised his co-workers – Gabrielle Barone and Diane Blanchard – for their commitment to local businesses and helping them work through potential pitfalls.

Whipple said the board of directors and municipalities have been supportive of the EDA efforts to market sites and make them attractive for companies. Whipple said Orleans could use more buildings suited to modern manufacturing.

Many companies, including several from Canada, have picked Orleans during Whipple’s tenure and several companies have done multi-million-dollar expansions.

Some of the major projects include expansions at Brunner in Medina, Western New York Energy in Medina, Takeform in Medina, Precision Packaging Products (now Waddington North America) in Holley and CRFS in Albion.

The EDA has worked with numerous companies around the county in Whipple’s tenure. The projects aren’t all in the county’s three largest villages of Medina, Albion and Holley.

Jim Whipple speaks during a public hearing in Kendall on Jan. 15, 2014 about a 10-year tax payment plan for The Cottages at Troutburg. The 10-year agreement has developers paying $186,363 in taxes on the land, with the new cottages boosting the tax base. Many new homes have been built at Troutburg in Kendall near Lake Ontario as part of the project.

The EDA worked with the Cottages at Troutburg in Kendall, where new smaller homes are being built at a 126-acre site by Lake Ontario.

The EDA helped a Canadian-based company to acquire the former Atwater Foods building on Route 18 in Yates. Niagara Food Specialties is a meat processor for gourmet markets, including restaurants and hotels. It specializes in prosciutto ham.

Whipple also cited major renovations at distressed sites on gateways into the community. He praised Roger Andrews for an extensive renovation of the former Jubilee in medina, turning that into Evans Ace Hardware. That is prominent building on Route 31 across from State Street Park.

Home Leasing in Rochester did a dramatic transformation of the former Holley High School, turning that into 41 apartments for senior citizens and offices for the Village of Holley. That building, at the corner of routes 31 and 237, was badly deteriorating and had been vacant for more than two decades.

Whipple sees a chain reaction of investment around the county, with successful projects encouraging more people and companies to upgrade buildings and grow in the county.

Paul Hendel, the EDA chairman, said the local economic development agency is well regarded by companies. They tell other businesses that the EDA is a good partner, Hendel said.

The EDA competes against other counties that have much larger staffs for economic development. Yet Whipple, Barone and Blanchard have the confidence of many companies who give Orleans close consideration for projects, Hendel said.

“He has established a culture there,” Hendel said. “It is built on honesty and integrity. Jim has an ability to form positive relationships with his co-workers, elected officials and the businesses.”

Hendel also praised Whipple for leading the agency that looks out for businesses of all sizes. For more than 20 years, the EDA has a small business class that has graduated more than 500 people. The Microenterprise Assistance Program provides expertise and a chance for lower-interest loans for graduates.

The EDA has pushed to keep that program going, while also assisting companies in major projects.

“Diane has done an awesome job leading that program,” Whipple said about Blanchard, coordinator of the Microenterprise Assistance Program. That has been a great project.”

The EDA welcomes applications for the CEO/CFO position for the agency. Click here for more information on the job.

Hendel and DeRoller said the board of directors want someone who is dedicated to the county.

“Our goal is to not only find an individual who understands the importance of a seamless transition, but also someone who can move the organization and our county to the next level in securing resources and establishing business relationships that will continue to attract, secure, and maintain business to our county,” Hendel said.

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