New Regional Econ. Development Org. Names CEO

Michael Langley will take the helm at a new public-private partnership aimed at branding the Twin Cities and bolstering economic development-and taxpayers won't contribute to his undisclosed salary.

A recently formed regional economic development organization aimed at attracting, expanding, and retaining businesses in the 13-county metro area has chosen its leader.

The Itasca Project-a conglomeration of about 60 CEOs from across the state, public-sector officials, and leaders from area foundations-on Monday announced that Michael Langley will take the helm of the new organization.

The new organization is currently called the Minneapolis St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership, but now that Langley has been chosen as a leader, the group will work on branding itself, as well as the region.

The Itasca Project unveiled plans in September to fundraise for the new initiative.

The Itasca Project conducted research that indicated that the Twin Cities lack a centralized regional structure for developing a brand for the area. It found that the area's largest companies provide a great foundation for the region, but the relatively high cost of doing business in the area and “a culture that does not value entrepreneurs as strongly as other regions” has prevented the Twin Cities from attracting jobs.

The Itasca Project led efforts to raise $2.8 million for the new group's first-year budget, which it says will help fund efforts to create an economic development strategy, branding for global promotion of the area, and refining the approach to business expansion and recruitment. The money came from private contributions, as well as city and county governments.

Now that Langley has taken the helm of the new organization, which is entirely separate from the Itasca Project, the group will pursue its own annual funding. Doug Baker, CEO of Ecolab, will serve as chair of the group's board.

“Our search for the key position of CEO involved casting a wide net, looking at both local candidates and those from outside our region,” Baker, who is also a member of the Itasca Project, said in a statement. “Having an experienced and accomplished leader like Michael will allow us to reap benefits many times over.”

Langley, who has led regional economic development organizations in Florida and Pennsylvania, most recently served as president of Langley Group, a consulting practice that he founded and through which he has served as a consultant to the Itasca Project for about a year.

He also served as CEO of Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Conference on Community Development. In that capacity, he oversaw development in the 10-county Pittsburgh region as more than 800 companies announced expansion plans in the area-resulting in about 45,000 new jobs. During his stint at the organization, the region also achieved more than $1 billion in business tax reforms, secured federal funds for water quality and sewer improvements, and other significant achievements, according to the Itasca Project.

When the Itasca Project first announced that it would launch an executive search, media reports indicated that the group planned to pay its leader between $400,000 and $450,000 in salary, benefits, and bonuses, which stirred up some controversy.

Noelle Hawton, a spokeswoman for the Itasca Project, told Twin Cities Business on Tuesday that the group is not disclosing Langley's salary-but she said that all of the organization's payroll will be funded by private contributions, meaning that taxpayers won't be responsible for the staff's compensation.