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CGEDA winding up director search

The Coastal Gateway Regional Economic Development Alliance is nearing the end of its search for a director, even as the group’s former chief executive is parting ways with the EDA.

Wiley Blankenship, who served as executive director of the Coastal Gateway Regional Economic Development Authority — the previous incarnation of the EDA — announced earlier this week that he is seeking other opportunities in Alabama.

“CGEDA is a wonderful organization with solid goals and objectives to secure the economic future of the five counties they represent,” Blankenship said in an email to EDA supporters. “For those of you involved with CGEDA, please give them your full attention and support as they move forward in a new direction with a new executive.”

Escambia County Commission Chairman David Stokes, who is serving as co-chairman of the newly re-organized EDA, said Blankenship was working in an interim capacity during the transition but had been encouraged to apply for the post.

Stokes said the EDA hopes to have someone in the position soon. The application deadline is in early October, he said, although with enough strong candidates the group could end the search early.

“We’ve got some great applications,” he said.

The EDA — made up of Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia and Monroe counties — reorganized this year, launching a new fundraising drive and repositioning itself as an alliance, rather than an economic development authority. The initial five-year fundraising campaign raised more than $1 million.

Despite a difficult economy, Stokes said the EDA is positive about the future — and about the need for entities in the region to invest in economic development.

“I’ll use this analogy: The stock market might be down and prices are down, but you continue to invest” to boost the value of your holdings, Stokes said. “We have to push forward.”