New director hired to lead SMEGA
A veteran of economic development work in Indiana, Barkley Garrett has been tabbed to lead the Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance in Niles.
Garrett is now SMEGA’s new executive director — a position that came open when Joe Sobieralski left to pursue a job in Battle Creek in December.
Last month, Garrett stepped down as economic development manager for the City of Elkhart in order to take the position at SMEGA, a non-profit organization that promotes business growth in southern Berrien County and all of Cass County.
“It felt like this was a great opportunity to spread my wings a little bit and do something in economic development that I had not done before,” Garrett said, explaining that while he has worked at the state and city level before, he has never worked for a non-profit.
Garrett, who lives in Mishawaka, Indiana, is originally from Alabama and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1989.
He spent several years doing economic development work for the State of Indiana in both Indianapolis and South Bend before becoming the director of economic development for the City of Elkhart in 2009.
He said he would be tasked with recruiting new companies to the area, working on business retention efforts and helping current businesses expand, among other things.
“We are the problem solvers, if you will,” he said. “If companies have an issue they need addressed we should be one of the first calls that they make.”
Garrett said he would spend the first 30 to 90 days of the job learning who the area’s major players are and developing a feel for whom SMEGA can rely on as partners in the future.
“Economic development is a team sport,” he said. “While I might be out there running point on a lot of these different projects there will be a lot of other partners that I bring to the table helping me address the issues that come up.”
A meet and greet with Garrett will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, in the rotunda of the Niles District Library.
“I just want to get out and meet the folks,” he said. “I want to find out what we have done well that we want to continue to do, what have we not done so well that we can improve upon and what is some low-hanging fruit we can take advantage of.”
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