SMEGA director to depart for new opportunity

Published 9:21 am Tuesday, March 12, 2019

NILES — Barkley Garrett, the former executive director of the Southwest Michigan Economic Growth Alliance and current Director of Economic Development for the Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce, has announced his departure.

Garrett has accepted a new position and will be leaving the greater Niles area. A search is currently underway for his replacement.

Beginning in April, Garrett will become the Vice President of Economic Development for the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He will be leading the chamber’s efforts in recruiting knowledge-based employers to the Greater Tuscaloosa/West Alabama region. Garrett is a native of South-Central Alabama and received his B.S. in Corporate Finance and Investment Management from the University of Alabama.

Barkley Garrett

“I can’t thank the former Board of Directors (and Operations Committee) of the Southwestern Michigan Economic Growth Alliance and now the Board of the Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce enough for their vote of confidence in me to lead economic development efforts for the last three years,” Garrett said. “I have truly enjoyed my time with SMEGA and the Chamber and serving the economic development needs of Southern Berrien County and Cass County.”

Garrett has spent the past 17 years doing economic development at the state, regional and local level in Indiana and Michigan. Over the last three years, Garrett’s focus has been on business retention and expansion, business attraction, and small business development. One of the larger projects involved a $16 million (more than 100K sf) expansion of the AACOA plant on Mayflower Road which added 50 jobs.

Garrett also led the community’s effort to extend broadband fiber to rural parts of the region including the Bertrand Crossing Industrial Park. In Cass County, Garrett helped to lead the Imagine Cass visioning project to reimagine what a thriving downtown Cassopolis might look like in the future. Plans are underway to bring those ideas to reality.

“This announcement is bittersweet for the Greater Niles area, including Berrien and Cass counties,” said Jeff Rea, chamber president and CEO. “We’re excited that Barkley has an opportunity to return ‘home’ to serve a part of the country that he has a deep affection for. At the same time, this is a difficult loss. Barkley has been a key driver of economic development efforts in the greater Niles area and his skills and talents will be missed.

“We’ll move quickly to find his replacement. We know there is a skilled economic development professional looking for a new opportunity to come help our area grow.”