Berens transitions to lead Scottsdale Industrial Development Authority

Looking to build on forward momentum, the Scottsdale Industrial Development Authority is poised to enter into contract negotiations with one of its former board members to take on a larger role.

At a Feb. 8 meeting, the Scottsdale IDA unanimously approved a contract worth $8,500 per month, for an interim executive director position with RS Solutions President Jay Berens. The contract is to extend through this fiscal year, June 30, 2017, and can be terminated by either party with a 30-days notice.

Jay Berens

The interim executive director position is the culmination of about six months worth of conversations, said Scottsdale IDA President David Gulino at the Feb. 8 meeting at Scottsdale Airport, 15000 N. Airport Drive.

The board advertised the position, but only received a handful of responses, of which none of the candidates were favorable.

In order to maintain the momentum gained creating the Scottsdale IDA’s new business plan, 11-year board member Mr. Berens resigned from the industrial authority in order to toss his name into the ring.

The Scottsdale IDA’s main function, which was empowered by the Arizona Corporation Commission and state statute in 1984, is to issue tax exempt and taxable bonds for certain types of private developments for the purpose of attracting new economic activity to the community.

Negotiated annual fees charged to the applicants belong to the IDA, and that money is gifted back into the Scottsdale community.

With a new spur of life on the board, the volunteer group is looking to grow its business by presenting a three-year approach beginning in 2017.

The three-year outline the IDA discussed at two January meetings included a continued dedication and commitment to projects within Scottsdale, while also expanding into other areas of the state, which will be uncharted territory for the group.

The more bonds issued through the Scottsdale IDA, the more money that returns to the local community, contends board officials, with no risk to the municipality or the board.

A view of the Scottsdale Industrial Development Authority at a Jan. 11 meeting. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

Following the interview search, the board hired an independent consultant to help develop the business and who would be suited to be the executive director, said Mr. Berens, but that individual has since accepted a position elsewhere.

Mr. Berens said once the board was back at square-one, he discussed the move with Mr. Gulino, board president.

“While I was working with her, with her business plan, she informed me she had accepted a position with another company,” Mr. Berens explained. “She was no longer available, and I said ‘oh man we’ve got all this energy moving forward.’ We looked at other candidates, David and I, we didn’t see anybody to proceed with so I suggested how about I resign to keep this momentum going and kick this thing forward.”

Mr. Berens resigned following a January meeting.

“I resigned at the last board meeting, and we had talked about the whole process then,” said Mr. Berens in a Feb. 8 phone interview. “Basically I said, ‘hey this makes all the sense in the world to me,’ and I submitted my resignation shortly after that board meeting. Then the board was going to talk about it, and I figured I had better be off the board by then.”

The interim executive director position includes administrative duties for the board, in addition to actively trying to find business partners. Stipulations added to the contract approved Feb. 8, include monthly reports and approval of expenditures. Additionally, open meeting law compliance, meeting minutes and board agendas will remain the responsibility of the board’s legal counsel, Gary A. Drummond.

Mr. Berens says his goal is to get the Scottsdale IDA “in line,” and more visible to potential applicants.

“Basically we want to get some bond applications, so that’s the goal,” Mr. Berens said.

“Everything is focused on how we get more bond applications — it’s all marketing driven. It’s meeting up with people, networking, creating a website, getting up-to-date with documents — some are 30 years old.”

The six remaining volunteer board members unanimously supported Mr. Berens stepping into the interim executive director position.

“I for one am thrilled about Jay even wanting this opportunity,” said Scottsdale IDA board member Shannon Scutari. “I think he will do a phenomenal job at this.”

The role of the executive director, says Mr. Gulino, is to be support staff in order to get the business plan off the ground.

“The whole concept of the interim director is for us to get through this initial stage,” he explained. “In this case we’re talking about five months. We’re going to establish some procedures, we’re going to figure things out so to speak. We need to get something in place, in my opinion, so that we can get ourselves kick-started moving forward.”

This process is going to require gradual steps, says Scottsdale IDA Treasurer Tim Stratton agreeing with Mr. Gulino.

“I agree, that’s why I used the term ‘good incremental approach’ instead of just diving into some long-term contract and saying we’re going to have an executive director structure and it’s set in stone,” Mr. Stratton said. “I mean, we can do that certainly, but I think it’s going to slow us down a lot.”

With immediate needs percolating behind the scenes, Mr. Stratton believes it’s time to dedicate more time to the authority.

“I think we’ve taken it, in my view, about as far as we can with the time commitments that we’re putting into this,” Mr. Stratton explained.

“I think it is time to kind of turn things to a more interim basis, to someone who can focus their full attention to it and get us in more of a situation where we’re like more of the competitive IDA’s that do have some sort of staff that’s out there doing all the grunt work and the leg work and putting all the stuff together and putting us more in a guidance and policy role, instead of having to roll up our sleeves on everything.”

Northeast Valley News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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