GREDF welcomes 'the new guy' with open house

Marcel Wagner Jr., the new GREDF president, chuckles at a humorous remark during a press conference Wednesday at the Oakley-Lindsay Center. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Mar. 13, 2013 1:30 pm Updated: Apr. 3, 2013 2:15 pm

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Marcel Wagner Jr. wants to spend his first 100 days as president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation listening to business and political partners and learning about the area.

Wagner, 64, comes to Quincy from Lima, Ohio, where he spent 19 years as president and CEO of the Allen Economic Development Group. During a news briefing and open house in the Oakley-Lindsay Center lobby on Wednesday, Wagner met dozens of GREDF's members and community leaders.

"It's very exciting," Wagner said. "It's encouraging when you see a turnout like this, to come see the new guy."

Wagner's previous job in Lima, Ohio, was good practice for his new position.

"I'm coming from a community of similar size, but I think lacking the commitment that I've seen here on behalf of your political leadership and on behalf of your business leadership," Wagner said.

He's ready to promote the Chicago-Kansas City Expressway and said this will be his first opportunity to promote major river access. His experience with a free-trade zone also will be helpful as the Mid-America Intermodal Port Authority seeks to build a port in the South Quincy Development Area.

Wagner also is happy to become part of the Tri-State Development Summit team. The summit has partners from 35 counties in Western Illinois, Northeast Missouri and Southeast Iowa, working together on priorities for the region. The summit group has task forces on transportation, agriculture, river issues and a number of other topics.

"I am a regionalist by nature. I think we survive and do well as a region," Wagner said during an interview.

Wagner has worked with companies looking to local large facilities. Companies and site consultants "look at a region" and later get down to focusing on exact sites.

"If a company locates here or 30 miles down the road, it benefits everyone" in the region, Wagner said.

Wagner was approved unanimously by the GREDF Board of Directors after an 11-member search committee conducted a six-month nationwide search. He will fill the position left vacant when Jim Mentesti retired last August after nearly 27 years.

Mentesti attended Wednesday's open house and was encouraged by Wagner's comments.

"It looked to me like the committee definitely did its job," Mentesti said. "I was really pleased to hear Marcel's choice of words, especially when he talked regionalism, partnerships and teamwork."

Business leaders attending the event also pointed to Wagner's extensive knowledge of economic development.

"We did our due diligence" in the search and selection process, said Adams County Board Member Mike McLaughlin, who served on the search committee.

Wagner said his wife, Karen, will move to Quincy later this year after wrapping up some of her work managing a Habitat for Humanity ReStore operation in Lima.

In the meantime, Wagner will be accompanied by Roscoe, one of the couple's Bichon Frise dogs. He told the crowd greeting him Wednesday that a basket prepared for him by the GREDF staff included a treat for Roscoe as well.