Burge heads job creation effort in Aurora

by Mike Lesko | reporter Published:

Aurora -- When city leaders set their sights on hiring Aurora's first economic development director, city entrepreneur-in-residence Jack Burge became the leading candidate because of his business background, experience and leadership skills, according to Mayor James Fisher.

"The long-term stability of the city will be reflected in our efforts to strengthen Aurora's industrial, commercial and retail tax base," Fisher said. "Our next step focused on the need for a dedicated person to lead the initiative. We all agreed Jack could handle the responsibilities."

Burge's hiring was approved Jan. 28 by City Council. He began his part-time position Feb. 4 and will report to the mayor.

Burge will receive $30,000 a year for his economic development work. Finance Director Bob Paul said he will continue to earn $5,000 annually from the city for his entrepreneur-in-residence position. Both part-time jobs are not to exceed 25 hours a week total.

In his entrepreneurial position, which he has had for several years, Burge, an instructor at the Kent State University business school, works with students about starting and running their own businesses.

"We encourage students that there is a path for creating a business, being your own boss and hopefully staying in northeast Ohio," Burge said. "My role [with the city] is to use my Kent State resources to bring businesses to Aurora. Some students do internships at local businesses."

Burge was a facilitator for student Matt Johnson becoming manager of the city's summer farmers market, which has taken place on Wednesdays for the past two years on the Church in Aurora grounds.

NOW, BURGE hopes to have an even more definitive effect on the city's businesses.

"If I can help put some direction and goals into economic development -- if I can leave that as a legacy -- that would be fine," Burge said.

Council President George Horvat said he believes hiring Burge as economic development director is a good move.

"Jack knows the city, and he knows a lot of people in it," Horvat said. "Hiring someone for this position is something we needed to do."

Fisher said Burge will work with the mayor, the appropriate city directors and Councilman John Kudley, who is the liaison to the Aurora Chamber of Commerce.

"Jack will focus on creating a department vision, strategy, key objectives and programs that will address economic development centering on recruiting new businesses and retaining current businesses," Fisher said.

"The city's economic development initiative will be a 'work in progress' during 2013," Fisher said. "A structured program will be defined and developed. This will be combined with a marketing program which will involve current businesses and showcasing Aurora as a destination for new businesses."

Burge, who has been an Aurora resident since 1985, and his wife, Patricia, have three grown daughters.

Becky Ziegler lives in New Albany and is a senior executive with an advertising firm, Megan James lives in Dublin and owns her own social media marketing company, and Shannon Williamson is an elementary school principal in Dayton. The Burges have seven grandchildren.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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