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As the months pass by, North Iowa Corridor fails to hire new CEO

North Iowa Commerce Center, home of the Corridor.
North Iowa Commerce Center, home of the Corridor.

MASON CITY – The whispers in town are that no one wants the CEO job at the North Iowa Corridor, and as the months drag on since its last CEO resigned and left town, some are asking when a hire will be made so that the business of bringing new jobs to Cerro Gordo county can resume in earnest.

Golden boy economic guru and former North Iowa Corridor President and CEO Brent Willett took a job in Des Moines in March after sprinkling the Mason City area with a handful of $9.50 per hour jobs. He left a position that paid him in excess of $100,000 a year with perks like Mr. Toot artwork adorned office walls, rubbing elbows with mayors and supervisors and dining with legislators in Washington D.C. Sources told NIT he wanted out for a number of reasons, and had been job searching for some time before bolting south and never looking back.

Brent Willett left Mason City for greener pastures in Des Moines.
Brent Willett left Mason City for greener pastures in Des Moines.

Nearly six months have gone by since Willett left, and the Corridor is still, supposedly, searching for the right candidate to replace him. Pay is listed as an attractive salary between $100,000 and $130,000.  Hundreds of thousands of public dollars that help fund the Corridor make a salary like this possible.  A deadline to submit resumes to Henkel Construction President and Corridor board member Gary Schmit was listed as July 17, 2014. That date was well over 2 months ago. An interim president, Shaun Arneson, was appointed after Willett left, but the Corridor board – which will make the hiring decision – has made no long-term commitment to his leadership as the search drags on, month after month, leaving the agency twisting in the wind.

Since Willett left, the Corridor has went virtually silent, outside of saying it is looking for his replacement and where to send resumes.  There have been no announcements from the agency about new jobs or industry landing in the county; many citizens are left wondering what the agency is doing with nearly $250,000 in public dollars it was given this year, alone.

Speculation is now swirling in the community on what the hold up may be in making “the big hire”. Sources tell NIT that there have been applicants but few of them are well-qualified or “game changers” that have the talent to attract jobs and industry that pay a respectable wage above the $9.50 threshold established by Willett and his staff.

Some speculate that the work environment in the Cultural Crescent could be repelling top candidates from seeking the job.

Dining with mayor Eric Bookmeyer is one of many perks the Corridor CEO enjoys.
Dining with mayor Eric Bookmeyer is one of many perks the Corridor CEO enjoys.

One source connected to the Mason City political scene told NIT “Look, a top-notch outfit would have filled that job permanently within a month. Smart people know, there’s better options out there. Why do you think Willett left? Look who you would be working with, who your landlord would be. Can you blame him for getting the hell out?  There’s been plenty of turnover in that building at 9 North Federal Avenue, and there’s a reason for that. The real savvy business leaders with talent are steering clear of all those empty storefronts downtown and are instantly turned off by the “elites” when they call around to discuss the job.  They don’t want that challenge, and they don’t want to join that team.”

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