The Columbia River Economic Development Council has selected Lisa Nisenfeld, a regional leader in work-force training, as its new president, the nonprofit said Monday. The announcement followed a national search launched four months ago after the resignation of former president Bart Phillips.
Nisenfeld, who is on personal leave for a family emergency, was unavailable for comment Monday. In a news release, she said putting the Clark County Economic Development Plan into action is her first priority. Commissioned by the CREDC for $80,000, the 127-page plan calls on the county to take a new path toward employment growth built on information technology, health care and international trade.
The county’s economy “is at a crossroads” which opens an opportunity to help existing businesses expand and to recruit others to the region, Nisenfeld said in the news release.
The board of the CREDC voted unanimously on Sept. 22 to name Nisenfeld to the position, according to Eric Fuller, a commercial real estate broker with Eric Fuller & Associates Inc. in Vancouver and board chairman for the Columbia River Economic Development Council.
Before the board’s Sept. 22 decision, Nisenfeld had been serving as interim president of the CREDC. The Vancouver-based nonprofit, which comprises 125 members representing the private and public sectors, was established in 1982 with the aim of creating jobs.
Fuller said Nisenfeld’s deep experience in both economic and work-force development issues, and her excellent communication skills made her the best choice. Fuller declined to discuss Nisenfeld’s compensation package.
Her predecessor, Phillips, who held the job for 11 years, earned an annual salary of roughly $150,000 at the end of his tenure, according to tax filings.
For the past seven years, Nisenfeld has served as executive director of the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council, a nonprofit with a goal of preparing a skilled local workforce. She also has led her own consulting firm specializing in strategic planning and work-force development, and was director of work force and target industries at the Portland Development Commission.
Fuller said Nisenfeld will start her new job Oct. 1, and she will continue to oversee the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council until a successor is found.
Nisenfeld won the CREDC position over three other finalists for the job. One of those candidates, like Nisenfeld, was from Washington state. The other two were from Arizona and New York, according to Mark Lampton, a Port of Camas-Washougal commissioner who served on the CREDC’s search committee.
More than 100 applicants sought the top spot at the CREDC, according to the news release issued by the agency.
“Her interpersonal skill-set is excellent,” Lampton said of Nisenfeld. “You’re really looking at someone who can achieve consensus, who can bring people together and make things generally work.”
Kelly Sills, economic development manager for Clark County who also served on the CREDC’s search panel, said he spoke with individual CREDC staff members who praised Nisenfeld’s leadership as the organization’s interim leader. “She has a personality that just naturally seems to bring the best out of people,” Sills said.
While there is risk in choosing an internal candidate, who may not have the fresh eyes of an outsider, Sills said, Nisenfeld possesses a “real high degree of self-awareness which extends to a real objective awareness about the organization, her place in the organization, the employees, the board, the whole nine yards.”
Fuller said the CREDC, over the next 60 to 90 days, will assign responsibilities to community leaders to begin trying to achieve the goals spelled out by the Clark County Economic Development Plan. It could take three to five years to accomplish the goals, Fuller said.
Said Lampton: “This is not going to be one organization led by one person that’s going to make this happen. It’s going to take a lot of people doing a lot of things.”