2019 | Government

Petr Stepping Down as Head of Economic Development Office

Citing family reasons, economic development corporation leader moving to Texas in September

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David Petr

Image via Douglas Tallman

Citing family reasons, David Petr is resigning as president and CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation after his term ends this fall, according to a Monday announcement.

“David has elevated the Montgomery County brand regionally and nationally, and has created a strong foundation that we can build upon,” MCEDC Chairman of the Board Bob Buchanan said in a statement. “He has assembled a strong team and a smart strategic plan that we will continue to execute upon to create results for the county.”

The county did away with its in-house economic development department in 2015, and created the office as a public-private partnership. Since the change, the county has more than tripled the budgeted amount for economic development. More than $5 million was appropriated in fiscal 2019.

Petr played a role in the county’s unsuccessful pitch to lure Amazon’s second headquarters, according to the statement. During his tenure, MCEDC announced $375 million of capital investment in the county and attracted 1,340 new jobs.

“Until the end of my term, my focus will be to capitalize on recent business recruitment efforts, deliver on our most significant strategic initiatives, and establish a strong and sustainable private fundraising plan,” Petr said in a statement. “We have too much momentum at the MCEDC to do anything less than to execute boldly.”

He did not immediately return a message seeking additional comment Monday morning.

Petr’s announcement came days after he faced questioning from the County Council over a trip to the South by Southwest technology conference in Austin, Texas, last month designed to find companies that might be interested in moving to Montgomery County.

In March, council members expressed concern over poor employment statistics showing employment declines in 11 private-sector jobs categories in Montgomery County and a separate report from a regional economic studies institute said 4,700 jobs were created in Montgomery and Frederick counties during fiscal 2018, less than half the amount projected. The report also noted Northern Virginia’s economic activity was outpacing Montgomery’s.

At the March meeting, council member Hans Riemer told Petr, “We need to know your metrics and hold you accountable for your metrics.”

The comments came as Petr was giving a presentation to the council after a business recruitment mission to the annual South by Southwest festival. Petr said in an interview that he made contact with 40 companies during the weeklong conference, of which a few said they were considering settling in Montgomery County in the next 18 months. Petr declined to name the companies, but said they were in the technology industry.

Last week, in a separate council committee workshop,  it was revealed that the county’s three tax-subsidized small business incubators were losing $1 million a year. At the workshop, an incubator program manager said, “Recently the program was described as lame, and it’s gotten to be lame and stagnant. It needs focus, and these companies need to be encouraged to graduate.”

While the economic development nonprofit does not manage the incubators, the centers have in past years been seen as valuable tools in fostering emerging companies.

The Monday announcement said Petr plans to leave in September.

This story has been revised to reflect the management of the county’s business incubator program is not under the auspices of the MCEDC.