2016 | News

County’s New Economic Development Chief Touts Talented Work Force

David Petr wants MCEDC to be 'business concierge'

New Montgomery County Economic Development Council CEO David Petr answers a question at a lunchtime meeting with the County Council.

Douglas Tallman

David Petr, who has been hired to guide economic development in Montgomery County, said the county has what it needs to compete against rival Fairfax County: a quality work force.

“The true benefit of doing business here is the quality of talent,” Petr said Tuesday after a meeting with the Montgomery County Council.

What about Montgomery County’s notoriously high taxes?

“It’s the cost of doing business with that quality of employee,” he said.

Petr, 44, is the president and CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp., which resulted from an initiative spearheaded by County Executive Ike Leggett and passed by the County Council last year. The corporation is a nonprofit, public-private partnership handling the county’s efforts to retain, expand, create and attract businesses. 

It takes over for the county’s Department of Economic Development and the Montgomery Business Development Corp. Both were dissolved with the creation the MCEDC, with much of the funding directed at the new nonprofit.

Council members invited Petr to a lunchtime meeting Tuesday to discuss the new agency and how it and the county can work together.

Only six days on the job, Petr arrived in Montgomery after serving as president and CEO at the Central Florida Development Council in Lakeland. There, he converted the council from a public-private partnership to a private organization, according to information supplied by the MCEDC. He achieved record-setting job creation and capital investment during his tenure.

With just four employees, the MCEDC is still deciding who has what role. Former County Council staffer Jacob Sesker still lacks a title, Sesker said. The MCEDC has an 11-member board of directors chaired by Bob Buchanan. The board includes top executives of major Montgomery enterprises including MedImmune, EagleBank, Montgomery College and Adventist Healthcare.

He said he expects the MCEDC to be good listeners when it comes to dealing with local businesses. “I want the organization to be a business concierge,” Petr said.

Petr said he would be a collaborator with the county and called himself a different kind of economic developer. With a background in marketing, he said he likes to find the essence of a brand and tell that story.

Petr said he wants MCEDC to closely align with the county’s tourism efforts.

“Anyone who lives here will start out as a visitor,” he said.

Petr said the organization would pursue “big leads,” but it would also focus on growing existing Montgomery businesses.

Council member Roger Berliner said some on the council believed helping local small businesses was part of their constituent services. Petr, asked if he saw a county role in helping those businesses, said his board of directors suggested he “keep it loose,” but he said they would find a balance between the roles of MCEDC and the county.