Kathy Goon, former executive director of Ashland Area Economic Development, speaks at an economic forecast breakfast in March. 

ASHLAND - After nearly seven years leading local economic development office, Kathy Goon is stepping down from her post as executive director of Ashland Area Economic Development. 

During a meeting Monday with two members of AAED's board of directors, Goon offered her resignation effective immediately, according to board president and Ashland mayor Matt Miller.   

"We met with Kathy and at that time she informed us that she was interested in resigning... She informed us on Monday that she was going to move on and look for other professional opportunities here in the community," Miller said. 

In a press release, Miller praised Goon's accomplishments.

"We are so thankful for everything Kathy has done to help grow our community and assist our area businesses during her time with AAED," he said. "Not only did she help professionalize our economic development organization, but she was truly a loyal and tireless advocate for our local businesses and prospective businesses that were looking to come to our area."

Goon said though her decision was a tough one because she has enjoyed working with business owners to fulfill AAED's mission to "Grow Ashland," she decided to leave on what she felt was a high note. 

"Last year we had projects that had been in the works for three or four years finally coming to fruition," Goon said. "With last year being such a great high and with the boom that we were seeing in Ashland, I think that would be hard to top."

Goon said her office tracked $80 million in investments in the Ashland area in 2018, up from $600,000 in her first year with the office in 2013. The Ashland area also made Site Selection Magazine's Top Micropolitans List as the No. 5 micropolitan in the United States in 2018. 

Goon started with the economic development office in December 2012, when the entity was a partnership between the city and county governments and Mohican Area Growth Foundation.

Under Goon's leadership, the entity rebranded as a non-profit organization in 2017. The shift from a public to a private entity was designed to protect the confidentiality of the office's interactions with businesses and to allow for tax-deductible donations.

Goon said her proudest accomplishment in her tenure at AAED came when the medical laundry company COMTEX chose Ashland for its second location. Securing the $21 million project required hard work and creative thinking, Goon said. 

After a busy 2018, Goon said her office has seen a slower pace in 2019. She described the current situation as a plateau-- not necessarily for Ashland but for her own role at AAED,  

"When I say plateau, it's more a plateau of what I think I can do and what the community needs," Goon said. "I definitely know the two affordable housing projects are moving forward and mayor Miller's plans for the Pump House District are moving forward. But I feel like in the things I'm directly related to, things have slowed down a little bit as far as business attraction and leads."

Goon does not have a job lined up but hopes to remain in Ashland County and use her skills to help a local business grow. 

AAED recently relocated to a new office on Westlake Drive and hired project manager Cameo Bahr and office manager Katie Kissel following the resignation of previous project manager Erin Collins. 

Miller said all the changes will provide an opportunity for the AAED board to reexamine its structure, staffing and goals. 

"We do not have any particular changes in mind at this time, but this is an opportunity to reevaluate the organization," Miller said. "Now is a good time for us to talk to all of our partners-- the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce, our investors, the businesses that support the organization and Mohican Area Growth Foundation-- to figure out how we move forward."

Miller said he does expect the board will fill the executive director position in the near future. 

"As we fill the executive director position for AAED we will be able to be very specific about what their role is, what types of projects they should focus on and the importance of them working with all the entities involved in community development," Miller said. 

The new director's role will certainly include business attraction, retention and expansion efforts but could also include new focuses such as workforce development, Miller said. 

Regardless of the direction AAED takes, Miller said he believes the organization is in a good place moving forward. 

Goon agreed. 

"I'm confident that economic development is in good footing in town and that it will flourish for years to come," she said. 

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