"Building Economic Success Together" was the theme of the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation annual meeting and dinner held Wednesday at the Mahoning Valley Country Club

Following the dinner, Ron Tirpak, board president, provided an historical overview of the activities of the CCEDC and discussed where the organization needs to go in the future.

Tirpak is an engineer and businessman, is president of Carbon Engineering Inc. in Summit Hill. He said the organization needs to privatize to be eligible to lend state funds to businesses and to attract private investment.

"We're becoming ineffective as we are," said Tirpak.

Dawn Ferrante is executive director of CCEDC, which is dedicated to supporting local businesses, attracting new business, and developing entrepreneurs in Carbon County.

Ferrante noted why the theme "Building Economic Success Together" was so important to everyone at the banquet and explained how that theme became the rally cry to form one economic/commerce organization in Carbon County.

"I will be inviting all of the eight economic development organizations in the county to come to a summit to develop a plan to grow businesses and economic development in the county," she said. "I think it's time for bold leadership. Let's move out of our comfort zone. What I am really asking is for everyone to get out of the comfort zone."

She said in the past that the corporation focused on existing businesses, new businesses and business attraction. In 2012 the goal is to seek consolidation of economic development into one private organization and to continue to develop programs to support entrepreneurs.

Ferrante noted that this year she participated in the first true attraction effort with a German manufacturing firm. While that bid was not successful, she gained much insight into the process and now believes that the county should focus more on small business development.

Agencies that Ferrante hopes will attend the summit include the Small Business Administration, Carbon County CareerLink, Lehigh Carbon Community College, Lehigh Valley SCORE, the Small Business Development Center at Wilkes University, the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce, and the Carbon County Career and Technical Institute Adult Education.

Keynote speaker Donald Jakeway, president and CEO of Brooks Development Authority, shared insights on the importance of mentoring new business owners. BDA is one of the unique public/private economic development agencies in the United States. Through an unprecedented partnership between the City of San Antonio and the United States Air Force, the former Brooks Air Force Base is being redeveloped into a world-class research and technology center.

BDA was recently awarded the coveted "AEDO" – Accredited Economic Development Organization designation by the International Economic Development Council.

Jakeway previously led the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), the $100 million public/private economic development agency for the state of Michigan. He also served as director of the Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) for seven years. This $1.5 billion agency was named one of the 'top ten agencies inn the world' for two straight years by Site Selection Magazine.

Jakeway currently serves on the board of directors of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and was recently awarded the 'Lifetime Leadership Award' for public service. He also serves on the board of directors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Jakeway, who has been mentoring Ferrante, favors assigning a coach to help small businesses succeed. He said that a coach would meet with a small-business owner for an hour once a week.

"Of the 100 businesses who have entered into this mentoring program, I've seen almost 300 jobs created and sales rose," said Jakeway. "These are good jobs, 5K jobs. It makes perfect sense for business owners to get involved. The key aspect is growing sales and creating wealth for business owners and then offer support so the owners stay in this sweet spot."

Before the dinner, new board member Marshall Walter was elected and Vic Jahelka, Pat Reilly, Kyle Whittaker and Michael Harleman were re-elected to the board.

Also recognized by Tirpak were the families of two former board directors, attorney Bill Bayer and Wilbur Person, who passed away in the past year. Bayer was a board member for 27 years and Person was also a long- time board member.