By Colin Patrick Brady
“Our business is to build business,” says Paul Ellis, who assumed the post of president of the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation in August.
Ellis was born on the West Coast and spent many of his formative years in the Seattle-Tacoma region, where he found work as a certified economic director. “I worked very hard in a regional chamber of commerce with my fingers in many different pies across the Northwest.”
According to Ellis, there are around 1,100 professionals across the nation certified as economic developers, but he is among only 48 of those who also hold certification as urban planners.
Eight years ago, Ellis first moved to Illinois for a position in city government for Columbia, Illinois (not Missouri – a distinction he is forced to frequently reiterate). He relocated to Jacksonville over the summer for his new position with the Jacksonville EDC which he describes as an ideal fit for his interests and experience. “My jobs overseeing agencies both large and small have dealt with heading up economic development,” he says, adding that landing in Jacksonville was not a matter of chance. “I looked around the state for robust EDCs and found that Jacksonville was considered to have a good reputation as a model and well-run EDC.” He applied for the position, was interviewed, and soon replaced the retiring president, Terry Dennison.
Ellis describes the Jacksonville Regional EDC as a nonprofit corporation funded in part by both public and private funds. While Jacksonville as an entity puts in a majority of the funds, a considerable amount of money is contributed by companies both large and small.” Some of the EDC’s funding is guided by professional management agencies, and Ellis says a lot of what is requested is informed by predictions based on trends he personally observes.
Ellis’ mantra, mentioned above, is “our business is to build business,” based on three principles he claims have yet to fail him: business attraction, business creation and business retention/expansion. “We have donors, and based upon what they see as the value, they may make a contribution quarterly or a pledge yearly.” He adds that the funding is allocated through and represented by a board of directors, and as president, he also acts as executive director.
Ellis and his wife have been married for 41 years, with three grown daughters, as
well as six grandchildren and another grandchild on the way. He can be contacted via the website, www.jredc.org or by phone at 217-479-4627.