A new CEO was named Monday to reboot the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
Two weeks after a state audit found the agency plagued by poor operation and management, the agency’s board of directors has hired as its new president and CEO Stephen Moret, the former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.
Moret, 44, served as Louisiana’s top economic developer from 2008 to early 2015, after which he led the Louisiana State University Foundation in Baton Rouge, his current position. Moret will succeed former VEDP CEO Martin Briley, who left the agency in the spring in the wake of a shattered Appomattox development deal exposed by The Roanoke Times.
In a recent report, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission wrote that the VEDP is “not an efficiently or effectively managed organization.” Unless reformed with coherent operational procedures and accountability measures, “VEDP risks wasting limited resources and failing to meet its statutory requirements,” the watchdog report said Nov. 14.
In charge of 10 grant programs, the agency distributed $384 million in grants during the past decade, including many projects that performed poorly, the commission found.
The report was the result of a head-to-toe examination requested by the General Assembly, which has budgeted $27 million in state funds for agency operations this fiscal year. The agency employs about 100 people.
The VEDP board shared in a prepared release its high expectations that Moret will enhance this state’s economic development program the way he did Louisiana’s, which garnered extensive national recognition under Moret. His selection as Virginia’s economic development chief “will help VEDP firmly re-establish itself as a national leader,” the board statement said.
Virginia officials applauded Moret for a custom employee recruitment program he built that’s free to Louisiana companies that create 15 manufacturing jobs or 50 service jobs. Business Facilities, a New Jersey-based online and print publication for business leaders, called the program, LED FastStart, “the gold standard for workforce training.”
Moret holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana State University, an MBA from Harvard Business School and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania, according to online autobiographical information. On his work resume are jobs in environmental consulting, higher education, public policy, management consulting and chamber leadership. He ran the Baton Rouge chamber of commerce for three years, the Louisiana economic development department for seven and LSU’s foundation.
During a speech in 2014 drawn from the arc of his career, Moret told an LSU audience that during undergraduate work there in the 1990s, he was inspired by a government reform commission to grapple with Louisiana’s then-underperforming economy. He named workforce training “the single most important factor” in state economic success in 2014 and argued for greater investments in sites and buildings and infrastructure in each region of the Louisiana.
“This is our time to make possibility a reality,” he said.