February 26, 2013

FirstPark hires former military man as executive director

FirstPark's new executive director has what it takes to bring new businesses to the technology park

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling mhhetling@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

OAKLAND — A former military man with an economic development background has been hired as the new executive director of FirstPark, a business park that is supported by 24 area communities.

FirstPark member municipalities

Anson, Benton, Canaan, China, Clinton, Cornville, Fairfield, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Hartland, Manchester, Norridgewock, Oakland, Palmyra, Pittsfield, Readfield, Rome, St. Albans, Sidney, Smithfield, Solon, Starks, Waterville and Winslow.

Brad Jackson’s work included rebuilding projects in Iraq and Afghanistan as a civilian and for the U.S. Army during his 20-year career, according to FirstPark President Craig Nelson.

Nelson said Jackson was hired by the park’s executive committee last week, but a start date has not yet been set. Jackson will visit the area from his home state, New York, on Thursday.

The executive director position for the 285-acre park has been open since November, when Diana Rafuse left after three years. Since then, committees made up of volunteers from the member communities have conducted the park’s daily business, including the candidate search.

Nelson said Jackson helped to transform Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, N.Y., into the 3,500-acre Griffiss Business and Technology Park.

He said there were many applicants for the FirstPark position, but that the committee chose two finalists with the strongest economic development backgrounds.

“We wanted to focus on selling lots and getting businesses in here, being aggressive,” Nelson said.
Jackson, a retired lieutenant colonel, earned degrees from Assumption College and Troy University, according to Nelson. He said Jackson is married and has two grown children, both of whom are graduate students.

One of the accomplishments that made Jackson stand out, Nelson said, was his seven years as the executive director of the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency in upstate New York. While there, he helped to attract an 86-tower, $275 million wind farm and a natural gas pipeline to the area.

John Tubbs, chief executive officer at the agency, said he had confidence that a “highly energetic” Jackson would do well in the position.

“If he’s coming into a technology park or situation that needs to be developed, he’s someone who’s creative, brilliant, and likes to figure out how to make a deal,” Tubbs said.

Tubbs said Jackson was good at motivating people and forging relationships.

“He’s a collaborator,” he said. “He’ll find a way to bring people to the table.”

Jackson was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

In 2000, FirstPark was created by member communities to promote regional economic development in the area. T-Mobile is the largest employer at the park, where the total workforce is about 1,000 employees; the park’s leadership has a stated goal of seeing the workforce grow to 3,000.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
mhhetling@centralmaine.com

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