After months of helming the Washington County Economic Development Council, the organization’s board officially dropped the “interim” from the front of Mitch Miller’s CEO title Thursday, giving him the reins to drive the county’s future growth.
Miller has led the WCEDC since March, when he assumed the position previously held by Robert Reynolds, who resigned from his post stating a desire to be more involved with his family.
“It’s very exciting that it’s official now,” he said Friday. “We’re going to move on from that and focus on the big things like jobs and getting businesses to invest in the area.”
Miller previously served as the organization’s vice president.
When formed in 2009, the Development Council was tasked with coordinating the efforts of the major economic organizations in the area to create a single stop for businesses eyeing Washington County for relocation.
“I feel like we’re doing economic development differently that it’s been done in the past,” Miller said. “If you look at our history, all of the agencies used to try to promote economic development independently, and once the council came in we brought everything together. That’s when everything started to change.”
Miller said he hopes to continue to strengthen the ties between the organizations, and first on his list is completing a strategic plan mapping out future growth in Washington County and Johnson City.
“We’re thinking about the bigger picture as a community, and that’s an exciting change in our philosophy,” he said. “This strategic plan is something that has never been done here. We’re looking forward 15 years to what the area should be like and finding ways to accomplish those plans.”
During his tenure, Miller was instrumental in courting Asheville, N.C.-based restaurant Tupelo Honey Cafe and convincing the owners to move into the historic CC&O Railroad Depot.
He and the WCEDC’s other staff members, Shannon Castillo, Jeff Keeling and Tania Zeisler, have also worked diligently with city officials to undertake a massive downtown revitalization project this summer.
Miller said the organization will likely announce more major projects in the coming months, which will drive job creation and investment in the local economy.
“We’re at a great place right now where we’re all working together with key partners, from ETSU to Mountain States and the city and county governments,” he said. “To me, it’s very satisfying when good things happen and the community grows.”
Originally from Lincolnton, N.C., Miller holds bachelor’s degrees in both geography and community and regional planning from Appalachian State University. He served at the Lincoln Economic Development Association in Lincoln County, N.C., from 2006 to 2010 before relocating to his wife Courtney’s hometown of Jonesborough in April 2010 and finding employment with the Blountville-based Regional Alliance for Economic Development.
Miller became the WCEDC’s second employee in January 2011. He was promoted from business development director to executive vice president a year later.