NAME: ELLEN KROHNE
Job: Executive Director, Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois (692-9745)
Outlook: "Encouraged for Southwestern Illinois growth."
Earlier this year, Ellen Krohne was named the fifth executive director of Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, a member-based economic development organization that serves St. Clair and Madison counties, in the council's 29-year history. The lifelong Southern Illinois resident recently talked with business writer Will Buss about her job:
What led you to the Leadership Council?
"I worked with the Leadership Council years ago with Illinois Power when I was the district manager in Wood River for Illinois Power. My experience working with Leadership Council was it was a really strong organization that helped to grow the economy in the Southwestern Illinois region. I felt like it was a good match for my skills and a good way for me to work in the community and give back to the place where I grew up."
What is your background?
A: "I spent 27 years at Illinois Power. I started as a union customer service representative. I was an IBEW member for seven years and I went back to school and got my degree and went on to be a manager with Illinois Power in lots of different operational roles. I worked in the economic development, labor relations and marketing groups. I was named vice president of customer service and later vice president and business development and strategy. In 2003 I changed careers to consulting, and went to work for Capgemini. They are a global consulting company based in Paris, France. I worked mostly in the energy industry and in other industries as well with companies making strategic changes. I enjoyed consulting for the last nine years, and had the opportunity to work in companies across the U.S. and travel a lot."
How long have you been on the job?
"I began on July 16."
What have you learned about your new job so far?
"I've come to realize that the Southwestern Illinois area has assets that I didn't know about, even though I've lived here for most of my life. I grew up in St. Libory, but I didn't realize some of the wonderful strengths we have. I realized we have great multimodal logistics capabilities, including America's Central Port, four major railroads, three airports and with the addition of I-255 a very well connected interstate system. I have faith in our work force and their strong work ethic and knew that our available property at affordable prices is attractive to industries. The multimodal capabilities will allow us to move forward in growing the transportation/distribution sector, such as the growth that has already occurred at Gateway Commerce Center, MidAmerica Airport and along the river in Sauget. That was a good surprise. I've also learned more than I ever thought I'd know about the levees, as the Leadership Council administers the Levee Issues Alliance that serves as a watchdog group to aid in seeing the American Bottom levee project to completion."
What is the metro-east region's economic future?
"Like all regions, the downturn in the economy is still negatively affecting us. I believe St. Clair and Madison County have a strong potential for economic growth in the years ahead, primarily through retaining our existing businesses, especially manufacturing jobs, and ensuring our largest employer, Scott Air Force Base, is strong. Another primary focus is to work on marketing our region for that transportation distribution industry growth. The Leadership Council's role is to unite the region for economic growth and I'm encouraged that we can succeed in the years ahead."
What have you enjoyed most about your new post?
A: "I have to say it is the people. My first months have been focused on meeting the region's leaders, in Southwestern Illinois and the St. Louis region, understanding the Leadership Council and its 30 year history, and understanding the organizations that are involved in economic growth. I'm encouraged with the dedicated, knowledgeable leaders that I've met. Also, the Leadership Council board members are fabulous. We have a very small staff in the Leadership Council, just me and the Office Manager, Kathy Long, but we have 150 members that are willing to roll up their sleeves to get things done. That makes all of the difference."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.