Paul Jadin

Paul Jadin is planning to leave as head of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to serve as president of Thrive.

One of Gov. Scott Walker's Cabinet members is resigning to lead a regional economic development agency in south-central Wisconsin.

Paul Jadin, secretary of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., was named Thursday as president of Thrive, which serves an eight-county region around Madison.

Jadin, a former mayor of Green Bay, has been with the WEDC since early 2011 and will begin his new job, based in Madison, in November. He informed the WEDC board Thursday morning during a board meeting at the Ariens Co. in Brillion.

As head of Thrive, Jadin will succeed Jennifer Alexander, president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, who is retiring at the end of the year. She has been Thrive's president since its inception in 2007. Both organizations will now have new separate leaders, a decision that was made jointly by the boards of each group.

"The economic development issue requires some major focus," said Mark Cullen, chairman of the Thrive board and chairman of J.P. Cullen & Sons in Janesville. "It's a big step for the organization."

Cullen said the Thrive board conducted a national search but asked Jadin to apply for the position because of his experience in economic development, knowledge of the region and his background in politics.

"When we interviewed him, he just really did an excellent job of talking about the attributes we have in this region, yet felt challenged to take it even to another level," Cullen said.

The announcement of Jadin's departure comes two months after Walker shook up the WEDC staff in the wake of bidding process problems. Walker rearranged or replaced several of the top leaders of the WEDC but kept Jadin in place.

Jadin was appointed in late 2010 to be secretary of the Department of Commerce. That agency, which combined economic development with a host of regulatory duties, was replaced in July 2011 with the WEDC, allowing the new agency more flexibility to hire and respond to requests without having to handle regulatory matters.

Walker praised Jadin for helping to build "a strong foundation" for the WEDC.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and a member of the WEDC board, said Jadin brought "a bipartisan, professional perspective to his post," but that Jadin "faced a tough transition following the Republican Legislature's hasty decision to create WEDC without first having a business plan."

A search committee from the WEDC board has been formed and will conduct a national search for Jadin's replacement, said Tom Thieding, WEDC spokesman.

Jadin served as mayor of Green Bay from 1995 to 2003 before serving as president and CEO of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. He also played a founding role in the creation of The New North, a regional economic development organization for an 18-county region in northeastern Wisconsin. As head of the WEDC, Jadin oversaw a staff of 82 and a budget of $93 million.

"Paul Jadin will bring a wealth of experience to the job at Thrive," said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. "He knows how to relate to business and to local government and what's important in economic development."

Jadin, while leading the WEDC, has also been active with Thrive. As a member of Thrive's strategy committee, Jadin helped develop Advance Now, a strategy for economic growth that launched in April.

Jadin, who was on his way to Dallas Thursday for a meeting with Chinese investors, said he's excited about the opportunity to work on targeting international businesses and working with entrepreneurs. Jadin said the decision to leave the WEDC was "easily the most difficult career decision" of his life.

"Very early on I wasn't at all interested," Jadin said. "There's no way I would have left (the WEDC) if I didn't feel comfortable that the structure that we promised wasn't in place."

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