GFDC director earns national recognition

11 Nov 2014


By Fremont Tribune

The executive director of the Greater Fremont Development Council is part of a six-person team that recently was recognized nationally for leadership and innovation.

Cecilia Harry and five other economic developers from across the country received the Economic Development Leadership and Innovation Award at a ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas in October.

The award was presented by GIS Planning Inc. of San Francisco in partnership with fDi intelligence, a division of the Financial Times in London.

“I was incredibly humbled,” Harry said. “I was very pleased to be recognized, but it wasn’t until the actual awards ceremony and I saw who else was being recognized that I realized what a special honor it was. Several folks that received individual awards have contributed tremendously to this profession over the last 30 years. They are people that I aspire to be and that I look up to and that I see as mentors who have done amazing things for their communities and for the field. To be recognized in the same awards ceremony as them was very humbling. It made me realize the importance of the recognition.

“It was a team award,” she explained. “The selection committee was a group of my peers, some very seasoned and well-respected economic professionals that have been in the field for decades.”

The award recognized a five-year collaborative effort in which Harry and her team established programming designed to engage young professionals. Harry was made chair of the committee a year ago, and tasked with producing actionable items within six months that could be implemented over the following year.

“It started with some of my peers identifying that there was a need to reach out and engage better with the young professionals in the economic development field,” she said. “That grew into another set of professionals deciding to recognize the up and coming young professionals in the field through a ‘40 Under 40’ effort. And then it kind of culminated with my effort this year to lead a task force under the International Economic Development Council to determine updated programming.

“We worked really hard to develop new outreach and programming designed to better meet the needs and engage economic development professionals who were either students or that were identified as young professionals.

“As a group, we surveyed young professionals and came up with programming to address what young professionals told us their biggest needs were, which were mentoring opportunities and more professional development opportunities through workshops and things like that,” she said.

“The committee that decided to grant the awards took a look at that whole group of us, and as a team, passing it off from person to person, what we had been able to do over the last five years or so,” she said.

Harry became the GFDC director in August 2013 after previously serving as the economic development coordinator for the Leavenworth County Development Corporation in Leavenworth, Kan.

“Specifically, I am still identified as a young professional in the field,” she said, “so a lot of the programming that we’ve developed will come to Fremont through my continued professional development, and my ability to have mentors who are more seasoned in the field to help me see different angles of different situations. Any opportunity I have to sharpen my leadership skills is going to easily translate to my ability to lead economic development initiatives for the community through GFDC.”

Award judges ranked candidates based on the importance of their work to the profession, and then had a lengthy meeting to discuss the merits of each candidate.

“These recipients have raised the bar for all economic development professionals,” said Anatalio Ubalde, CEO and co-founder of GIS Planning Inc. “They challenge us to be more creative, more courageous and more broad-thinking in our approaches to investment attraction, job creation and business retention.”