XENIA — As a Fairborn resident, Greene County’s new director of development feels a personal responsibility to give back to other citizens and business owners who call the county home.
County commissioners made Eric Henry’s promotion within the Greene County Department of Development permanent Aug. 6. Henry, who worked as the economic development coordinator for four years, now leads the department in what he calls his “dream job.”
“It’s a tremendous privilege and responsibility to take on this new role as director,” Henry said. “When I traveled around the world as first a military dependent, and then later as an active duty airman, Greene County was always the place I called home. Later, when I started a family of my own, I didn’t have to think twice about where I wanted to raise my son. Greene County is a great mix of rural mid-west and high-tech innovation; with one foot on the farm, and the other in space.”
Before working in the department, Henry was the attractions manager for The Air Force Museum Foundation for four years and a facilities/operations specialist at the museum for three years. He was also an aircraft environmental and electrical systems specialist for the Air Force, and serves as an air transportation specialist in the Air Force Reserves.
“I want to be value-added to not only my community, but to my staff and to the Board of Greene County Commissioners as well,” Henry said.
According to County Administrator Brandon Huddleson, the promotion was an easy decision.
“He did a great job in his former position as economic development coordinator and I know he is ready for the additional challenges that come with the new position,” Huddleson said, acknowledging his background and relationships with local partners. “ … he cares deeply about this county and its residents and he will serve them well.”
Henry replaces Paul Newman Jr., who took the position in August 2016.
Filling the role during the COVID-19 pandemic, the new director and his staff have been working to meet challenges head-on.
But Henry said those are nothing compared to what many Greene County families and small business owners are facing.
“My current challenge is their challenge, ‘How do we keep the lights on for Greene County businesses and residents?’” Henry said.
Looking past that phase of a” pandemic economy,” the ultimate challenge will be getting to a place where local businesses and employees’ salaries are growing, Henry explained.
On the first of the month, the department launched the CARES Grant for Greene County Small Business program. So far, it has approved a quarter of the available $500,000 for grants.
Commissioners approved an update to the program Aug. 27, moving the annual maximum gross income for applicants from the original $1 million cap to $5 million. The change will go into effect Tuesday, Sept. 1.
Beyond focusing on that program, Henry’s vision includes engaging more with local jurisdictions.
“The way I see it, sometimes the individual jurisdictions are like the quarterbacks on the field and our department can act as the offensive line, giving jurisdictions the space, time and resources to move the ball down the field and put some points on the board,” he said. “There will be other situations where our department and the county will take the lead, and coordinate joint strategic efforts.”
Another goal of his is to attract business development to the 140-acre, shovel-ready Greene Regional Business Park in Xenia. The county owns the piece of land, which sits across from the new Greene County Career Center. Henry said he’s seen some interest in the property, and hopes to be able to announce its first major business tenant soon.
But he knows, in the COVID-era, there are no guarantees.
“More than anything our department’s primary goal is to innovate and adapt to new situations so that we can continue to provide assistance to local businesses and residents,” Henry said.
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