The Sanford Area Growth Alliance is pleased to announce the hiring of John Cotton Dean as our economic development manager.

In this new role, John will manage all aspects of our business recruitment projects. This includes site identification, RFI responses, client and local government presentations and post-recruitment support. He will also assist with our business retention and expansion and workforce development efforts.

I want to take this opportunity for you to get to know John a little better. I have enjoyed some nice conversations and emails exchanges with him, and here you can find his answers to some of the questions I posed.

How did you get interested in working in economic development?

John: My interest in economic development stems from my passion for helping communities and businesses thrive. Whether it is helping farmers find new markets, assisting manufacturers in training an efficient workforce, or identifying new industry opportunities for rural communities, I enjoy the diversity of projects that all work towards the same goal of building stronger economies. Each of my career choices has been community-focused, so economic development became the natural path that I found myself on.

What has been your favorite economic development project?

John: My favorite aspect of economic development is the diversity of projects that I work on each day. Looking back to my work in central Louisiana, I appreciated the opportunity to have my hands in so many projects at the same time. A passion of mine is outdoor recreation, so having the opportunity to lay the groundwork for the region’s first outdoor recreation economy initiative is something I will always cherish. The groundwork for this initiative included designing and implementing an outdoor recreation community leadership program, presenting an outdoor economy white paper presented to the governor’s COVID recovery taskforce, helping to lead an assessment of the outdoor economy opportunities for the region, and developing a marketing plan. The best part? All of this groundwork occurred while I continued managing the region’s business retention and expansion program and led other more traditional economic development efforts.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

John: In my view, there is nothing better than trying something new. Whether moving to a new community, trying a new sport, or experiencing a different culture, I am always up for a unique challenge. I have always participated in competitive sports, and my most recent competitive interest is gravel bike racing. I am excited to meet other bikers who love gravel roads, and I know that there are plenty around here!

What are your goals for your first six months working for SAGA?

John: My primary goal in my first six months working for SAGA is to take the time to listen to community and industry leaders, the residents of Lee County, and my SAGA colleagues. This will help me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Prior to joining the SAGA team, John served as Executive Director of Regional Innovation for Louisiana Central, where he collaborated with many partners to increase economic prosperity across a ten-parish region in central Louisiana.

John’s diverse experience in rural economic development and immersion in a collaborative regional public-private partnership make him an excellent fit for our organization, as well as for the communities of Sanford, Broadway and Lee County.