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Longtime County Commissioner Kathay Rennels to join CSU as director of economic development

December 14, 2009

Kathay Rennels, three-term Larimer County Commissioner and longtime public workforce development leader in Colorado, has been named director of economic development at Colorado State University.

Renewed efforts in economic development

Kathay Rennels has been named Director of Economic Development at CSU.

Rennels is term-limited as County Commissioner, which provides CSU a unique opportunity to use her statewide experience and connections in her new role.

Starting Jan. 11, she will lead CSU’s renewed efforts in outreach and engagement in economic development.

Rennels brings her experience fostering public and private partnerships in regional and workforce development, giving particular attention to Larimer and Weld Counties and all of rural Colorado.

Collaboration across Colorado

Rennels will work in the Office of Outreach and Strategic Partnerships with CSU Extension, and Continuing Education.

Lou Swanson, vice provost for Outreach and Strategic Partnerships, said CSU’s economic development has been restructured to more effectively focus on working with state economic development agencies, county commissioners and mayors, businesses, and regional groups. Rennels will advance collaborative and productive networks across the state – not just along the Front Range – to create economic development opportunities.

Economic needs of rural Colo. demand action

“Kathay is well-connected with the elected officials and the business community across the state, not just in Larimer County, which makes this a perfect fit,” said President Tony Frank. “She will be instrumental in working closely with the state’s rural communities to promote statewide economic health and job creation.”

Frank acknowledged that this position is being added at a time when his primary emphasis has been on reducing administrative expenses, but he said the economic needs of rural Colorado demand action.

Critical component of CSU's outreach mission

“While we’re certainly sensitive to adding any new administrative positions right now, we believe Kathay can play a critical outreach role at a time when rural Colorado is facing serious economic challenges,” Frank said. “This is an obligation we have as the state’s land-grant university, and we believe she will provide strong leadership in support of CSU and all Colorado communities.”

Rural economic development is a critical component of CSU’s outreach mission -- a point reinforced on outreach visits this past summer and fall when the president and chancellor met with rural community leaders around the state.

Position funded without new resources

This position is funded without any new resources because of a previous reconfiguration of economic development responsibilities on campus. The university closed the Office of Economic Development last year both to streamline operations and focus more directly on working with state economic-development agencies, county commissioners, and regional groups.

Rennels' position is funded with a portion of the cost savings from that reorganization -- combining two open staff positions from the old Office of Economic Development as well as salary savings from eliminating the Associate Vice President for Economic Development -- and she will work in the Office of Outreach and Strategic Partnerships, reporting directly to Vice Provost Lou Swanson.

Lifelong rancher, small business owner

A lifelong rancher and small business owner, Rennels has been particularly active as a representative of rural communities, largely through her work with the county and Colorado Counties Inc. She recently finished her term as president of Colorado Counties Inc., where she has also been active in such committees as the Tax and Finance Committee and the Ag, Wildlife and Rural Affairs Committee.

“Kathay’s strong leadership in metropolitan Larimer County coupled with her vast knowledge of rural communities across Colorado and her previous experience as a small business owner make her an ideal advocate for Colorado State University’s role in economic development,” Swanson said. “Everything in her career has led to this point.”

Expand and create new strategic partnerships

Rennels will expand existing strategic partnerships as well as create new opportunities for CSU to add value to existing economic development programs and organizations. Rennels will bring her knowledge of private-sector job creation and she will be a voice for local public-sector opportunities and needs in fostering conditions favorable for job creation, Swanson said.

“This feels like a natural progression of my years in office,” Rennels said. “It will allow me to use all of the tools and skills that I have acquired. I will continue to help bring together local government, the University and the State in order to maximize the knowledge and passion they all have for the citizens of Larimer County, Northern Colorado and the State of Colorado. Local government is the key to delivering services, growing economies and serving citizens. The University is one of the best assets we have and I look forward to improving and maximizing our partnerships.”

Getting cutting-edge knowledge to communities

“The creation, transmission and application of knowledge is a necessary foundation for the state’s economic prosperity, and who better to facilitate that discussion than the state’s only land-grant institution,” Swanson said. “Kathay will help bring the right people together at the table to ensure that CSU is doing what it can to get the cutting-edge knowledge at the university to the communities that need it to build their workforces.”

Rennels was elected Larimer County Commissioner in 1998 and re-elected in 2002 and 2006. She was named chair of the Board of County Commissioners for 2001 and 2004. In 1999, she was named CCI Freshman County Commissioner of the Year.

Rennels currently serves as a member of the National Organization of Counties Tax and Finance Intergovernmental Committee and as a member of the Governor-appointed State Emergency Technical Advisory Committee. She has served as chair of such organizations as Funding Partners Housing Solutions and Larimer County United Way and president of the Women’s Small Business Administration and the Larimer County Cattlewomen’s Association.

She and her husband, Darrell, have four children and five grandchildren.

Contact: Brad Bohlander
Phone: (970) 491-1545