EATON — The Preble County Development Partnership announced last week the upcoming retirement of current director, Brenda Latanza, and the hiring of a new director to take on the role.
Latanza’s retirement is effective July 1. She has led Preble County’s development efforts including retention and expansion of existing businesses, business recruitment, workforce development, regional and national marketing, and community development activities since February 2015.
Among her achievements, Latanza has assisted with expansions at Henny Penny, Pratt Industries, Neaton, Cargill, TimkenSteel, and many others. Recently, Latanza led efforts to land the $390 million Royal Canin pet nutrition manufacturing facility in Lewisburg. With a focus on providing service to existing employers, Preble County has seen significant capital investment and an increase in job creation during her tenure, according to PCDP officials.
“Latanza worked closely with the Ohio Department of Development and Henny Penny on a project that ultimately created a $500,000 County Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) in addition to seeing an increase in the Partnership’s RLF of up to $200,000 available to Preble County companies. During her time with the PCDP, Latanza lead two successful Investor Capital Campaigns, with one of those taking place during the 2020 pandemic,” the PCDP said in a release last week.
The release continued, “Recognizing the importance of workforce to the success of any business, Latanza and her team have brought innovative, leading-edge solutions to Preble County businesses. Preble County has achieved recognition as an ACT Work Ready Community, the first county in Ohio to reach such designation. Work Ready status allows a community to showcase the skill sets of its workforce through a nationally recognized credentialing process. As a result of these efforts, Preble County received Ohio’s Workplace Success Award and was one of four semi-finalists for the National Workplace Success Award.
“In an effort to engage a broader range of potential applicants, Latanza led the launch of PrebleCountyCareers.com. This website allows employers to showcase job opportunities exclusive to Preble County. The site provides resources to job seekers for career planning and resume assistance.
“Additionally, through the PCDP’s workforce development committee, Latanza has worked to engage employers, local school districts and higher education providers to expose Preble County youth to career opportunities available right here in the county. Latanza’s efforts have impacted many employers and youth by providing support for Manufacturing Days tours, internships, scholarships, certifications, and career exploration.”
PCDP officials noted in the release, “But most of all, Latanza has led through her kindness and caring for the people of Preble County. Her unrelenting drive to do what is right and what is good has benefitted all of us. Brenda is respected as a leader and economic development professional, but more importantly, as a friend.”
“The PCDP has grown and evolved with the leadership provided by Director, Brenda Latanza. Her unique skill set has expanded the opportunities for Preble County employers and residents. Brenda’s accomplishments include a greater involvement of the Preble County employers and a stronger connection with the leadership of Preble County schools and higher education partners,” PCDP Trustee Amy Leedy said. “She successfully provided inclusion in the PDCP of local government and the county agricultural community. Brenda’s ability to be transparent and inclusive while maintaining confidentiality with businesses has resulted in retaining employers and attracting new employers to the county. As a lifelong Preble resident and MVCTC representative, it has been gratifying to be a part of the Partnership under Brenda’s guidance. Brenda’s unassuming style has helped others recognize Preble as a unique place to live and work.”
“I have surely been blessed in my position as the PCDP’s Director of Economic Development with incredible Partnership investors and teams in business development, workforce development, marketing, and colleagues across the county,” Latanza said. “The PCDP Board of Trustees is made up of key players across the county and region with a collaborative spirit who have each been extremely supportive with a genuine desire to be engaged in the success and growth of Preble County. This is what makes it easy to love what I do, where I work and certainly makes it more difficult to retire. Thank you all!”
“I do, however, look forward to spending more time with my now retired husband and our family (which includes 11 wonderful grandchildren,)” she added. “I have a lot to catch up on at home! Thank you all for opening your arms to me, including me in your boards, committees, projects, successes, and being such an amazing county to work for — and with — these last 7 1/2 years.”
At its board of trustees meeting on Tuesday, May 24, the Preble County Development Partnership approved the hiring of Justin Sommer as the next director of the organization.
Sommer looks forward to building off the success of Latanza and the Partnership team.
According to the release, Sommer has over 15 years of experience in development, serving in roles at both the state and local level, as well as in private development. He has served on the Preble County Development Partnership board for the past two years and also currently serves on the Edison State Community College Foundation Board of Directors.
Sommer is a past president of the Ohio Economic Development Association. He has been employed as the Vice President of Business Development for Bruns General Contracting for the past four years.
Prior to joining Bruns, Sommer served in economic and workforce development roles for the City of Piqua, Miami (Ohio) County Department of Development and the Ohio Department of Development. Sommer served as Executive Director of Grow Piqua Now, a public/private economic development organization, during his time in Piqua.
Sommer is a graduate of Miami University, with a bachelor’s degree in business. He has also completed the Graduate Academy of Community Leadership at Edison State and the Midwest Leadership Institute at Northern Illinois University.
“I am humbled by the confidence the Preble County Development Partnership board has in me to lead the organization as Executive Director,” Sommer said. “Brenda and the Partnership team have achieved incredible success for Preble County. I am excited to carry out the mission and vision of board by improving opportunities for our citizens and businesses.”
“It has been and honor and privilege to work alongside Brenda for the past 7 years,” Jeff Sewert, Vice Chairperson of the Preble County Development Partnership, and part of the search committee which oversaw Latanza’s hiring, said. “She has performed beyond expectations and has redefined economic development to make for a better Preble County, while placing the county on the map as it relates to workforce development, business creation, and retention efforts, but most importantly following the mission statement of the Preble County Development Partnership.”
“With the hiring of Justin Sommer, Preble County will not skip a beat in moving economic development initiatives forward. I have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Sommer in the past, and he brings a strong work ethic, professionalism, and passion for economic development, and the Preble County Development Partnership is so fortunate to have him as the next Economic Development Director for Preble County,” said Sewert.
The Preble County Development Partnership Inc. was formed to address important growth and development issues and to assist in the creation of jobs and opportunities for everyone in Preble County. The PCDP is dedicated to making sure all local economic growth promotes the quality of life and opportunities for our Preble County communities.
“We encourage positive economic activity which will enhance our infrastructure and the value we place on living in a clean and beautiful county,” PCDP officials said in the release.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.