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A look back on development

Community: Founding member of important SCV business program reflects on impact, from retirement

Posted: January 8, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: January 8, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Bill Kennedy, a former member of several influential business organizations, stands in Valencia.

 


Like the fighter pilot that he once was, Bill Kennedy flew into and out of Santa Clarita having an impact on the business community in the years he was here.

After fully immersing himself in the local business community and serving as one of its biggest advocates, Kennedy left for Ft. Collins, Colo., with his wife, Cathy, at the end of December.

“The hallmark of a good leader is the type of organization they leave behind,” Kennedy said, referring to former chamber
President Charlie Gill in 2009, as Kennedy then accepted his role as incoming president of the organization.

Kennedy contributed to many efforts in the SCV. With the formation of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development
Corp. near the end of 2009, Kennedy proved his leadership skills in effectively organizing and selling the community on the benefits of having a local organization devoted to the retention and growth of businesses as a means of stimulating economic activity, officials said.

Leadership

Kennedy most recently served as the co-chairman of the newly formed SCVEDC.

He also worked with the SCV Chamber of Commerce and Valley Industry Association chairman of the board of directors in two separate stints, city of Santa Clarita Planning Commission chairman, and member of the College of the Canyons Foundation Board, all while heading up Wingspan Business Consulting.

“Bill has a huge heart and a passion for making our community a better place,” said Jonas Peterson, president and CEO of the SCVEDC.

“During his tenure as co-chair of SCVEDC, he put in countless hours building many of the programs, services and relationships we have in place today,” Peterson said.

Business seed

In a 2008 discussion with City Councilman Bob Kellar, Kennedy said he had an idea for an organization that would focus on local economic development.

“Kellar jumped on the idea and I told him to take it to the City Council and I’d support it,” Kennedy said.

An informal group of people came together to plan for a local organization, including: Dianne Van Hook, chancellor of
College of the Canyons; Don Fleming, president of the SCV Auto Dealers Association and co-owner of Valencia Acura; Larry Mankin, former president and CEO of the SCV Chamber of Commerce; and Kellar.

The group conducted a feasibility study and later secured funding for the SCVEDC.

“The enthusiasm was extremely high at our very first meeting,” Kennedy said.

Firm in his belief that no fighter pilot ever accomplished anything on his own, Kennedy once said it was not just the pilot, but the whole team together that accomplished its mission.

Track record

“I’m really proud that we got it (the SCVEDC) up and running,” Kennedy said.

The SCVEDC has made major headway since it hired its first president in late June 2010, Kennedy said.

The organization expanded the Enterprise Zone valleywide, completed an industry target analysis, sponsored its first economic development conference, developed a business retention program and identified companies that would compliment — and benefit from — the area if they relocated their businesses to the SCV.

“Bill’s favorite line that I recall is to, ‘approach an obstacle or challenge with a laser-like focus,’” said Charlie Gill, former chairman of the SCV Chamber of Commerce and president of Integrated Property Services.

“That’s what Kennedy did when he created the chamber’s Advisory Committee, which laid the foundation for the formation of the Santa Clarita Economic Development Corp. and countless other challenges I have seen him work on,” Gill said.

“Bill Kennedy has always been one of my favorite guys here in the Santa Clarita Valley, due to his tremendous enthusiasm and commitment to serving the needs of the community,” said Ed Masterson, sales and marketing manager for SOS
Entertainment and former president and CEO of the SCV Chamber of Commerce.

However, Kennedy’s philosophy remains that the whole team made the SCVEDC come to fruition. Winners are not happy until they have found a way to overcome objections and obstacles, Masterson said.

Champions

“But we overcame every new obstacle we met. We knew we could do it,” Kennedy said.

As Kennedy was readying to relocate to Ft. Collins with Cathy just before the holidays, he shared two visions that he has for the SCV community.

“If we build a strong economy here, we can be an economic engine pulling in companies and talent from surrounding areas and provide jobs,” he said.

His second vision is for SCV to become a recognizable brand that draws people to the area naturally.

As a result of Kennedy’s efforts over the past decade on behalf of the local business community, he received a special certificate of appreciation as founder of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp. from the city of Santa Clarita at the Dec. 14 City Council meeting.

Kennedy is a true champion of SCV businesses, said Marlee Lauffer, senior vice president of marketing and communications with Newhall Land Development and member of the SCVEDC’s Marketing and Outreach Committee.

“With his vision, his leadership and his wit, he focused the chamber and established the EDC,” Lauffer said. “His positive involvement will be missed.”

If he has any regret, Kennedy said that while he’s proud of the full body of work he has done, he would like to have accomplished anything he’s done in life quicker.

While Kennedy and his wife may be leaving Santa Clarita, he said they are only leaving physically, not in spirit. He wants to take the strong sense of community that exists in Santa Clarita to Ft. Collins.

In the meantime, Kennedy said he is confident the business community that he helped build will continue to grow.

“We all appreciate his work and wish him the very best on his next adventure,” Peterson said.

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