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Published August 28 2010

Vigesaa finalist for president of EDC

Friday morning, Claire Vigesaa, interim president of the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corp., interviewed for his own job.

Next week, he’ll join two other finalists for the chance to seal the deal and become the permanent economic development president.

After a two-hour interview and deliberation session that started at 6:45 a.m. Friday, the committee responsible for picking the organization’s next president voted unanimously to name Vigesaa a finalist.

He joins two contenders: Michael Dalby, president of an economic development group in Indiana, and Kevin McKinnon, an executive in the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

Those finalists were chosen two weeks ago. Vigesaa, who has been the group’s interim president since May, asked to be considered a few days later. All three finalists will interview again next week, and the committee plans to make a decision in the next two weeks.

“I’m very excited,” he said Friday. “There’s tremendous opportunity in this community.”

When the search committee weighed whether to interview Vigesaa earlier in the week, some members were concerned that bringing an insider candidate into the mix would scare off the other finalists.

But Todd Jorgenson, the Florida-based consultant conducting the search process, said both McKinnon and Dalby were comfortable with the move.

“They just want the process to be fair and balanced,” he said. “They’re not going to bail out.”

Vigesaa’s experience in economic development remains the biggest question surrounding his candidacy. He has spent most of his career with energy companies. Prior to his current position, his most direct experience in economic development was as the head of the development organization in Carrington, N.D., a town of about 3,000.

Both McKinnon and Dalby have experience in development organizations with much larger footprints and budgets. In his interview, Vigesaa acknowledged he has some catching up to do. He said he’d pursue professional development and coursework if selected to get up to speed.

Jorgenson said Vigesaa would face “a learning curve” if selected. But, he said the same was true of the other candidates, who would need to familiarize themselves with a community that Vigesaa already knows well.

Until last week, Vigesaa was a vice president at Cass County Electric Cooperative. He has since resigned.

Vigesaa declined to discuss the specific factors behind his decision to leave the cooperative, but said he had become increasingly passionate about his work at the GFMEDC.

“This is too exciting to leave behind,” he said.

He said he has another job offer at a company in Denver, but the president position is his first choice.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502