Economic Development Director David Kooris will spend his final day on the city job next Friday as he segues to a position in state government managing a federally funded project addressing shoreline infrastructure improvements including Bridgeport. Who will replace him?
Mayor Joe Ganim is expected to start a search soon for a permanent replacement. One name circulating as a possible short-term replacement is Ed Lavernoich, the executive director of the quasi-public Bridgeport Economic Development Corporation. Lavernoich spent 25 years as a city development official including second in command until taking a job in 2012 as development chief in Trumbull. BEDCO has had a number of starts and stops the past decade. It was a job Bill Finch filled prior to becoming mayor in 2007. Kooris replaced Don Eversley, also a Finch hire, in the summer of 2012 just in time for Bass Pro Shops as the announced anchor tenant for the Steel Point redevelopment area of the East Side.
Eversley shifted over to BEDCO located at 10 Middle Street, also the headquarters of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, the city’s chamber arm. Finch, with the help of United Illuminating, funded Eversley’s $125,000 salary in efforts to revive the development authority Finch once headed himself. Eversley lasted less than a year in that role as it ran out of funds.
Last spring Lavernoich was hired to revive BEDCO with an initial focus on a development plan for Bridgeport’s Eco-Technology Park.
Lavernoich served in a number of development functions for the city on behalf of several mayors. Lavernoich is not a city pol. He’s your classic government professional highly regarded by ex-city mayors and development directors. He could step into the chief development role on a short-term basis with no learning curve.
As development chief for nearly four years, Kooris helped guide construction of Steel Point, shepherded millions in state and federal grants for a planned East Side train station and flood control projects, as well as overseeing the start of the Downtown North rehabilitation projects.
When Kooris announced last month he was leaving for a state job, Ganim announced, “Obviously we are still going through a transition process, and the director of the Office of Planning and Economic Development is a very critical position for our city that we will need to fill with a qualified, visionary person. We will be consulting with our business community and eager to get their input on who will best attract more business and economic development to Bridgeport.”