MONTPELIER - A Vermont restaurateur may have the recipe for success that the Capital City is seeking in an executive director for the Montpelier Development Corp., which will work to attract new businesses and residents.
Joe Evans has the business background MDC board members were seeking to address some of the economic goals outlined in the city’s Economic Strategic Development Plan for future growth in the city.
Evans, 53, was the choice of the MDC board of directors to be the city’s economic leader. He was chosen from a field of 30 candidates.
Evans is currently the general manager at Table 19 in Proctorsville, where his wife, Kathryn, is the executive chef. The couple lives in nearby Chester with their 9-year-old triplet daughters.
The couple hails from Texas, where Evans was born in Lubbock and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business and management information systems from Texas Tech University.
Based in Dallas, he went on to a career in information technology, business management and consulting, working with national and multinational corporations in software and technology development, as well as corporate strategy and branding. He has worked as president and CEO of Method Frameworks since 2006, as senior executive vice president of Sierra Systems from 2001 to 2006, as executive vice president and vice president of Fujitsu Consulting Inc., from 1999 to 2001, and as senior regional director for RCG Information Technology from 1997 to 1999 — companies all based in Dallas.
Evans said his move to Vermont in 2012 was in part a “semi-retirement” move away from the world of big business, in keeping with plans to resettle in rural New England and his wife’s desire to indulge her passion for cooking by opening a restaurant. Table 19 first opened at a country club in Springfield before moving to Proctorsville. It specializes in Texas barbecue and gourmet Southeast Asian cuisine.
However, he said the couple “ultimately decided the restaurant was not for us,” and Evans decided his business background would be a good fit for Montpelier’s need for an economic development leader.
“This feels more simple than anything we’ve done in the past,” Evans said of the rigors of running a restaurant and juggling family life.
In evaluating the position, Evans said he recognized the struggle the city had in finding support for economic development and creating the right mix of incentives to attract businesses and workers.
“It aligns with what the strategic development plan seeks to accomplish,” Evans said. “I would like to see industry attracted to Montpelier with a workforce that would support it. That means having available housing, and places for people to work.”
Evans’ own search for a new home in Montpelier made him aware of the difficulty in attracting new economic development.
“There are some business and housing issues that need to be addressed,” Evans said. “As part of that economic strategy, it’s a chicken and egg situation. Even for myself it’s hard to find a place to locate my family in Montpelier.”
Evans said he expects to begin his new job April 1 and look for a new home while his wife winds down the restaurant business before moving their family to Montpelier.
MDC board chairman Michael Nobles spoke highly of Evans. “Joe Evans is an insightful, dynamic and personable individual who will use his skills and experience to help implement the strategies and projects described in Montpelier’s Economic Development Strategic Plan. The other board members and I are excited to work with Evans to make a significant impact on the growth and sustainability of Montpelier.”
MDC Vice President Sarah Jarvis said, “Joe was a very appealing candidate because of his charisma and his gravitas.”
Jarvis said Evans brings an “interesting perspective being from outside the state and having fresh eyes on Vermont and Montpelier.” As a business owner and developer, he had also struggled through local and state permitting processes to get his restaurant, she observed.
“So he has that experience from a personal perspective that was also important to us. In a way he will be able to relate to other business owners and developers because of that experience. And he has three kids, so right away he’ll be adding to the school population,” Jarvis added.
It will be Evans’ job to coordinate a comprehensive Economic Strategic Development Plan the city approved last year to boost job growth, attract new businesses, and encourage new housing development and school enrollment. The plan calls for annual returns of $5.6 million in new economic activity and $550,000 in new taxes for the city. In the city’s 2017-18 fiscal year budget, the City Council allocated $100,000 to fund the work of the MDC.
The report recommends the city promote and attract new businesses and high-tech companies, streamline the permitting process, encourage new housing development, and improve parking, internet access and infrastructure.
City Manager William Fraser welcomed Evans’ appointment. “I am pleased that the MDC has taken this big step and am looking forward to working with Mr. Evans. The adoption of the economic development strategic plan, the creation of a funding source, the formation of a development corporation and, now, the hiring of an executive director have all been important milestones to promoting responsible growth and economic activity in Montpelier.
Councilor Jean Olson added: “We are fortunate to have a professional, engaged board of directors leading the Montpelier Development Corporation. I am excited they hired Joe Evans and look forward to meeting and working with him. Montpelier has many assets and must compete strategically to increase economic activity. Joe and the MDC board will face big challenges and I know they will also benefit from enormous support in the community.”