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Rolla Regional Economic Commission Looks To A Basketball Coach To Generate Jobs

Provided photo of Dale Martin from Missouri S&T, taken in 2017
Missouri S&T
Dale Martin will be the new leader of the Rolla Regional Ecomomic Commission. His background is primarily as the basketball coach at Missouri S&T

ROLLA — The Rolla Regional Economic Commission’s new leader has no economic development experience, and his hiring marks a shift in the group’s focus.

Dale Martin was the head men’s basketball coach at Missouri University of Science and Technology for 22 years. He started as the executive director of RREC this month.

Former Mayor Bill Jenks, who chairs the RREC board of directors, said Martin’s job will be to focus on economic development close to home.

“We need to have an emphasis on working with local entities like the university, the hospital and our local employers, because they are more likely to add jobs than us bringing in new people,” Jenks said.

“For 40 or 50 years, we’ve been trying the conventional route of marketing our region to big employers, going to conferences and symposiums, making the case for Rolla,” Jenks said. “It hasn’t worked. What has worked is responding quickly and well to businesses who have come to us.”

In addition to hiring someone with an unconventional background, RREC is cutting back its executive director position from full time to half time.

“Last year, we received fewer than 25 inquiries for economic development help,” Jenks said. “A part-time director can handle that workload and still work closely developing our existing businesses.”

The job will still involve promotion of Rolla, and Martin said his experience as a basketball coach — recruiting students to come to Rolla — involves a similar skill set and tactics.

“We need to do a better job of marketing our city. We need to have one place that comes up on the web that tells you everything about Rolla,” Martin said.

Martin has lived in Rolla for more than 40 years, and he believes his love of the community will make him a successful ambassador.

“This is a great city. It’s a great place to settle down and raise a family. We just need to help the people that already think that stay here and grow their companies, and find the right people that will consider coming to a town this size,” Martin said.

Dale Martin replaces Cynda Lorey, who retired in December. The Rolla Regional Economic Commission is funded by governments, businesses and nonprofits in Phelps County.

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Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.