Vicki Pratt Gerbino has resigned after three years as president of the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition.
The GWEDC board and the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, where Gerbino served as vice president of economic development, accepted her resignation Tuesday.
Suzie Ahlstrand, interim president and CEO of the chamber, will lead the GWEDC's five-member team. She declined to say why Gerbino stepped down.
She referred questions about the move to Gerbino, who couldn't be reached for comment.
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"We respect her decision," Ahlstrand said. "She did bring a lot of expertise to the table, and built a great staff."
The GWEDC is a public-private partnership managed by the Chamber of Commerce that is charged with retaining and recruiting companies.
David Bossemeyer and Debra Teufel, managing directors of business development at GWEDC, will take on additional leadership responsibilities on recruitment and retention projects for the coalition.
Ahlstrand said a discussion about a search for a new GWEDC president could start at the next meeting of the coalition's steering committee on March 21.
Ahlstrand expects a smooth transition because of the strong staff.
"It's not like they don't know what they need to be doing,'' she said. "Nobody's going to drop a beat."
Gerbino's departure leaves two positions critical to economic development in the area open. Bryan Derreberry stepped down as president and chief executive officer of the chamber last month. He took a similar position in Charleston, S.C.
Efforts to replace Derreberry are under way. Walter Berry, president of Berry Cos., who is leading the effort, said his group is evaluating search firms and expects to pick one in next 10 days.
A search committee will be formed and come up with a candidate profile, then start a search, which Berry hopes will conclude in four or five months.
That both top spots are vacant shouldn't hurt economic development in the area, said Jon Rolph, president of Sasnak Management, and a member of the chamber's executive committee and board.
"We're fortunate with both the chamber and GWEDC right now," Rolph said. "They both have great staffs, and I think Wichita is in a really good place where we're up-and-coming and attractive to new candidates."
Foulston Siefkin managing partner Doug Stanley, a member of the GWEDC steering committee, said the coalition has a great staff and good leadership from Ahlstrand.
"I think it's always a challenge when you have a transition, but we're going to do our best to not miss a beat," he said
Stanley also praised Gerbino.
"I think she brought a lot of knowledge and expertise and helped raise the bar," he said.
Before joining GWEDC in 2008, Gerbino, 56, held the top business recruitment and retention post at Greater Rochester Enterprise, the economic development group for the Rochester, N.Y., area.
Ed Flentje, professor of public administration at Wichita State University's Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs and a former interim manager for the city of Wichita, was involved in hiring Gerbino.
"I felt she would bring some real capability, and I think she has," he said. "The staff has been reconstituted."
The GWEDC reported last month that in 2010 it facilitated the creation or retention of 5,439 jobs and successfully closed on expansion, retention or recruitment projects for 13 companies representing more than $107 million in capital investment in Wichita and Sedgwick County.
Those efforts resulted in a 388 percent return on public investment, said Jeremy Hill, director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at WSU.
Most of the projects were aerospace-related, including assisting in efforts to retain most of Hawker Beechraft's operations and Bombardier Learjet's decision to add the Learjet 85 business jet assembly here.
Those two projects alone represented 4,300 retained jobs, 300 new jobs and capital investment of $69.2 million, the GWEDC reported.