"We built a world class program here and I would like to see that sustained, even though I'm not going to be the one here to be over it."
Jim Hizer is leaving Bowling Green after six years of unprecedented success to become president and CEO of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce in Florida.
"But what I really enjoy is building a program," says Hizer, "so this is another opportunity for me to build a program. They're anxious for me to get there to get started. And so hopefully we can replicate some of the success that we've enjoyed here."
That success includes being named Kentucky's Economic Developer of the Year two years ago, and having Bowling Green named the National Chamber of the Year last year, which it earned through Hizer's leadership in expanding the chamber past county lines to become a truly regional economic development juggernaut. But ironically, he doesn't consider any of these his biggest accomplishment.
"Of all those things that have occurred over the last 6 years," Hizer says, "being named Big Brother of the Year by Big Brothers Big Sisters probably was, I would consider that to be my greatest accomplishment."
And what was his greatest challenge? Convincing the powers that be to merge the Intermodal Transportation Authority in the the Chamber of Commerce to operate the Kentucky Transpark.
"But it was the best thing for the community for the ITA management team to be merged into the Chamber's management team," says Hizer. "Y'know we ended up saving the community a half-a-million dollars-a-year in overhead in running the Kentucky Transpark by making that one strategic move."
But what about the people who still believe the Transpark isn't the success they expected it to be?
"If you look at the Transpark today," Hizer says, "it is generating over $100,000,000 annually in direct economic impact. That means we have this $100,000,000+ flowing through the south central Kentucky economy that would not have gone through our economy without the construction of the park."
And what about Bowling Green's future? Hizer says the best days are still ahead. "Folks are better educated here, they're better trained. And so that bodes very, very well for economic development
prospects in the future."
Hizer says his biggest disappointment is the economic opportunities Simpson County lost by not joining the other area counties in the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce.
And he says the most important attribute his successor should possess is to be a visionary.