Musser to step down at KEDA

HOUGHTON – Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Phil Musser announced his retiremen, effective at the end of the year Wednesday, closing a 28-year tenure that saw the building of numerous local businesses and entrepreneurial infrastructure from a low point after the close of the mining industry.

Musser announced the retirement at Wednesday’s KEDA meeting, at which the board also announced a new partnership with Western Upper Peninsula Planning & Development Region.

“I just thought it was time for me to look at doing some other things, and also for the organization to have a chance to transition into a new relationship, and I think this new relationship with WUPPDR is really a good move for the organization,” he said.

Musser said the changeover will relieve the executive director of many of the administrative responsibilities he now handles, such as fundraising and organizing monthly meetings.

“With this change, it will really allow the new executive director to focus on doing economic development, more so than what I’ve been able to do in the past,” he said.

When Musser became executive director in 1985, many companies had either left the area or gone out of business, he said, forcing him to start from scratch.

“The same thing communities in Michigan are doing because of the 2007-08 downturn – in some ways, we had a great head start, because that happened for us a lot earlier,” he said.

KEDA helped build a new business support structure in the area, Musser said. One important step was the creation of the MTEC SmartZone, which recently marked its 10-year anniversary.

He said one of the highlights of his job has been working with local entrepreneurs, who have accepted him into the community. Another recent accomplishment was the recruiting of DA Glass, which plans to bring hundreds of jobs to the area over the next few years.

“They’re bringing in a majority of factory floor jobs, which is what we really need in this community,” he said.

“And they’re going to be paying a decent wage and full benefits, so that’s going to be really critical for our workers here. So I feel good about having brought that in, although the full potential of that will not be realized for two to three years down the road.”

In his retirement, Musser will be going back and forth between here and Santa Fe, N.M. He’s interested in working with a start-up or early-stage company and helping it grow. He may also do volunteer work or go hiking in the Four Corners area.

“I like being active,” he said. “I’ve put a lot of hours into this job, and I’ve enjoyed it. I’m not going to just put my feet up. That’s not my idea of fun.”