‘We got a lot of things done’: Middletown official discusses 4 years at city, move to new job

Add economic development director to the list of positions the city of Middletown will need to fill in the coming months.

On Monday, Jennifer Ekey submitted her resignation as economic development director, effective Jan. 17, to take a similar role with the Clinton County Port Authority in Wilmington. Ekey will join the staff late in January.

Ekey, 49, has been Middletown’s economic development director since for the past four years. Prior to coming to Middletown, Ekey served as Harrison’s economic development director from 2008 to 2016. She also served as an economic development specialist for the city of Hamilton.

Last October, Ekey was named as the top economic development professional by the Ohio Economic Development Association.

Middletown already has a vacancy at city manager after the firing of Doug Adkins late last year. Susan Cohen has been serving as acting city manager during the search to fill that position.

After Ekey’s departure, Matt Eisenbraun will serve as acting economic development director again. He served in that role prior to Ekey’s 2016 hiring in Middletown. Cohen said Ekey’s job will be posted soon.

“I don’t have an exact timetable for filling the position, but we hope to have it filled as quickly as possible,” Cohen said.

Ekey was responsible for management of Middletown’s planning and zoning, communication, airport and economic development activities. Her annual salary in Middletown is $110,080 as economic development director, according to city records.

“Jennifer is a recognized leader in economic development - regionally, and throughout the state,” said Dan Evers, the Clinton County Port Authority executive director. “Adding her to the Port Authority team in support of the economic development program will significantly enhance our ability to deliver the highest quality economic development services to existing and prospective businesses.”

The Clinton County Port Authority owns and operates the Wilmington Air Park, located on 1,900 acres with nearly three million square feet of industrial, office and hangar space.

Evers said that “we’re extremely fortunate to have a professional with Jennifer’s talent, experience, and high regard within the economic development community join the Port Authority. It speaks volumes about the assets that Clinton County has, and the opportunities before us. I can’t think of a better person to help us maximize both.”

“I’m honored and excited to be given this opportunity,” Ekey said. “Clinton County has so many exciting assets and opportunities. I look forward to joining the Port Authority team and building an economic development program that leverages our assets and creates opportunity .”

During Ekey’s tenure, Middletown saw an influx of major projects including NTE Energy and Kettering Health Network, restarting the Goetz Tower and Sawyer’s Mill projects, and made great strides in the redevelopment of the Middletown Regional Airport and getting it certified by the state and as a federal opportunity zone. She also worked on the development of the city’s master plan as well as its downtown and airport plans.

Ekey described her time in Middletown as “productive.”

“We got a lot of things done,” she said. “It was hard work at a fast pace and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jeff Payne, executive director of Downtown Middletown Inc., said he was “surprised” to hear she’s leaving.

“She’s very intelligent. It’s a loss for downtown and a gain for Wilmington,” he said. “We’re looking forward to who comes after her.”

Rick Pearce, president and CEO of The Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, said, “congratulations to her for getting an economic development position for an entire county. The chamber enjoyed working with her and we wish her the best of luck.”

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