Eric Byrd has gotten himself into the heart of business development in Leesburg.
He has been elected chairman of the town’s Economic Development Commission. He brings to the position his two years of experience as the Small Business Development Center manager and lead business advisor at the Mason Enterprise Center, and the experience of being a small business owner in town.
“I think what that gives me is a breadth of experience that is a little unusual,” Byrd said.
He takes seat as the commission is going through a time of turnover. One of its seats has been vacated by Josh Thiel, who has been elected to council. That seat still awaits a new appointment by Town Council member Tom Dunn.
Byrd takes over for Jim Sisley, another local business owner and member of the county Planning Commission, who said he plans to step down from the commission when his term is up at the end of the year. He said after more than a decade of service on the panel, he will be stepping back to focus on his health and his art and real estate businesses.
And there has been talk among commission members about others possibly stepping off the panel.
“I would really like to get any turnover that’s going to happen done so that we can have a full commission,” Byrd said, adding he hopes to have every seat filled in March.
And with a full commission, he plans to focus on “practical, achievable projects,” although the commission hasn’t yet picked out any specific projects, and serving as a liaison between the town’s business community and government.
“I see our function in large part to try to have a pulse on what’s going on in the business community in the town, so that we can fulfill that advisory role for the council in a useful and productive way,” Byrd said.
And he said his two years leading the Small Business Development Center will help him do just that.
“It’s not my job to decide who’s right or wrong,” Byrd said. “It’s my job to guide the discussion of that in the EDC so we can make good, thoughtful policy recommendations to council, and in my SBDC job to make good recommendation to an individual business about how they can plan and then execute that plan.”
The commission has already planned two business forums: May 7 and Oct. 8, both at 7:30 a.m. The location of the forums has not yet been finalized.