Central Valley Business Journal, December 2011
By KEITH MICHAUD/Business Journal Editor
Six months isn’t much time to get acclimated to a new job.
Especially when there’s a chance success – or failure – in that job can have a vast influence on the economic vitality of a region, namely San Joaquin County and the rest of the Central Valley.
Mike Ammann has been the president and CEO of the San Joaquin Partnership for about six months. Fortunately, that transition is being made easier by several things: the Partnership’s goals and mission are similar to those of agencies Ammann has headed for decades at both ends of the Central Valley; a stable and experienced Partnership staff; an engaged board of directors; and the groundwork laid by Mike Locke, the Partnership’s president and CEO from 1994 to 2011, who is now a Stockton deputy city manager.
“It’s been great. I knew this organization, because I had competed against it,” said Ammann, who held similar posts in Solano County and Bakersfield. “I’ve kind of worked both ends of the Central Valley.”
Ammann and the experienced team that was in place at the Partnership when he arrived have been working on the strategic plan Locke put in place, while also looking forward to drawing new businesses to San Joaquin County and holding onto those already here.
Ammann believes the region is primed to be the “center of commerce” for Northern California. After all, the region has two railroads – Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe – with intermodal service, an under-utilized airport, direct access to Interstate 5, state Highway 99 and east-west routes, and ample and versatile commercial mega-sites. The Port of Stockton is merging onto the “Marine Highway,” which will greatly increase import-export activity there.
One moment Ammann is sitting at a small conference table in his March Tower office overlooking Interstate 5 and the Spaghetti Factory explaining complicated economic development strategies and the next he is jumping up from the table to scribble lines on a whiteboard to explain a point before darting momentarily out of his office to gather more documents to illustrate his points. Ammann is optimistic for San Joaquin County’s future and appears driven to draw companies to San Joaquin County. And if not San Joaquin County, then to the Central Valley or somewhere in California.
It is the relationships forged over the years that let Ammann and his staff build on past work and look ahead to new goals, such as drawing high-tech businesses to the region.
Ammann brings with him more than 30 years of those relationships. He started his economic development career in the 1970s as the research director for the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Area Chamber of Commerce, while attending Grand Valley State University.
Later, he was the executive director at the Kalamazoo County Economic Expansion Corporation before returning to the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the second largest in the state, to be that organizations vice president for economic development.
In the early 1980s, Ammann was among a group that founded the Washtenaw Development Council and his team developed the first countywide economic development marketing program for the communities of Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, and Ypsilanti, Mich., with Eastern Michigan University. He later worked with the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering to help faculty and researchers in launching technology start-ups and in the commercialization of patents and discoveries.
He and four partners founded Online Technologies, the oldest Internet services providing company in Michigan.
After five years in Ann Arbor, Ammann successfully turned around a 350-acre real estate development at the Arizona State University Research Park in Tempe, Ariz. That was followed by another success, this time in Bakersfield. Ammann and his management team were able to rebuild the staff, volunteer core, and finances of the Kern Economic Development Corp. That success included drawing a State Farm Regional Service Center to a 460,000-square-foot building on 60 acres that resulted in 1,000 new jobs.
Ammann also served as the secretary of the board of directors for TeamCalifornia, a private nonprofit corporation that brings together economic development organizations from across the state to market their communities for business investment and job creation in the state. He was elected president of the organization in May 2008.
He was the president of the Solano Economic Development Corp. in Fairfield for almost eight years before joining the San Joaquin Partnership.
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