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Putnam development director takes new job

CHARLESTON, W.Va. The executive director of the Putnam County Development Authority said Tuesday that he would resign after nearly 15 years on the job and become president and CEO of the Huntington Area Development Council.

Gary Walton, 61, said he would start the job in Huntington on April 15.

"I was asked by a person who said I should submit a résumé and I did," Walton said. "I had a lot of reservations -- I've loved working here."

The Putnam County Development Authority hired Walton, an Indiana native, in 1999. He replaced Debbie Phillips, who ran the agency while Toyota decided to place a new plant in Buffalo.

In his early years as director, Walton lived in a house on property inside the Putnam Business Park in Fraziers Bottom.

"It was just raw land. I'd ride around trying to keep it clear so it could be sold," he said. "And it did, to a Japanese company named Nippon Thermostat."

Nippon announced last year it would double the size of its operations in Fraziers Bottom and create an additional 30 jobs. Ludowici LLC, an Australian company, purchased land last year.

The business park has 205 acres and about 50 of those house six businesses on the north side of U.S. 35. County officials have started clearing land on the south side of the highway and recently got a grant to extend utilities in the park.

Walton has taken numerous business trips to Japan through the years. Putnam is home to eight Japanese companies.

In his new position, he said he would still get to travel.

On Tuesday morning, Walton said he was drafting a new job advertisement to search for his replacement.

"The one we have is 15 years old," he said with a laugh.

Putnam County Commissioner Steve Andes, who serves on the Development Authority board, said Walton would be difficult to replace.

"He works well with the state Development Authority, he's well known and well liked." Andes said.

Andes said people only need to look at the business park in Fraziers Bottom "and what he's done there to bring in not only businesses but the development of it."

"We knew it would be hard to keep him forever ... this will be a lot more money for him," he said.

Andes said the board hopes to have someone fill Walton's position by May.

"We're going to get some résumés and see what happens. We want someone with experience," he said. 

Walton will replace Marc Sprouse, who retired Jan. 31, as president of the Huntington area economic development organization, which covers Cabell and Wayne counties.

"The proximity of his efforts to the Huntington market allowed Mr. Walton to develop strong working relationships with HADCO personnel and stakeholders over the years," a news release from the organization said.

"We're excited to have Gary working with us," Stephen J. Golder, chairman of the organization's executive committee, said in the release.

He noted that a nationwide search had been conducted to fill the position.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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