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Mayor Jackie Biskupski has named a Maryland-based business consultant known for generating jobs as Salt Lake City's new economic development director.
In choosing Lara L. Fritts for what the mayor intends to make a Cabinet-level post in her administration, Biskupski touted Fritts' 18-year track record in development-related positions in Maryland, Wisconsin and Virginia.
Fritts, 45, reportedly beat out more than 150 applicants for the job after a national search launched in February. Both her appointment and Biskupski's proposal to raise economic development to a full city department await approval from the Salt Lake City Council.
Before joining the accounting and consulting firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause in Tysons Corner, Va., in 2014, Fritts was president and CEO of the city of Annapolis' Economic Development Corp. and, prior to that, headed city economic development in Cudahy, Wis.
"Lara has played a direct role in bringing hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity and thousands of jobs to the cities she has represented throughout her career," the mayor said in a statement.
Biskupski has made revamping the city's economic development under new directorship a key element of her nascent administration and of her first budget, presented to the City Council last week.
Council members, several of whom had expressed concerns about how long the position and other key department head posts had remained open, said they learned of Biskupski's selection late Tuesday.
"This sounds like the type of appointee we had hoped to see, in terms of the breadth of experience," said Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall.
Councilman Derek Kitchen said he was "looking forward to meeting her and engaging with her."
Fritts, who lives in Silver Spring, Md., said she was "excited at the prospect of coming to Salt Lake City and working to help strengthen the economic picture of this incredibly unique and vibrant place."
She said she was impressed with the potential of the Salt Lake City economy and its "amazing stakeholders" while also praising the city's entrepreneurial spirit and nurturing of startups.
Joshua Cohen, former mayor of Annapolis, where Fritts worked from 2011 to mid-2014, described her as knowledgeable and adept at building coalitions.
"Lara understands business, transportation, planning and zoning, redevelopment, licensing and so many moving parts of economic development," Cohen said. "She knows how they all fit together."
If approved, Fritts would oversee a reorganization of several groups of employees at City Hall into one department, in keeping with Biskupski's goal of merging the city's Redevelopment Agency (RDA) and promotion of arts and culture into a Department of Economic Development.
Fritts said guiding the merger would be her first priority, along with forming relationships with city and community leaders, supporting and recruiting new businesses and "building upon the success that has already been accomplished."
She noted that she had devoted a major portion of her career to early-stage work on economic-development programs, starting in 1996 as manager of an urban Main Street program in Green Bay, Wis., that state's first.
"I love to be able to build these new departments," said Fritts, who added that her front-end experience was probably "a key differentiator" in her landing the Salt Lake City job.
Originally from Green Bay, Fritts holds a master's degree in urban studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
According to her résumé, in addition to Annapolis and Cudahy, Fritts has run municipal economic-development agencies in Rockville, Md., and Fairfax County, Va., and worked in urban development in the Wisconsin cities of Wausau and Milwaukee.
Most recently as business development director at Baker Tilly, among the largest U.S. accounting firms, she has assisted private companies in securing capital financing a skill that several Salt Lake City Council members have highlighted as crucial.