While the Valley Economic Alliance searches for a new president and CEO, the group’s management committee members say the organization will carry on as usual with a focus on implementing new programs and goals. The Valley Economic Alliance lost Bruce Ackerman, who headed the group for the past 10 years, when he died of cancer on Aug. 26. But the group is prepared, its leaders say, to move on. “We think we’re well-positioned to deliver the things we need to deliver from a services standpoint,” said the Valley Economic Alliance’s interim president and CEO Harvey Berg, who added that are no plans to restructure the group or cut staffing and programs. The management committee members are preparing for their search for a replacement. “We are confident that we will be able to find an appropriate successor to Bruce,” said Bill Allen, the organization’s former president and CEO who now serves as one of its vice chairs and CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. “From Bruce’s past leadership, it seems to have attracted a number of highly talented people who have expressed interest in succeeding Bruce,” he continued, adding that half a dozen individuals have already come forward. While out-of-state candidates will be considered, he said the board will likely aim for someone who is familiar with the economic and political realities of California and the greater Los Angeles area. Tracy Rafter, another vice chair for the organization and CEO of BizFed, said the new leader would need to have various qualities. “We are looking for a brilliant business-visionary civic leader, and we would expect they would have a grasp of the issues and the goals and priorities of economic development in our region,” she said. She also described the future leader as someone who would be able to retain and attract new members and be able to tap into the board’s talents. While no major restructuring will take place, the organization will start implementing its new long-range strategic plan, which Ackerman helped organize this year. “There are some things that we can do better,” Berg said, adding that some of those things include better use of technology and social networking, as well as increased outreach to younger people in the business community. Getting the word out Berg said the goal is to ensure more people know about the organization and what it does. “The Valley Economic Alliance is one of the best kept secrets in the Valley,” he said, adding that it is well-known, but only within certain circles. The board of directors also recently expanded its executive committee from 37 members to 45 members in order to increase the potential for outreach to investors, sponsors and clients for the organization. Wayne Adelstein, a Valley Economic Alliance board member and president of the North Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, said leadership transitions are usually good times for organizations to reflect on possible direction changes. “It naturally becomes time to rethink the organization, where it’s going, if it needs to do different things,” Adelstein said. “Does it need to reposition its priorities? These are questions that any organization asks themselves at a time like this.” This summer, the group focused much of its efforts on educating local businesses about the benefits of the San Fernando Valley’s Enterprise Zone. It has also been working with the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation on a layoff aversion program, marketing the initiative and setting up meetings to inform local businesses and institutions about grants, credits and other financial incentives. Another program the group recently started working on is the Urban High Growth Manufacturing Initiative, which provides funding for training for manufacturing companies that hire new employees. The programs are expected to continue as planned. Connections Berg said one challenge of Ackerman’s absence will be the loss of his connections in the political landscape, especially since he was chairman of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency and vice chair of the city’s Workforce Investment Board. “Bruce was very, very interested in economic development no matter where it was, but he was also very protective of the Valley, that the Valley got its fair share,” he said. Rafter said that even with the great loss through Ackerman’s death, the organization would push forward. “I really don’t see any big changes or shakeups,” she said. “It’s more of a continued evolution. There’s so many things that are working well and that are working right.” Other local business leaders and elected officials described Ackerman as a diplomat who could get cities and groups with different interests to work toward common goals. At Ackerman’s Celebration of Life reception on Sept. 1 at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in North Hollywood, several people publicly reminisced about Ackerman’s honest and humble character that helped him make those connections. About 350 people attended the reception, about 100 attended a rosary and public viewing held for him on Aug. 31, and about 500 attended his funeral on Sept. 1, Berg said. The Los Angeles Valley College Foundation has set up a $250 scholarship in Ackerman’s memory, which is set to become available in the fall semester of 2011. Donations to the fund could increase the amount.