Mike Smith, currently the director of economic development in Stanly County, will be the Sanford Area Growth Alliance’s third CEO, the organization announced Friday.

According to a SAGA press release, Smith has a lengthy economic development background, having also worked on efforts in Davidson County and Statesville, as well as at the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“I am thrilled to be joining the SAGA team at this exciting time for Lee County,” Smith said in the press release. “This community has really pulled together to provide an amazing climate for economic growth and I am anxious to be a part of it.”

Smith, who will take the organization’s helm next month, replaces Joy Thrash, who announced in December that she was leaving the post.

“SAGA was very fortunate to have Joy lead the organization during its formation,” said Donnie Oldham, SAGA’s founding chairman, said in the press release. “She has built a great team and developed a strong foundation. Her leadership has helped position SAGA and Lee County for great economic success. We thank her for her contributions.”

Thrash took leadership of the organization after its first CEO, Rodger Sauls, stepped down in 2015 (subscription required).

SAGA was formed in 2014 essentially as a merger of the county’s economic development arm and the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, “in order to broaden the economic development program of Lee County and capitalize on the synergies and strengths of each organization,” according to its website. During its lifetime it has been funded by various private donors as well as by the governments of Sanford, Broadway and Lee County.  Since its formation, originally under the name Sanford-Lee County Partnership for Prosperity, local leaders have touted millions of dollars in investments and expansions by area businesses.