The Sanford Area Growth Alliance has hired John Cotton Dean to serve as the organization’s economic development manager, according to a press release issued Monday.

Dean, who also started his role on Monday, will manage all aspects of SAGA’s new business recruitment projects, including site identification, RFI response, client and local government presentations and post-recruitment support. He will also assist with existing business services and workforce development efforts as needed.

Prior to joining SAGA, Dean served as Executive Director of Regional Innovation for Louisiana Central, where he collaborated with a diverse group of partners to increase economic prosperity across a ten-parish region in central Louisiana. He also led the organization’s business retention and expansion (BRE) program, working directly with companies like Proctor & Gamble, Weyerhaeuser, Drax Biomass and Hunt Forest Products to expand their operations in the region.

“SAGA’s public-private partnership model has delivered unprecedented job growth and tax base expansion for Lee County over the past two years, and John’s diverse experience and leadership roles in a regional public-private partnership make him an excellent fit for the SAGA organization,” said SAGA CEO Jimmy Randolph. “We are excited to have him join our team.”

Originally from eastern Washington state, Dean is a 2019 graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute, and earned dual Masters degrees from Iowa State University in Community and Regional Planning and Sustainable Agriculture. He brings over 15 years of research and professional experience in strengthening rural and regional economies through strategic initiatives and economic development projects, including work in Oregon and Iowa in addition to Louisiana.

“John’s direct economic development experience in a diverse array of rural communities will be particularly valuable as he markets Sanford, Broadway and Lee County to potential projects from around the globe,” said SAGA Board of Directors Chair April Montgomery. “Through a rigorous search process involving numerous qualified applicants, John’s drive, proven problem-solving skills and eagerness to become part of our community made him the clear choice.”

Dean expressed his eagerness to work in Lee County.

“I am looking forward to joining the SAGA team, especially during a time of exciting economic activity,” he said. “There continues to be tremendous opportunity for future growth in Lee County. My wife and I are excited to put down roots in the community.”