The City of Oak Harbor brought on a new economic development coordinator last year, a position that has been vacant for almost seven years.
According to a city press release, Steve McCaslin brings over 43 years of business leadership and consulting.
McCaslin holds a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from the University of Georgia.
He came to Oak Harbor in 1983 to fly in the A-6 Intruder for the Navy, he said. After retiring from his duties as a Naval flight officer, he worked for Hewlett-Packard, Peoplesoft, NetSec and Computer Sciences Corporation and started a business and leadership consulting firm. More recently, he worked with the Economic Development Council for Island County, where he focused on economic and demographic research and reporting.
During the 2021-2022 biennial budget process in 2020, the city council developed seven budget goals, the first of which being economic development. The first objective of that goal was to create a staff position to promote and develop economic diversity and targeted growth. Council voted to hire a new economic development coordinator in October 2022.
The council approved the last economic development plan in 2013, but both McCaslin and current council members are unaware of what happened in the implementation process of the plan.
“It probably started off and then efforts just sort of fell to the side,” McCaslin said at last week’s city council workshop. “I don’t know that much of it was implemented, and that may go back to not having someone in a role whose job is to make things move forward in that.”
Last year, McCaslin met with over three dozen Oak Harbor businesses, which brought up a variety of issues they are facing. What seems to be an unanimous issue, he said, is vacancies: employers are having a difficult time finding people to work. This will be a major focus of his position, he said.
McCaslin plans to meet with all 693 Oak Harbor businesses this year to understand the climate and the issues they are facing.
“It’s a very lofty goal,” he said. “I will do my best to get it done in one year, but the reality is that it may take a bit more time.”
McCaslin is also focused on redeveloping downtown, the marina and midtown, he said.
“I plan to retire here,” he said, “and I want to help strengthen our economy so that people in our community at all stages of their lives have a place where they can thrive.”