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10 to Watch: Robert Van Geons

Robert Van Geons wakes up every day thinking about ways to bring new jobs to Rowan County.
“I don’t take that expectation or responsibility lightly,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I personally can in 2011 to meet those expectations.”
But no economic development director wants to start the new year as Van Geons must begin his — preparing for the loss of 490 jobs when PGT closes its Heilig Road manufacturing plant.
The shock of PGT’s planned departure still stings, but Van Geons is already looking ahead.
“We will do what we can to replace every one of those jobs,” he said.
The Post could not have chosen a better person to watch in 2011, said Keith Crisco, secretary for the N.C. Department of Commerce.
“He is a real go-getter,” Crisco said.
Crisco said local economic development directors like Van Geons make up the “economic army” for the state, serving as the eyes and ears for economic indicators that signal important trends.
He places Van Geons in the top tier among his peers in the state.
“You’ve got a good one,” said Crisco, who described Van Geons as “button-down” with a keen attention to detail.
Rowan County faces a long road to economic recovery, and Van Geons said he can’t predict what any company will do.
“But I believe the worst is behind us,” he said.
Marking his third year in Rowan County, Van Geons previously worked as the EDC director in Stanly County and Waterbury, Conn., where he is from. After graduating from Catawba College, he worked in code enforcement for the town of Spencer and then served as the town planner.
He also did planning for Kannapolis, China Grove and other communities.
— Emily Ford
Name: Robert Van Geons
Age: 35
Occupation: Executive director for RowanWorks Economic Development, the county’s Economic Development Commission.
Favorite book: “Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy” by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson.
Most surprising song or artist in your music collection: Owns almost everything Johnny Cash ever recorded.
Who will you watch in 2011 and why?: N.C. representatives Fred Steen and Harry Warren. As the state faces the  budget crisis, Van Geons said he will look to Steen and Warren for leadership and guidance “as to how we can effectively position Rowan County to increase our employment.”
Why this person is one to watch in 2011: Van Geons leads the group responsible for recruiting new industry and jobs to Rowan County.
Reaction to making the list: Appreciates being recognized but believes the choice reflects RowanWorks’ critical mission to retain and recruit jobs during turbulent economic times.

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