A changing of the guard at helm of Bonner County EDC
October 30, 2018

By Mary Malone

OCT 30, 2018 — As executive director of the Bonner County Economic Development Corporation, Paul Kusche said his most proud accomplishment is the “What’s Happening Up North” collaborative workshop.

The fourth annual summit this Thursday, however, will be the last for Kusche as he announces his retirement.

“This has been fun,” Kusche said. “I’ve enjoyed working with the community and the leadership that’s available within Sandpoint and Bonner County, Priest River and all the local cities. I’ve enjoyed working with the Department of Commerce ... The summit, being able to support the businesses that are here and coming in, trying to be a positive influence to the growth of the community has been fun.”

Replacing Kusche as BCEDC executive director is Andrea Marcoccio, who is also the co-owner and general manager of the new Matchwood Brewing Company in Sandpoint.

“As an entrepreneur in Bonner County, I have learned first hand how important good-paying jobs and outstanding skilled workers are for successful businesses,” Marcoccio said in and email to the Daily Bee. “Working alongside current and future business owners across the county, we strive to expand economic opportunity while protecting our quality of life. I am excited to work with a great board of directors and stakeholders to help support and build a strong community for the future.”

Kusche joined BCEDC in the spring of 2015 after retiring from Litehouse, Inc. Kusche’s career began at Nalley’s Fine Foods in Tacoma, and he left Litehouse after a 16-year career there. He was the company’s senior vice president when he retired. Kusche began his career at Nalley’s Fine Foods in Tacoma.

The focus of his retirement, he said, is family. Both of his children live in the Gig Harbor and Bremerton, Wash., area, with his six grandchildren. So, he and his wife built their retirement home over there, and feel it is time to make the move, Kusche said.

Eric Paull, BCEDC board member and vice president and relationship manager of Washington Trust Bank noted a few accomplishments of the BCEDC under Kusche’s leadership, such as working through the 63-602NN application for several businesses. This is a property tax exemption from taxation for certain business properties for building investment as allowed under Title 63 Chapter 6 of Idaho Statutes, Paull said in an email to the Daily Bee.

Another project Paull said he believes would not have occurred without Kusche’s dedication is the commercial kitchen project. The kitchen, located in the Bonner Mall, will bring back a full commercial kitchen that was formerly located in the Bonner Business Center. The project has taken a couple of years to put together, he said, with Kusche working with various government entities, including the cities of Sandpoint and Ponderay, as well as Bonner County, Panhandle Area Council, various granting entities/foundations, and private entities. The project is almost complete and is expected to commence operations in the next 30 to 45 days, Paull said.

“I would say Paul was a really good fit for BCEDC the past few years and has been a great proponent of small businesses in our area,” Paull said in the email. “What I have learned from Paul these past few years is that he is passionate about Bonner County, its businesses and its citizens. He is going to be missed and I wish him all the best in his second retirement.”

While he is proud of his accomplishments with BCEDC, Kusche said his biggest regret is the area’s loss of Thorne Research.

“It’s hard to hold onto a company that has East Coast ownership and is not committed to the Sandpoint community.” Kusche said. “... and I think some of the variables that drove them to leave are things like, three flights and driving an hour and a half just to get here, being unable to reach employees via the internet due to low bandwidth — although that’s improving now with Ting and Intermax — then you get things like the lack of labor availability. It is pretty hard to surmount those barriers.”

Kusche said it is “exciting,” however, to see the growth of companies like Quest Aircraft, Timberline Helicopters, Timbersled, Litehouse and “all the companies who are committed to being here in the Bonner County area.”

An introduction to Marcoccio will be made during Thursday’s summit, and she is on the schedule to make a company presentation representing Matchwood Brewing at 2:15 p.m., following Kusche’s presentation of restoring the commercial kitchen.

One aspect of Marcoccio’s experience that stood out, Kusche said, was her work with the Forward Montana Foundation and Forward Montana. As the executive director from 2013-2015, she ran and operated statewide nonprofits with a budget of more than $375,000. She was responsible for all major and small gifts, foundation and institutional dollars, and management and use of funds.

“This Montana Forward is a great example of her ability to focus and work with a nonprofit, and grow the economics of an area,” Kusche said. “That’s one of the reasons we hired her. She has obviously got some great leadership skills.”

In her resume, Marcoccio noted some specific things she has done that apply to the position include recruiting, maintaining and managing boards of directors ranging in size from seven to 50 people; worked directly with public institutions, such as municipalities, counties, state and federal agencies; and has planned, raised funds and executed summits, conferences and events with up to 630 attendees and raising more than $380,000.

Among her experience, Marcoccio also currently serves as director of capacity building for the Alliance for Youth Action.

Thursday’s summit runs from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Sandpoint Technical Center, 130 McGhee Road, Kootenai. The event is free but space is limited and available on a first-come basis; registration is open at whatshappeningupnorth.org. Though it’s free, BCEDC asks for a voluntary contribution of $10 per attendee to help cover the lunch cost.