After 12 years in the position, Ken Young announced Tuesday he is resigning as executive director of the Kennebec Valley County Council of Governments.

Young spoke Tuesday about the opportunities and challenges that will face the region’s economic development in the coming years, and about the changes he’s seen in the field since he began in 2001.

He said that his resignation, effective at the end of June, is part of a transition toward a different lifestyle.

“I’d like to rebalance,” he said. “Instead of working 40 hours a week, I’d like to work 24 hours and play the other 16. It’s just a shift.”

The council, owned and operated by 48 area communities, takes a regional approach to such issues as economic development and municipal cooperation.

Founded in 1967, the organization has a staff of eight and provides services such as business counseling, regional grant applications, environmental management, business loans and joint purchasing for member communities.

Young, who is in his mid-60s, said that he plans to continue providing consulting services in the area and that he will be active in area charities and with the Kennebec River Initiative.

Young said the council’s board of directors is likely to form a search committee and begin advertising the position soon, with a goal of identifying the new director before Young leaves.

He said the board will decide how involved he will be with the search for his successor.

“I’d like to spend a week or 10 days helping a new person to understand the way I’ve organized the information in my office,” he said.

While at the council, Young has advocated for Maine’s economic developers to actively encourage educated people in the 18-44 age group to migrate to Maine, as a means of meeting challenges associated with an aging demographic.

For more than two years, Young and the council have worked actively to bring a natural gas pipeline to the region. In February, he helped draft a proposal that would require natural gas companies to provide service to individual residents and businesses, in addition to municipalities.

He said he’s focused on the issue because of the “potentially enormous” benefits.

“If you imagine that there are 20,000 households that convert from oil to natural gas, and each one saves $1,500 a year, that’s $30 million a year that we’re not going to be spending to heat our homes and our hot water,” he said.

Young said that, partly because of the shared vision of the pipeline, local communities are working together more now than ever before.

“The level of common purpose and cooperation has expanded exponentially over what it used to be,” he said.

During his time as director, he said, the biggest change in the council has been in the way that it works with the chambers of commerce, the Central Maine Growth Council, FirstPark and the Somerset Economic Development Corp.

“We’re better at partnering, better at synchronizing,” he said.

In the future, he said, the biggest challenge facing communities is developing a coordinated strategy that can take advantage of opportunities that arise as the economy recovers.

“It’s reasonably clear to me that our economy has underperformed for a long time,” he said. “We haven’t yet figured out how to organize ourselves in a way that gives us the potential to have more and higher-wage jobs.”

He said that he told the board last year that he planned to retire in 2013, and that it was not a surprise.

“Like everything else, there’s a time,” he said. “Now’s a good time. Leaving at the end of June gives me a chance to finish a couple major projects and put KVCOG’s new budget together.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287
[email protected]

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