Friday, July 20, 2012

Hailey hires new planning chief

Mayor praises new hire’s experience

Express Staff Writer

Micah Austin

The Hailey City Council and mayor welcomed Micah Austin to the position of community development director last week.

Austin comes to Hailey from Jerome where he worked as community development director for nearly four years. He fills a position held previously by Beth Robrahn.

"This is our first opportunity to have someone hold that office with actual community development experience," said Mayor Fritz Haemmerle at a City Council meeting Monday.

Austin majored in English literature at Utah State University before earning a master's degree in public administration from Indiana University with an emphasis on local government management and sustainable development.

Austin and his wife, Emily, and their two children moved to Hailey recently and bought a home in the Della View neighborhood.

"We're still unpacking boxes," Austin said.

He said he learned Russian while serving on an LDS mission in Minsk. He waited tables while earning his undergraduate degree, and worked as a park ranger, mayor's assistant and city planner in Indiana and in Henderson, Ky., before coming to Idaho.

Austin said his first goals in Hailey are to get to know the community, research best practices of other communities with similar demographics and audit real estate availability to accommodate businesses seeking to relocate to the city.

"You begin by selling the community," he said.

In an interview, he added that "as economic developers we have to remove all obstacles that we can to get businesses to come here. You have to think regionally."

Austin said he plans to get the Hailey Urban Renewal Agency up and running as soon as possible. Taxes collected from a new business in an urban renewal district fund improvements within the district. The Hailey URA has been established but not put into operation.

"The URA is one of best tools we have in the state of Idaho to require that growth pay for itself, entirely," he said.

Austin said he also plans to use his close ties to the Idaho State Chamber of Commerce to work with potential businesses that may want to relocate to the area.

Tony Evans:

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