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Cathy Burns Appointed as Executive Director of HMDA

The Huntington Municipal Development Authority (HMDA) voted Monday, June 10, to appoint Cathy Burns as the agency’s next executive director.

Burns, who is the city manager for the City of Huntington, will officially begin her duties as HMDA executive director and relinquish her duties as city manager on July 1. She will lead an agency that has been and will continue to be a key player in efforts to revitalize more than 50 acres of former industrial property in the city’s Highlawn neighborhood.

“We are embarking upon the most important economic opportunity for our city in more than half a century. The next five years will determine our next 50 years. We must have the most capable and qualified person to guide us through these waters,” said Mayor Steve Williams, a HMDA board member who nominated Burns to become executive director during the meeting. “Cathy Burns possesses the skills, experience and temperament to help us navigate through a complicated, ambitious and sophisticated economic revitalization plan. The citizens of our region are fortunate that she has accepted this challenge.”

The Municipal Development Authority’s purpose is to foster capital investment in Huntington and contribute to the creation and retention of jobs. The agency also enables city government to use certain assets owned by the city for the specific purpose of attracting additional capital and industry.

Burns has served as city manager since June 28, 2016. She also has an extensive background in economic development and building relationships with the business community.

She began her career as an administrative assistant in the Mayor’s Office from 1985 to 1988 and then spent nearly 11 years as the director of the Department of Development and Planning.

Burns left City Hall in 2000 to become executive director of the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone, a position she also held for nearly 11 years. She was hired as the workforce
recruiter for RCBI in 2011 before she was named president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in September 2013. She remained with the Chamber until she began her stint as city manager in June 2016.

“This is an exciting time to be joining HMDA as the executive director and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Burns said. “HMDA board members are prepared to take bold economic development strategies and I’m pleased to help them fulfill their mission.

“My work as the city manager and 20 years of regional economic and workforce development experience will allow me to build upon established partnerships for new site development and job creation.”

“I am thrilled that Cathy Burns agreed to accept this challenge,” HMDA President Bob Adkins added. “She has an institutional memory and breadth of experience that will enable her to hit the ground running. Those who have worked with her know that she won’t stop running until she reaches the goal line.”

The Municipal Development Authority purchased 8 acres of the former Flint Group Pigments property located on the north side of 5th Avenue at 24th Street in February and authorized its executive committee to enter into a purchase-and-sales agreement for the acquisition of approximately 42 acres of the former ACF property for $3.125 million on Monday. The deal is expected to be finalized sometime this summer. The land is proposed to be transformed into mixed-use development space known as the Highlawn Business Innovation Zone (H-BIZ).

Among the plans for H-BIZ is a baseball stadium for Marshall University.

The acquisition of these properties is also a key component of the Huntington Innovation Plan (HIP) that city leaders submitted to the America’s Best Communities competition. Huntington was named the winner of the nationwide competition and the recipient of a $3 million grand prize in April 2017.

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