Economic development in Montgomery County has been challenging, to say the least. There have been successes and failures to be sure. The problems have been well documented, from internal issues to embezzlement to poor leadership. Montgomery County Economic Development - MCED - even had to deal with a mandate from a previous city administration to produce more results while the same administration took away financial support. That was kind of like asking a carpenter to build a house and then taking away all his tools.

But now things seem to be on the verge of changing. Joint cooperation between city and county is leading the way. It appears that money, i.e., tools, will be made available again, this time, with some much needed accountability.

All that's needed is a leader.

Perhaps one is closer than anyone thinks.

Tom Utley, a county councilman and the author of the white paper that got the recent economic momentum going forward, would be the perfect candidate for the job. Utley brings a wealth of economic development experience to the table. He's basically built economies from the ground up all over the Pacific Rim. He's run banking operations. He's run companies. He's been an entrepreneur. Actually, when it gets right down to it, MCED and political leaders would be hard-pressed to find anyone else with better qualifications.

And he's right here.

How Mr. Utley landed in Montgomery County is a fascinating story. It began with a cross-country motorcycle trek that turned from one opportunity to another, eventually leading him into all the above-mentioned experiences. How he got here really isn't as important as the fact that he is here now. He apparently wants to be involved and a conversation with him reveals a deep, deep passion for economic development.

We don't know if Mr. Utley would be interested in the job, but the question should be asked.

There's an old joke that an expert is anyone who lives 30 miles away. In this case, we have a great expert living right here in our county. Let's hope that the decision makers recruit a man who could step in right away and make good things happen.