PRESIDENT AND CEO OF AR-TX REDI (REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, INC.) ROB SITTERLEY LOOKS FORWARD TO HELPING BRING THE TEXARKANA REGION TO THE NEXT LEVEL
by VICKI MELDE
Rob Sitterley is a man on a mission. As the inaugural President and CEO of AR-TX REDI (Regional Economic Development, Inc.), he is committed to realizing the full and limitless potential of this amazing region. While leadership is innate with Rob, as the center quote – which is a favorite of his – states, he knows he can’t accomplish this goal alone. He refers to economic development as a “team sport” and is quick to state that it was the people that drew him to Texarkana, and it is the people who will make his vision for this region a reality.
Before moving to Texarkana, Rob served as National Practice Leader at Merit Advisors, LLC, providing economic development consulting and site selection services to clients throughout the United States with a regional emphasis on the Southeast. Prior to joining Merit Advisors, he served Florida’s Governor and Secretary of Commerce by leading Enterprise Florida’s Business Development team of Project Managers. Under his leadership, combination of all these experiences have prepared Rob exceptionally well for his role as President and CEO of AR-TX REDI.
Sonja Hubbard, chair of AR-TX REDI’s board of directors, stated that Rob’s leadership and success align with the organization’s design and mission to build a stronger economy for Southwest Arkansas the team established 425 economic development projects that created 78,400 jobs, retained 34,900 positions, and led to the investment of $7.9 billion in new capital expenditures throughout Florida.
While in Florida, Rob assisted clients in a wide array of industries that included aviation and aerospace, corporate headquarters, defense and homeland security, financial services, logistics and distribution, information technology and manufacturing. Individually, he effectively negotiated a positive outcome with each high profile project he worked that resulted in 37,200 new-to- Florida jobs, facilitated the retention of 23,600 employees, and influenced $3.3 billion of capital investment.
Rob believes that the unique opportunity to work on the government side (both local and statewide) recruiting relocation and expansion projects in virtually every industry enabled him to learn how to successfully compete and win projects. By contrast, his role in the private sector as a site selection consultant showed him the other side of the coin – how companies truly make location decisions for relocating or expanding business operations and how varied the decision drivers can be. The combination of all these experiences have prepared Rob exceptionally well for his role as President and CEO of AR-TX REDI.
Sonja Hubbard, chair of AR-TX REDI’s board of directors, stated that Rob’s leadership and success align with the organization’s design and mission to build a stronger economy for Southwest Arkansas and Northeast Texas. “Rob has strong and effective economic development skills resulting in the creation of thousands of jobs in communities across the nation. He has an ideal blend of experience in the private sector as well as vital knowledge and skills in negotiating and planning projects on behalf of government and public entities. The AR-TX REDI board has high expectations for this newly- created position, and we are elated to have Rob join us at the helm.”
So how did the Texarkana region get so fortunate to entice Rob Sitterley away from a very successful career in Florida? He insists it was the people. “Upon my first visit to Texarkana, I could sense the spirit and legacy of this wonderful place created through generations of hardworking individuals,” he recalled. “I felt an immediate connection with the REDI board of directors, all of whom are dedicated and wildly successful professionals. When I saw how unified they were in championing the REDI mission, I knew this is where I wanted to be!”
Though economic development is certainly his niche and passion, Rob actually started out with a different career in mind. During his college years at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, where he earned his bachelor’s degree with a double major in Economics and Business, he also excelled in golf. “I have played sports my entire life and being inducted into the Skidmore College athletic Hall of Fame (in 2013) is one of the highlights of my athletic career,” he shared. Rob played golf professionally for a number of years crisscrossing all over the country on every Mini-Tour a fan of the game has heard of but, unfortunately, getting to the next level and making it to the PGA Tour wasn’t in the cards for him. “Golf is still very much a passion of mine, although, I don’t have much time to play these days,” he added. “However, the skills of patience, focus, and mental toughness I learned through golf I now use daily as an economic developer.”
While golf provided him with valuable life lessons, Rob speaks very proudly of his upbringing outside of Albany, New York. “Growing up, both my amazing parents were educators, and my father was a varsity athletic coach. They instilled in me at a young age the importance of hard work, discipline, and commitment. I understood as a student athlete that academics were to be taken more seriously than athletics. While I excelled as an athlete, I also graduated from high school and college with honors.”
When asked about the best advice he’d ever received, Rob didn’t hesitate with his response. “As a teacher, my Mom said she always appreciated students that would ‘say less and listen more.’ I use this lesson every day in business and credit her for my ability to ask engaging questions when others are lost in their desire to hear themselves talk.”
Rob is equally quick to share that his Dad has had a strong influence on his becoming the person he is today. “His dedication and work ethic in his career was matched only by his commitment to and love for his family. All my life, he has led by example. His quiet humility showed me how actions speak louder than words. His kind heart showed me the importance of respect for others. Never once did he waste an opportunity to make me feel loved. I remember when I was a kid, he would come home from work exhausted from teaching and coaching all day. He’d be sitting on the couch, barely able to keep his eyes open, and I would ask him if he’d like to go outside and play catch. Not once did he ever turn me down. Moreover, he was truly happy to do it. My Dad showed me there was always time and energy for the things most important in life.” Rob’s love and admiration for his parents is obvious and heartfelt.
To achieve the success Rob has realized in his professional life, he put the valuable advice and example his parents provided him into practice. But it takes a rather unique person to be as effective as Rob is in the economic development world. One of the keys to his success is actually the words he used to describe himself: Focused. Dedicated. Relentless.
As committed as Rob is to reaching the goals he sets for the region in which he works, there is no mistaking the top priority in his life. Rob met his wife, Lisa, in Florida while on a golf trip. They became fast friends and started dating almost immediately. After two years of a long-distance relationship (New York/ Florida), he made the move to Orlando.
“Most of who I am today I credit largely to Lisa. She is my soulmate in every sense of the word. Over the past 20 years, her love and support has been unwavering through major career and location changes. Her infectious positive energy, sharp mind, and amazing sense of humor drew me to her the first time we met, and they continue to draw me to her today.”
Though they don’t have a great deal of leisure time right now, Rob and Lisa love to cook and entertain with friends and family. Due to Lisa’s heritage, Italian food is their favorite cuisine to prepare. They also enjoy traveling and exploring new places and love movies. Their life together is enhanced by their beloved dog, “Teddy,” who was a rescue from the mean streets of Los Angeles. “We’ve had him four years now, and he’s amazing,” Rob stated with a grin. “Lisa and I love spending time with him outdoors walking, running, or biking on the trails in the area. He has brought tremendous joy to our lives.”
As is the case with any major decision in a great partnership like Rob and Lisa share, the choice to relocate to Texarkana was a mutual one for the Sitterleys. “Rob and I both knew from our first visit, this place was special because of the great people that make up the region,” Lisa shared. “Of all the places I’ve lived, here is where I have felt the greatest connection to the community. I feel this connection grow stronger each day, and it makes me happy! We are proud to call Texarkana home.”
So, how will this dynamic leader bring enhanced prosperity and business opportunities to the Texarkana region? “I believe our greatest challenge right now is summed up in three words: awareness, visibility and preparedness. We are not competing just with neighboring regions for economic development projects,” Rob explained. “We are competing with other regions throughout the country and for that matter, the world. With global connectedness comes global competition. It is vital we get creative and think outside the box when it comes to showcasing the assets and competitive advantages of the region.”
When asked about the assets he will market, Rob’s excitement about what the Texarkana region has to offer is apparent. “I have said this before, and I will continue to say it: we have a business-friendly climate, a robust and growing transportation infrastructure, and institutions of higher learning sharply focused on training the next generation of workforce talent in areas like advanced manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, and technology. These assets, combined with an aggressive and proactive approach to economic development, will be what brings the Texarkana region to the next level.”
“It’s important to also note that all of this has been made possible through the past and current generations of the hardworking individuals of this region. The culture of a strong work ethic serves as the gold standard today and will continue to do so into the future,” he added.
Rob stresses the importance of maintaining a regional perspective on economic development. “I encourage citizens to think regionally by helping them understand that companies and business rarely think any smaller than that. Most of the time, when companies are considering relocation or expansion decisions, they are not thinking about city, county, or even state boundaries. They are thinking about how the assets of the REGION support their business operations,” he explained. “Companies and site selection consultants are extremely sensitive to this notion and will stay clear of communities that are not regionally-focused. When companies have narrowed their location decision to the short list of two or three sites, the final decision oftentimes comes down to how well a community can demonstrate a regional mentality.”
Technology has enabled the world to be more connected than ever. “It is imperative we think beyond locally,” Rob insisted. “It’s the only way we can be competitive in this global business climate.”
This focused, dedicated, and relentless man on a mission demonstrates an exemplary work ethic and commitment to any challenge he takes on. His desire to achieve perfection is captured from the athletic trainer to the stars Tim Grover: “The drive to close the gap between near-perfect and perfect is the difference between great and unstoppable.”
Under the skilled leadership of Rob Sitterley, the Texarkana region is REDI to be UNSTOPPABLE!