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November 25, 2013 | 03:05 PM
When the Lake Geneva Economic Development Corp. found their new executive director, they discovered he’d been closer than they expected.

Andrew “Andy” Dammeir, a local businessman and developer, was selected earlier this month to take over as executive director once long-time director Joe Cardiff leaves office.

In August, Cardiff, LGEDC executive director since 1992, announced that he will retire Dec. 31.

Cardiff will stay on as an ex-officio member of the LGEDC board. He’ll also work with Dammeir and show him the ropes until then.

But starting Jan. 1, Dammeir will be the new face of the organization.

Dammeir said he knows he’s taking on a big responsibility.

“There’s no replacing Joe Cardiff, but I’m a hard worker,” Dammeir said in a recent interview. “We’re getting it done.”

Dammeir was never a member of the Lake Geneva Economic Development Corp. But when he applied for the position of LGEDC director, the selection committee knew it had found a good fit, said Michael Ploch, chairman of the LGEDC’s board of directors.

“Andy was head and shoulders over all the other applicants,” Ploch said of Dammeir in a recent interview. “He’s been sitting right in front of us all this time, and we never thought of it.

“We’re very very excited to have Andy.”

Dammeir is from Lake Geneva, he knows the area and he knows the city officials, Ploch said.

“He’s developed his own commercial properties, so he knows and ins and outs of that,” said Ploch “He fit all the parameters of what we were looking for.”

Cardiff said Dammeir has been a businessman since high school.

“He started out with a stand in the Riviera when he was in high school,” said Cardiff, who was involved in the search for a new executive director. “I think it’s a great selection, I think he’s got the background.

A 1977 Badger High School graduate, Dammeir also attended UW-Whitewater. But mostly, he learned by doing. From 1977 to 2003 he was the owner/operator of a contract cleaning service, Excel Maintenance Inc. Since 2001, he has been founder and sole owner of Angelo Development LLP, a commercial real estate development, management and holding company. And in 2003 Dammeir partnered to expand Hibbard, Dammeir and Associates real estate appraisal firm in Lake Geneva. He attended the Appraisal Institute of Chicago and has been an associate member of the Appraisal Institute, Wisconsin Chapter since 2003. Dammeir has developed five business condominiums in Lake Geneva and the Geneva Lake area. His real estate appraisal business, Hibbard, Dammeir & Associates has its office in his most recent development, the Wells Street Business Condos, which is in the 900 block of Wells Street. LGEDC is the nonprofit corporation known for the development of the Lake Geneva Business Park as well as its support of a variety of improvement projects in Lake Geneva. The LGEDC has been active in community development since 1981. Its primary goals are to increase employment and Lake Geneva’s real estate tax base. Currently LGEDC is in the initial development phase of the Business Commons of Lake Geneva, a follow up business park project located on a 106-acre site on Highway 120. The property could be mixed use, commercial and industrial with some residential. Right now the property has no roads or utilities. The development corporation is working on that. The property is bordered by the Otto Jacobs Co. property to the north, which is not in the city, and the Hummel property to the north and west, which is in the city. “One of the main tasks is to get the Business Commons of Lake Geneva going,” Dammeir said. Dammeir said the LGEDC is now in the process of getting signs on the property. After that, the development corporation will start cultivating those who are looking to expand or move their businesses, he said. New expansions are hard to come by right now, but as the economy improves, Dammeir said, he expects to see the Business Commons attract interest. Although he hasn’t been connected to the LGEDC until recently, Dammeir said he’s known Joe Cardiff for years. He said he would lend Cardiff some help with information about area properties. Dammeir said he was attracted to the development corporation because of its commitment to Lake Geneva. “Because it is nonprofit, everyone it interested in the betterment of Lake Geneva,” Dammeir said. He said there is a continuing need to grow the city’s light manufacturing base to balance with the well-established tourist and retail businesses here. Resort communities are great, but when the economic times turn slow, it’s always good to have an economically diverse community to fall back on, Dammeir said. In addition to filling the Business Commons, Dammeir said he wants to create common cause with the retail-tourist industry and with local educators. Dammeir said he wants the LGEDC to connect local industries with the technical education department at Badger. It would be a way for local manufacturers to home-grow well-trained and dependable employees, he said. He said he also wants to work with Gateway, as another step in integrating business and job training into the community. Dammeir also said the Chamber of Commerce “does an awesome job” in the community. But the Chamber represents mostly retail and tourist businesses. Light industries aren’t members of the chamber, he said. Dammeir said he wants to meet with the new chamber president to see how the two organizations can work together to further improve the business climate in Lake Geneva. “Lake Geneva is lucky,” said Dammeir. “We have the lake front, and the downtown is great.

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