top of page

Passing the Baton

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

By RDG Senior Counsel Rob Radcliff

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got”

-Henry Ford

At the outset, I must apologize to the subjects of this blog -- Roy Williams and Jeff Finkle who are both transitioning to their respective next chapters this year; each deserves their own special place in the limelight and yet for me, they are inextricably tied together. Each played a very special and meaningful role in the development and eventual success of Resource Development Group for which our company and me personally will be forever grateful. You see in our professional infancy, each in their own special way “took us under their wing” and offered quiet coaching, direction and mentorship, as we struggled to find our path and grow into the company we are today.

I think it is also worth noting that each had a dramatic and unique impact on our industry -- Roy leading an EDO(s), boosting investment for the specific community, and transforming the region, while Jeff was developing a peer member/professional organization, working to enhance and improve the profession on a global scale.

We have all been asked to describe people in a few words. It’s hard to do! How do you find words that capture the spirit of someone? Surprisingly, when I was asked recently to describe Roy and Jeff in a few words, I didn’t find it difficult at all………

Quietly effective

Servant Leader

Enormous impact

Profound influence

Unsuspecting mentors

They are the epitome of all these things and more. If you missed it, Roy, President and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce for the past 17 years, announced he will retire later this year. Jeff retired as long-time CEO of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) earlier this year.

I first met Roy in 1994 when he was hired as SVP of Business Recruitment (or some fancy title like that) for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC). I wondered at the time if this “Cowboy” from Texas via Oklahoma was going to fit in what was becoming a sophisticated market and organization. We were raising money for GPEC at the time and as the new rock star in Phoenix, we spent a lot of time with Roy – in meetings, on calls, strategizing – and quickly learned he knew his stuff!!

Shortly after that experience, Roy found his way to the Columbus (OH) Chamber of Commerce for an eight-year stint in our hometown. Suffice it to say, Roy literally changed the economic development landscape in Central Ohio. Probably his most significant achievement was creating what for us was a new, collaborative, and cooperative approach among local governments to business recruitment and retention. As simple and obvious as that sounds today, it was a novel concept at the time, and still survives to this day.

After his recruitment to Oklahoma City, we have had the good fortune to work with Roy and his top-notch team five times now, and through each engagement have witnessed first-hand one of the industries all-time greatest leaders. His fingerprints are all over the OKC landscape, with his influence and knowledge spread through the entire industry.

I met Jeff in 1998 when our fledgling firm was managing an engagement for the then Greater Washington (DC) Initiative. I met him on his turf, at IEDC’s DC office, and delivered a small check to show our appreciation for their work. I will never forget his comment. “Thanks for this; let me know when you guys are ready to get serious about being involved and having an impact, and I will tell you how to do that”. WOW, talk about a back-handed slap in the face! But it got my attention, and two years later Jeff was sitting on the back deck of my business partners home on a Saturday morning telling us just that …… how to get involved and have an impact on the industry. The point here is he took the time, made the effort and was willing to help guide us in a way that only he could, and it permanently altered the trajectory of our firm in a very positive manner.

One of the hardest things to do as an ED pro is stand in the background while someone else (insert favorite Mayor, Commissioner, Governor, Board leader) takes credit for your work. And yet, nothing else is more important because empowering other civic leaders to help “lead” meaningful and inclusive economic growth is the essence of the work we do. I dare say few have played that role as well as Roy and Jeff.

I think it is fitting that the International Economic Development Council will hold their Annual Conference later this year in Oklahoma City. It is a city that should be showcased, but more importantly, while the timing is serendipitous, I am sure, it provides an opportunity to properly honor two of the all-time greats.

It has been an honor to work with Roy and Jeff but even better, to call them “friends”. It was my distinct pleasure to personally welcome each to the What Do We Do Now Club when they announced their retirements! I am hopeful and confident each will receive the recognition they have earned. Nobody deserves their time on stage more!

68 views0 comments


bottom of page