Foreman has been President & CEO of the North Louisiana Economic
Partnership (NLEP), which is headquartered in Shreveport, since 2004. NLEP is a nonprofit economic development
marketing organization that promotes fourteen parishes in the North Louisiana
region, working with existing and prospective employers to encourage
incremental capital investment and job creation.
Doug Eadie recently talked with Kurt about his work as
CEO of the Partnership. Highlights from
that interview follow
knowledge, attributes, and skills have you found most critical to your success
as CEO of NLEP, Kurt?
start with the obvious, the fact that I came to the CEO job at NLEP knowing the business of economic development
inside-out – how to promote a place, handle incentives, do deals, that kind of thing - has been a real asset in my work, as has the
tremendous energy and drive I bring to the job.
But in the unique NLEP context, I think what tops the list is my love
for the partnership building dimension of the CEO job. I’m a true extrovert and engagement-oriented
CEO if there ever was one, and I’m always on the lookout for new friends and
partners. If I didn’t truly enjoy rubbing
elbows with people, I’d be in serious trouble, what with our 60 Board members
and 240 investors. My
communication and sales skills have also been critical to my success since one
of my primary functions as CEO is to serve as NLEP’s ambassador-in-chief. So I estimate that since I arrived in
Shreveport, I’ve annually made presentations to over 40 groups in the region,
and I intend to keep up the pace. A
couple of other things I’d like to mention have helped me succeed as CEO: I’m comfortable with process, and I never
lose sight of the long-term prize. When
you’re building new working relationships and putting economic development
packages together, you’ve got to be willing to take the time to work through a
number of complex issues, and, you know, it can be a pretty convoluted process
– not just going straight from point A to point B. Patience and flexibility are two virtues of
mine that have paid off handsomely here
at NLEP. Taking the long view and
keeping my eye on the ultimate prize means that I can’t obsess about short-term
quid-pro-quos. My philosophy in this
regard is pretty simple: always be
generous in adding value when you have the opportunity, and don’t demand an
immediate return. More often than not in
my experience, that kind of generosity will eventually yield a return, but it
might be well down the pike.
have you found most enjoyable and satisfying about your CEO role at NLEP?
already know that I love being “Mr. Outside” in my work, and I relish the human
relations aspect of the CEO role – speaking on behalf of NLEP, courting new
investors, working out economic development deals. Inside the organization, I like building organizational culture and encouraging changes that move us
forward. In practice, this means working
with the team in coming up with a set of
core values to guide our work and our interactions with each other, and then
making sure that we put these values to work internally and avoid violating
them in practice. Maybe it has something
to do with my being a preacher’s kid, but I passionately believe that I’ve got
to be an encourager day after day inside the organization, trying to avoid behaving in ways that conflict with our
values. By the way, over the years
you’ve undoubtedly, like me, come across CEOs who don’t practice what they
preach, and that can be a big problem, in my opinion.
occurs to me while we’re talking that one reason I really love this job is that
I’ve become part of this community.
That’s partly because my family and I were so warmly welcomed, but it’s
also because I arrived here committed to immersing myself in the
community. So even though, strictly
speaking, I’m still a newcomer, I feel at home here, and I understand and
appreciate the rich traditions of the community, which, as you might know, is
the cradle of rockabilly and where Elvis got his start. I don’t know if the King has been sighted in
these environs lately, but I know he would be right at home too.
what don’t you enjoy about your CEO role, Kurt?
life be wonderful if we felt passionate about every last aspect of the job
we’ve signed on to do – that would truly be a script written by the Disney
folks! I’d guess it’s a rare person who
doesn’t have to draw on discipline and a sense of responsibility to get certain
things done. For me, developing
administrative systems and monitoring financial performance aren’t, to be
honest, sources of joy. They’re
important functions that I’m accountable to my Board for performing, so I grit
my teeth and do the job. But if some day
NLEP has grown to the point where we could justify a full-fledged “office of
the chief executive,” with an externally-focused CEO and an internally-focused
Chief Operating Officer, I’d be in the dream job.