Investor Spotlight with Paul Sachs

Posted in News on July 26, 2022

 Investor Spotlight with Paul Sachs


Paul-Sachs.pngPaul Sachs is Director of Strategic Impact for Ottawa County, where he implements innovative and pragmatic solutions for a growing array of interconnected services and strategies that positively impact quality of life and economic growth in the County. A Michigan native, Paul was born and raised in Royal Oak; attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo (B.S. Earth Sciences ’98); and currently lives in Holland with his wife and two daughters. Paul previously worked as a Researcher for the Federal Highway Administration’s Research and Technology Center in McLean, Virginia; and as a Planning Analyst for Michael Baker Engineering under contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), including the Mapping and Analysis Center in Washington, D.C.


You have years of senior-level leadership experience. Who are the people who have had a profound influence on you and your leadership style?

 Frankly speaking, I’ve had managers over my 20-plus-year career from whom I learned exactly how not to act as a leader. I’ve of course also served under those whom I fully respected their approach to leadership. The modus operandi of the most influential leaders I’ve worked with understand what it takes to lift people to perform at their best. This means knowing you do not have all of the answers. You listen; you support; you provide guidance. Applying this leadership style requires constant self-awareness – you must place yourself in staffs’ position when navigating the optimal means to move projects forward. Through my experiences over the years, I have recognized how important it is to motivate, inspire, and build excitement in each project regardless of how complex it may be - and to trust. Ultimately, I strive to build confident staff that are empowered to make decisions, seek solutions, build partnerships, and take pride in and ownership of their work. I’m incredibly fortunate to have assembled a team of remarkably skilled staff who continuously nurture my leadership approach. I trust the talents of staff; in exchange, we’re able to accomplish great work.


Talk to us about organizational culture. What are some values that you and your team live by?

It’s often common for young professionals to enter the workforce fully charged with a desire to immediately, positively impact the world. The reality is, well, reality. There is an important need to learn how to effect change, present practical ideas, collect and utilize detailed data, engage with people to create support, and effectively build momentum. Accordingly, our department’s organizational culture is driven by a collective desire to consistently make positive impacts in our communities while simultaneously navigating through the necessary channels that lead to results. It takes time. It takes thoughtfulness. It takes confidence. Our motivation to accomplish this work is fueled by valuing pragmatism, creativity, relationships, constant learning, and achieving consistent forward progress. 

As Director for Ottawa County’s Department of Strategic Impact, what is something that is exciting about your work right now?

Our department's body of work is so incredibly diverse, it is difficult to highlight just one project! But perhaps that's the excitement. Personally, it’s the thrill of project diversity and the challenges they present that keeps me motivated to continue serving Ottawa County.

A few highlights of some of the exciting work that our department is currently pursuing include …

  • ARPA Funding Our department is helping to lead the effort (in collaboration with community partners) in deciding how best to utilize the $57 million the County received as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Funding transformational projects which achieve long-term positive impacts in the County is a key criterion with these once-in-a-generation dollars.
  • Groundwater Sustainability Initiative We serve as the 'point-of-the-spear' in addressing the County’s groundwater challenges within our deep bedrock aquifer system - the primary source of drinking water for many county residents.
  • Farmland Preservation Program Dovetailing with the groundwater work, we are also abundantly engaged with our agricultural industry. Through the implementation of preservation strategies and succession planning, we are ensuring the long-term viability and resiliency of this key economic sector.  
  • Broadband internet Addressing the unacceptable gaps in high-speed internet access in the more rural areas of the County is another critical, complex undertaking that we’re steadily making progress on. We recently completed a comprehensive Broadband Internet Survey which has provided a much clearer picture of service gaps.
  • Economic redevelopment We also work to redevelop vacant, contaminated, and/or underutilized properties in the County as a means to bring them back to productive use and back on revenue-generating local tax rolls.
  • Affordable housing Administering the County’s Housing Commission is also another important endeavor - we’re steadily gaining momentum with respect to supporting initiatives needed to create workforce housing stock as well as developing programs to support housing stability needs among the local workforce.
  • Evaluation, Statistics and Research We also support many area nonprofit agencies with strategic planning, organizational assessments, survey development, and data collection and analysis services.
  • Other collaboration Lastly, our department is thrilled to be collaborating with area stakeholders, including Lakeshore Advantage and Consumers Energy, to begin planning for the redevelopment of the 2,000-acre, coal-fired J.H. Campbell Power Generating facility in Port Sheldon Township, which is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2025.

What is a book that you’ve read or a resource that you use to help you continually grow as a leader?

I utilize my staff. They are the most immediate and purest gauge to the effectiveness of my leadership style. I highly value the opportunities for growth they provide me.

Can you share why it is a priority for you to invest in economic development? 

Investment occurs in the places you love. And I love Ottawa County. This is where I continue to grow my roots, raise a vibrant family, create meaningful friendships, where I build my career, and relax and spend much of my free time. From my perspective, an investment in economic development is not strictly limited to bricks and mortar, but in building communities that thrive. Ottawa County is fortunate to have so many likeminded individuals and agencies across multiple industry sectors which collaborate to achieve sustained future prosperity and health for all who call this place home. These collaborators include economic development agencies such as Lakeshore Advantage, community foundations, nonprofits, school districts, local units of government, environmental and other advocacy groups, and more. We all thrive in Ottawa County because of the holistic approach pursued by passionate, community-oriented champions who strive to create an environment where people not only want to visit, but stay, work, and grow.