Director, Water Technologies, Michigan Economic Development Corporation
In his various roles at the MEDC, Pezza helped establish economic development strategies that have become standard in Michigan. He played a key role with the MEDC in planning and designing the cluster-based approach, which helped launch alternative energy clusters. Most recently, the approach has driven the state’s water technologies initiative.
VIEW FROM THE TOP
“From an economic development perspective, if we can position Michigan — with almost 350 water-related businesses — as a platform for innovation in water, wastewater and storm water technologies, then we can attract new businesses, retain existing companies and help them expand. But the key thing is that innovation has to be implemented, and there’s a big financial gap. No one wants to or is able to pay for pilot programs to verify that a new technology works. We’ve got to be creative.
“One of the issues that this sector has come up against is that a lot of people think we have all this water, so what’s the problem? That is usually the first reaction. But from a quality perspective, the more water you have, the more problems you can have (e.g., algae overgrowth and invasive species). We’ve taken steps to improve our water, but there are a lot of challenges out there.”
Pezza has held a variety of positions at the MEDC, including (from most recent): vice president, International Development Unit; director, Program Review, Legal Affairs Unit; director, Special Projects; and director, International Business Development. Prior to the MEDC, he was with the Michigan Jobs Commission and held the positions of director, International Business Development; and director, Europe/Middle East /Africa Operations. Pezza was also previously an attorney at Butzel Long and practiced in its Business Law and International, Immigration and Customs practice groups.
• Juris Doctor degree, magna cum laude, Detroit College of Law
• Master’s degree, sports administration, Wayne State University, Detroit
• Bachelor’s degree, history and political science, Wayne State University
Pezza, born in Italy, holds a Fencing Master diploma from the Italian Academy of Arms. In the 1980s, he was one of the most successful NCAA Division I fencing coaches in the United States while serving as head coach of Men’s and Women’s Fencing at Wayne State University.
VOICE OF EXPERIENCE
“You can’t accomplish anything without the help of others. You have to be able to work within the framework of a team. At the MEDC, we each have our own areas, but we rely on a cross-functional matrix approach to get things done.”
— Interviewed by Ilene Wolff