KENNETT SQUARE—Nate Echeverria, hired by Kennett Square officials three years ago as the borough's first economic director, and who helped lead the small town to economic prosperity, has resigned. He will be taking a position as a senior planner in Key West, Fla., where he will be working on a variety of climate change adaptation and economic development projects.
Nate has done an absolutely outstanding job as Kennett’s first Economic Development Director, and he has built a great foundation for all of our work going forward," says Historic Kennett Square Executive Director Bo Wright.
The position that Echeverria has filled for the past three years is unique, Wright says, because it enables both of our local municipalities to think more broadly and strategically about implementing long-range plans that will benefit the area as a whole.
“We’re fortunate to have forward-thinking, collaborative, and engaged leadership at the municipal level,” Wright says. “We’ve also been really lucky to have had Nate here during these critical years in the area’s development. He’s brought not only experience and expertise, but also a thoughtful approach and heartfelt desire to help small businesses succeed. We will miss him tremendously, but we’re looking forward to what his successor will be able to accomplish because of the groundwork Nate has done.”
In 2016, Kennett Township, the Borough of Kennett Square, and Historic Kennett Square commissioned the Kennett Region Economic Development Study. On the basis of the study’s recommendations, Historic Kennett Square worked with the municipalities to hire a director for the new Office of Economic Development. Echeverria, who has a Masters in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, was the unanimous choice to fill this position.
Echeverria leaves behind a solid foundation for his successor and for Kennett’s future growth. One of the projects in which Echeverria has been instrumental is in laying the groundwork that allowed the Borough and Township to apply for a $1.4 million grant to improve the infrastructure on Birch Street.
While improving the Birch Street infrastructure is a long-term goal, Echeverria has also worked on many projects with more tangible, short-term outcomes. “Finding a tenant for the long-vacant historic building at 120 East State Street is one project we’re really proud of,” Echeverria says. “Work2gether moving into that long-vacant building, and also Café de Thai taking over the former Kennett Pizza space, are good case studies that illustrate the value of the HKS Office of Economic Development. We helped find great tenants for both of those spaces, but we also helped both businesses navigate the process of opening their businesses here and secure financing through the Revolving Loan Fund.” The Borough’s Revolving Loan Fund, which Echeverria has managed, helps to attract new businesses, allows existing businesses to grow and, most recently, has been used to help businesses survive the impact of the pandemic.
“Nate and the HKS team have been great to work with as we opened our restaurant here in Kennett Square,” says Jay Dye of Café de Thai. “From the very beginning they welcomed us to town, wrote an article about our business, and helped us secure a low-interest loan for working capital. We are forever grateful to HKS for everything they do for local businesses.”
Throughout his time here, Echeverria has worked to keep the focus on all businesses throughout Kennett. In partnership with True Access Capital, for example, he’s helped bring courses in creating a business plan (taught in both English and Spanish) to Kennett. Over recent months, Echeverria has been assisting many local small businesses navigate the significant challenges of applying for various forms of COVID-19 relief. He’s also administered the Small Business Relief Fund (SBRF), a joint project of Historic Kennett Square and Square Roots Collective.
“A guiding principle of the SBRF was to promote a more equitable recovery in our community. That meant working strategically to identify and address barriers to inclusion so we could ensure that resources were available to historically disadvantaged groups,” Echeverria says. To help with this, Echeverria liaised with the PennPraxis program at the University of Pennsylvania to bring graduate student Gabriela Newell, a native Spanish speaker, to lead outreach efforts to the Latinx community over the summer. The SBRF disbursed over $267,000 in grants to a diverse range of small businesses, 63 in total, in both the borough and Kennett Township.
“The Kennett community definitely has the potential to become the most beautiful town in America, where everyone can belong and prosper, and I’ll be interested to see the key role that the Office of Economic Development will play in the realization of this goal,” Echeverria said.