John Patrick Boland brings a global, and even warzone perspective, to his new job as Lee County’s director of economic development. Boland, who retired in 2015 as a lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, served two tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, in the role of an economics officer.
“I did economic development in the worst part of the world to get the economy started,” he says. Boland, 52, moved to Southwest Florida in April 2014 as vice president of strategy and business development for Hertz Equipment Rental Co. The company was spun off in 2015 as an independent, publicly traded company from Hertz Corp. He holds a J.D. from the University of Dayton and an MBA from Rutgers University.
Why did you take the Economic Development Office job? It struck a chord. I had done a similar opportunity during my military career in Iraq. I’ve always had this bent toward public service.
What’s an accomplishment from that time in Iraq? I arrived in late 2004. We developed a framework on how to get the economy restructured. That was part of the U.S. State Department’s program that was rolled out as the basic building block [for economic development]. I was asked to teach [economic development at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College]. What I learned in Iraq was a disciplined approach to help set the conditions for economic growth. It’s where I became interested in how economies work and how stakeholders interact, even with competing agendas. In Iraq, I was fortunate enough to have a front-row seat to the rebuilding of a country. In Lee County, I have the opportunity to work in a vibrant, growing economy and learn from its stakeholders how we can all work together to help the community reach its full entrepreneurial potential.
How do you think your experience in the corporate world will benefit the EDO? [The] businesses have been very entrepreneurial, very innovative and very customer focused. I have a motive to do things in a more rapid way with hopefully less bureaucracy.
How would you put your leadership mentality into words? Being a Marine, I think that makes me a little different. I think it’s a positive for people who really want to achieve and are really aggressive. I’m really good at developing and unlocking their potential. I’m very direct. So people will always know where they stand with me.
What’s one of your great accomplishments in a prior job? Probably the most profound is when I was in China [as vice president and general manager for IDEX Asia Pacific in Shanghai]. I was able to unlock potential by investing in [his staff]. I invested in English lessons [for them]. I made myself approachable. The employees viewed me as not just a senior leader, but as part of the team. People started telling me things going on in the business that I was able to address.