Research Triangle Park's top pitchman is going to Disney World.
Rick Weddle, who has run the Research Triangle Foundation since 2004, has quit to become CEO of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission.
Weddle is expected to start in Orlando on March 14. He and his wife Ginger will relocate to central Florida from Cary.
Weddle "is one of the most recognized and accomplished economic development professionals in the nation," said David Pace, Metro Orlando EDC's chairman, in a statement. "When Rick became known to us, we knew that we owed it to our region to get this individual on board."
Liz Rooks, the RTP foundation's executive vice president, will take over as interim CEO. The foundation oversees the 7,000-acre RTP and is in the process of updating the park's master plan.
Rooks said she doesn't expect to become permanent CEO, but said it's too soon to discuss the timing for the board to name a new top executive.
"I'm a planner by background," said Rooks, who has been with the foundation since 1989. "Being president of the Research Triangle Foundation is big shoes for anyone to fill. I have great confidence our board will find someone to lead this organization."
RTP is home to more than 170 companies, government agencies and other tenants that employ 42,000 workers and 10,000 contractors.
Part of updating the master plan, which is being orchestrated by New York design firm Cooper, Robertson & Partners, will require getting approval from tenants, and elected officials in Durham and Wake counties. The new plan is expected to be ready this summer, and will likely include a roadmap for future development in RTP, including possible retail and residential components.
The goal is to reinvent the park for the next 50 years, Weddle said last fall. He couldn't be reached for comment today.
During his tenure in RTP, Weddle became one of this region's most visible and vocal economic-development cheerleaders. He appeared on CNBC and in other media to tout this region's successes.
He also helped lure new tenants to RTP, including Fidelity and Credit Suisse. But he's also seen several depart, including Nortel and Sony Ericsson.
In 2009, Weddle oversaw the International Association of Science Parks' annual conference at the Raleigh Convention Center. It was the first time the group of officials from research parks worldwide met in the United States, and reinforced RTP's international reputation as an economic engine.