FISTA Innovation Park has a new executive director.
FISTA’s governing board voted unanimously Wednesday to name Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce Director Krista Ratliff as the executive director, effective June 1. Members of the FISTA Development Trust Authority met in special session Wednesday to approve the employment agreement with Ratliff, ending a search that began earlier this year after the board announced in January it would be creating the position.
Ratliff already is working for FISTA on a part-time basis. In late October, the trust authority hired her as a consultant to help coordinate $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding allocated to FISTA from Oklahoma’s share of the federal dollars. The agreement specifies Ratliff would help in areas such as strategic planning and development, funding strategies, helping with applications, and management of the anechoic chamber, Sensitive Compartmented Facility, STEM lab and MakerSpace classrooms, and the incubator and accelerator.
Those tasks also will fall under Ratliff in her role as executive director. That position is designed to take the lead role in operating the military defense contractor work/office space and interact with entities outside the complex. Trust Authority Chairman Clarence Fortney has said an active top secret security clearance was a requirement of the position because of federal and military security requirements for the complex.
Development Authority Vice Chairman Mark Brace said the position is designed to take FISTA into the future. Brace said activities associated with the FISTA have grown substantially over the past two years as tenants move into the complex, and the work load has grown beyond existing staff and the FISTA Development Trust Authority’s executive board.
Ratliff has served as president and CEO of the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce for about two years. The chamber’s executive board met Wednesday morning, with its agenda including executive session discussions about Ratliff’s contract. Ratliff said Wednesday that she will continue to work with the chamber during what will be a transition period. Executive Vice President Taron Epps will step into an interim role until a final decision in made on a new chamber president.
Ratliff said she would continue to work with the chamber as long as necessary in a supporting role, as she begins assuming her FISTA executive director duties full time. She said FISTA is important, noting its impact on the region’s economy as well as its support of the nation’s military and the defense contractors who work with them. She said her role as chamber president already included strong support for its mission.
“I am excited to build upon FISTA’s strong foundation and forge new partnerships to further accelerate the development and adoption of the FISTA,” she said. “It is time that Lawton Fort Sill not only lead Oklahoma, but the nation in innovation and development.”
FISTA Development Trust Authority members lauded the experience Ratliff is bringing to her new role.
“She has a host of qualifications,” Brace said, citing her work in security and cybersecurity, health care, finance and human resources, as well as “her proven track record in economic development.”
Ratliff’s employment agreement specifies a one-year term, beginning June 1, with automatic renewals each year “to the extent sufficient appropriations are provided.” The executive director reports directly to the authority’s chair, vice chair and trustees. Among other things, she is required to have and maintain a Top Secret security clearance from the U.S. government, a qualification the trust authority said was crucial for the person ultimately named executive director.
Her annual salary is $200,000, with a one-time signing bonus of $10,000. Termination of the contract comes with a six-month severance payment, an amount that can be increased incrementally to a maximum of nine months by adding two additional weeks for each two years of service.