In the field of economic development, the real battle is just making a prospect’s “short list.” In this global marketplace of today, economic developers aren’t just competing with Alabama or even California, but the world. Thus, development professionals have two constraints — to give professionally-produced presentations to set their communities apart from the others, and deliver on time. The task can be daunting, especially for rural areas with limited resources, a characteristic of many Mississippi communities.
Fortunately for Mississippi economic developers, there is a source of help where they can not only get the data they need, but also have it professionally packaged. And, it is free. It is the Mississippi Resource Center Inc. (MRC) in Jackson.
“Site consultants are looking for a reason to take you out of the loop,” said Don Moore, MRC executive director. “If you don’t have the information they need, when they need it, you’re off the list.
“What we do here at MRC is offer a link between the private and public sectors, to offer data and resources to Mississippi economic developers so they can do their jobs more effectively. What we do is serve as a kind of ad agency for economic developers.”
MRC was formed in 1992 as a joint venture between the private and public sectors’ development efforts in the state, as a consortium of businesses and private economic development entities and the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development (MDECD). Its mission is to support economic development work in the state by providing decentralized information, and to produce professionally-crafted presentations, portfolios and videos.
MRC offers a number of services on a no-fee basis. These include customized presentation systems, site, building and community profiles with color graphics, online assistance via its web site www.mrconline.org, portfolio packages, databases gleaned from the MDECD and other help to augment efforts in business recruitment, retention and expansion.
A quick glance at MRC’s Internet page gives an idea of the kind of support the organization offers developers. These include videos highlighting the infrastructure and business climate of Mississippi with testimonials from Mississippians, maps, narratives on statewide and industry-specific topics such as wood products and ports and waterways, customized power point background images, links to related sites and more.
One of the site’s most interesting features is Developer Central. Here individuals can get self-tailored data on communities, counties, sites and buildings by choosing from a large menu of options. For instance, an interested party looking for a minimum 50,000-acre site in Harrison County within 10 miles of an airport can have that information, and only that information, with a few clicks of the mouse.
MRC has even newer technology available now through DVD. DVD offers the highest quality delivery of digitally-reproduced video and audio possible today. MRC has already developed a touch-screen presentation covering a wide variety of topics, and Moore said that DVD’s potential in professional presentations is almost unlimited.
And MRC’s facility itself is also a haven for developers. Located on the second floor of the Landmark Center on Capitol Street in downtown Jackson, the site offers reference material and meeting space, including a spacious auditorium with a huge video screen for multimedia presentations. Owned by BellSouth, the facility is let to MRC free of charge because of BellSouth’s belief in MRC’s efforts.
Those efforts have been extensive. They have produced video pieces, including a number in foreign languages, countless brochures and printed materials and helped on a wide variety of projects. Since Feb. 1993, MRC six-person team has assisted in presentations to more than 1,000 prospects yielding more than $1 billion in capital investment with an estimated total employment of 15,000 jobs. However, Moore said the numbers aren’t the true measure of MRC’s success.
“We don’t come in and take over the economic development work,” he said. “We’re more like a cog in the wheel. So, it’s impossible to know exactly how many successes the Resource Center specifically has had since we are just part of the team. But I believe we have had a considerable impact because of the feedback from organizations we’ve helped.”
Moore said his hope for the future is to form more partnerships with economic developers and communities, and to ensure the continued funding of MRC. Truly a private-public effort, MRC receives only 25% of its funds from the state with the rest coming from private pledges. Currently working on pledges from the private sector made in 1996, Moore said he is concerned about future funding and has a goal to secure MRC’s viability in the 21st Century.
But if people like Marie Shoemake, executive director of the Covington County Chamber of Commerce, have a say, it will be around a long time.
“They are very important to me,” she said. “Not only did they produce a professional, quality piece for us, Don Moore came down here and spoke. Their willingness to work with small communities is just great. They give me a resource I couldn’t afford to buy with my budget. It’s a partnership.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at email@example.com.