Economic developers around the state are optimistic about recent appointments in the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development (MDECD).
Several weeks ago, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove tapped Batesville banker J.C. Burns to head the state’s economic development department, replacing Jimmy Heidel, who resigned at the end of the year. Last week, Burns picked Jay Moon, an MDECD veteran experienced in national and international economic development, as the department’s new deputy director.
“I’m very excited that Jay, a man with a wealth of knowledge and vast experience in economic development, has accepted this position, along with my challenge to help bring Mississippi to the next level,” said Burns. “It will really help me working with a person who shares my passion for economic development and for Mississippi.”
Michael Olivier, executive director of Harrison County Development Commission, who knows Moon well, said he is highly regarded in the professional community.
“Jay is on the board of directors of the American Economic Development Council, has experience in both business development and community development, is skilled in economic development marketing with a focus on international development,” Olivier said. “Jay is a past president of the National Association of State Development Agencies, which I think gives him some distinction among the state economic development agencies since he was selected from his peers as their leader of their national organization.”
“Jay has a unique grasp of the international markets that are appropriate for Mississippi,” he continued. “In addition, he has a keen understanding of the assets of the state, especially the transportation assets of our state. Since he has been responsible for the state port authority, which involves both ports under the state’s auspices, Jay has also had exposure to the federal installations in our state that we may be able to utilize capacity-wise for business and industry. I think that’s important to note. When you sell internationally, you have to have a level of competence and knowledge in the assets of your state, whether you are selling to the automotive industry or to other manufacturing or distribution companies. You have to have a deep knowledge of not only the manufacturing sites, but also the transportation capacities.”
Blake Wilson, Mississippi Economic Council president, called the promotion “a dramatic teaming of front-line expertise with private sector vision.”
Tom Troxler, executive director of Rankin First Economic Development Authority, said Mississippi’s counties and communities have “a great duo with Jay and J.C.”
“Mr. Burns knows what we need at the local level because he’s been there and has succeeded at recruiting industries,” he said. “And Jay Moon is such a knowledgeable and well-respected economic developer with contacts literally around the world. I’m very confident that Mississippi will continue to be one of the hot areas for economic development during the next four or five years, at least.”
Moon has more than 15 years experience as an economic developer and has been with MDECD since 1989, holding the positions of special assistant to the director, director of the special initiatives division and, most recently, director of international development where his duties included investment and trade projects.
“Jay and I share the same philosophy for using public/private business partnerships to help achieve our goals,” said Burns. “I’d be remiss if I hadn’t looked to fill this position from within the pool of highly qualified existing members of my staff. I believe that with Jay and the other members of my staff we can take the best of MDECD and leverage that for many successes in the future.”
“I’m honored to be given this opportunity to use my experience and expertise to help elevate the quality of life for all Mississippi residents,” said Moon. “I’m really looking forward to working with J.C., other economic development professionals and businesses in Mississippi to develop and implement creative and innovative business enhancement and development programs.”
Dianne Dyar, executive director of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, said she is looking forward to the continuation of the economic development momentum that has been set in place by MDECD.
“Although I haven’t met Mr. Burns, I look forward to working with him and anticipate new and exciting opportunities out of his department,” she said. “With Jay as the deputy director and with his national and international expertise with MDECD, it assures a continuity in the transition.”
DeSoto County Economic Development Council president Jim Flanagan said he was pleased with the appointments.
“We’re pleased to see this team continuing the ‘Mississippi Miracle,’” he said. “We have worked closely with J.C. and Jay over the years and have observed the remarkable economic growth in Batesville and Panola County and have also worked closely with Jay in the international development arena and have seen his level of professionalism.”
Jay Hambright, senior vice president of economic development for the MetroJackson Chamber of Commerce, who worked with Moon at MDECD and collaborated on projects with Burns for 15 years, said the two professionals are excellent choices.
“Jimmy (Heidel) has been an outstanding DECD director, definitely the best in the last 24 years that I can recall,” he said. “He brought a lot to the table. His legacy is that he’s a team player. He laid the groundwork for the importance of people working together in the state. J.C. is going to bring a different style to the department. He’s a very, very nice person who’s very competent. He’s been extremely effective in economic development and wants to do a real good job for the state of Mississippi. Jay has been involved in two different divisions — nationally and internationally — for several years and has a good overview of DECD. I don’t anticipate much of a problem during the transition.”
Mississippi’s in good shape because most of the core MDECD employees will remain, Hambright said.
“We will have the nucleus of the people who have been there,” he said. “Everyone that comes on board will try to bring new vision and new direction. It’s just a matter of adjusting to the new commission.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.