On Feb. 4, Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development executive director J.C. Burns began a journey around the state to determine what is needed to spur economic development.
Before he left, Burns chatted with the Mississippi Business Journal about his opinions on economic development, workforce education and transportation issues, and how he plans to take MDECD to the next level.
Mississippi Business Journal: What will you bring to the state job from a county level? How will your strategies differ on a broader scope?
J.C. Burns: I don’t see it as necessarily bringing the job from a county to a state level so much as I see it from the private to the public sector. Hopefully, I’ll bring the experience of having dealt with the public sector and rallying them, and the private sector together so we can all get our arms around the issues and deal with what needs to be done. I’ll bring a commitment to see that the job gets done.
MBJ: What changes do you plan to make in the department? What style of leadership will you bring and how do you envision your leadership making a difference?
Burns: I’m very, very fortunate because the foundation of a good economic development program is already here. Plus — the national economy has been good. The state economy has been good. We’ve added sectors to this area that have really and truly brought us from a back woods situation with spotted successes to a much more statewide developed program.
Concerning leadership, each person has a different style. My style is different than yours…. There are leadership style differences between the previous director and me. My job is to keep the foundation strong and to begin to build on that to bring us to the next level, which will take the cooperation between DECD, the rest of the public sector, the governor’s office, the Legislature, the educational community and the private sector, with all of us coming together and studying what we have and trying to determine the right approach and then agreeing as much as we can about where we need to go, then setting our sights and taking off.
MBJ: What is your opinion on the consolidation of workforce development training and why? And what will it take to have a cohesive effort to see a goal achieved?
Burns: Workforce development and education are two threads that run through the state’s economic development program. There are a number of issues out there. Turf battles are being fought.
What I hope all of us can bring to this issue is that no matter what the entities are and no matter who the players are, that we put into place an effective delivery system to get the product to the consumer — a competently trained workforce — in the most expeditious way possible at the most economical cost. In order to do that, we’ve all got to work together in a partnership and set aside areas in which we disagree for the better good of the entire state. The ingredients for a cohesive effort are out there right now. When I talk one on one with individuals such as legislators, people within various agencies, in the private sector particularly, there is a great feeling of all of us coming together and working together to accomplish goals that need to be accomplished. It feels good to me. I don’t think I’m fooled completely. I believe there’s some substance there.
MBJ: What’s your opinion of the 5