LUCEDALE — A long-time community volunteer, Sue Wright, has been named the new executive director of the George County Economic Development Foundation, and the job has been expanded to a full-time position.
Wright worked as an account executive at the Mississippi Press for 10 years, and more recently as a loan officer at Union Planters Bank. She has served on the foundation board for eight years, including a term as foundation president.
Wright says taking advantage of “location, location, location” will be the key for economic development in George County.
“One of the strengths in marketing George County is certainly going to be our location,” said Wright, who is a business administration graduate from the University of Mississippi. “That is so important in everything. Our location puts us in the middle of things. Right now we are experiencing rapid residential growth. George County has been recognized as the third fastest growing county in Mississippi, and we are going to see the impact of those new residents in growth in the service sector and retail sales.”
Most of the new George County residents are migrating up from the Mississippi Coast and Mobile. While some are retirees, most are commuters. Wright said people are attracted by the high quality of life in George County.
“This is a family community, and I think families are looking for the opportunity to raise their children in an environment that is family supportive,” Wright said. “Because of our location, we are close to Hattiesburg, Mobile, Pascagoula and Gulfport. Our terrific highway system connects us quickly to those other areas.”
Highway 63 is now four-laned all the way from Pascagoula to Lucedale, and U.S. 98 is four-laned to Mobile and Hattiesburg. Those transportation improvements have had a big impact on attracting commuters to live in George County. Wright said the good highway systems also allows college students an easy commute to the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mobile College and the University of South Alabama.
And, there is also easy highway access to cultural and recreational opportunities from Mobile to New Orleans.
MORE THAN ZZZs
While George County serves largely as a bedroom community for the Mississippi Coast and Mobile, Wright would like to provide more good jobs at home.
“We have a trained workforce here in George County that is driving to these other cities to work,” Wright said. “One of our goals is to find new jobs and new business opportunities for these trained people to work right here in George County. We’re going to try to develop more opportunities for them here in their own county. We have some very talented people here.”
Attracting new industry would help create better and higher-paying jobs, helping keep youth in George County and providing a better general business climate for existing retail and service operations.
“One of the things we want people to know is that we have a successful and thriving business community already,” Wright said. “We feel like the success of our existing businesses and industries is what is going to attract new industries. We have outstanding local industries, and their managers will be a key factor in selling other industries to locate in George County. The same philosophy holds true for retail. When they can see how well the local businesses are doing, that adds confidence.”
LONG-TERM GOALS A PRIORITY
Wright said one of her first major efforts will be working with the foundation board to develop long-term goals, and strategies for achieving those goals. She expects a continuing focus on supporting existing businesses and industries while marketing the county to new business and industry.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Wright said. “We have a lot to sell here in George County.”
Previously the economic development director’s position in George County was held by a volunteer. Wright said the leadership of George County decided to make it a paid position because of the county’s potential for growth.
“The leadership decided they wanted to be in control of our destiny, and not just let it happen for us,” Wright said. “We are actually going to manage and create the change so it will be a positive growth. We want to take it slowly, step-by-step, and build a very solid foundation.”
Creation of a chamber of commerce in Lucedale is being considered as one way to involve the community in economic development.
Wright is a member of the Mississippi Economic Council’s board of directors, and is on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College advisory board. She also belongs to the Lucedale Rotary Club and the Lucedale Kiwanis Club.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org or (228) 872-3457.