When I first joined the Mississippi Economic Development Council (MEDC) in 1986, it was still called the “Mississippi Industrial Development Council.” The industrial part came from the organization’s historical roots. Back in 1964 it was formed by a small group of industrial developers whose main emphasis was “hunting smokestacks.”
In the last 15 years MEDC has not only changed its name, but has also changed its focus to reflect what is going on in the field of economic development.
Today, we are a much broader based organization with community developers, economic developers, chamber of commerce executives, downtown developers, educators, government officials, consultants, construction company executives, utilities and other business people. These professionals’ priorities include everything from siting large manufacturing plants to retail business development to holding community festivals. We are also more diverse in terms of gender and race.
Our goals are to educate the membership on current issues, make government and the public aware of our position on these issues, provide networking opportunities, assist with continuing professional education for the membership and strengthen the overall economy of Mississippi.
One of my personal goals is to forge a stronger link with chamber of commerce members. Beginning in 1936, the Mississippi Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (MACCE) was the champion for local chambers. In 1996, MACCE and MEDC merged into one organization. I think this merger reflects the blending of local development organizations and the blurring of responsibilities among professional developers.
What is good for chamber programs should be good for industrial development, and what benefits industrial development should also benefit the chamber. The board and I will be working with the vice president for chambers of commerce to develop more programming and services for our chamber members. For example, we are partnering with the Metro Tri-County Council of Chambers with events such as the springtime “Fishing for Ideas” seminar which has been a great success.
The vice president for economic development will spearhead efforts to promote legislation, policies and activities that make Mississippi more competitive for industrial and business projects. Our allies with the Mississippi Development Authority and the Mississippi Economic Council will play a big part in this area. We will also continue to provide good informational sessions at the semi-annual conferences and other educational seminars. We are open to collaborating with different organizations for economic development seminars, such as the Mississippi Technology Alliance and the USDA Rural Development.
MEDC’s Community Development (CD) segment really encompasses all the parts of the economic whole.
Downtown revitalization, leadership development, training and infrastructure development are just some of those parts. The vice president of CD and board will work on these things as well as others which strengthen our communities. We will be listening to the needs of community elected officials too.
I believe MEDC can also play a part in building upon the regional alliances that are forming in Mississippi. Although it may sound like a clich