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Bob Rohrlack offers his side of the resignation

Note: The Mississippi Business Journal received the following letter from Robert J. Rohrlack Jr., the former executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, who resigned May 30th.

Dear Editor:

I was surprised by some of the statements made in the June 9-15, 2003, issue of the Mississippi Business Journal story titled “Bye, Bob.” While the author did try to call me once the day my resignation was announced, factual accuracy should never be sacrificed for a deadline. This story should have been on the opinion page not the front page.

Several times in the story unnamed mystery sources are cited. Each time the mystery source is wrong. For example, the Governor and I met away from the Woolfolk building not in my office. We had a pleasant meeting as professionals who respect each other. While the outcome was not what either of us wanted, Governor Musgrove respected my decision and supported my reasoning: I must put my family first.

I cannot be more clear on this point: at no time during my entire tenure working as the Executive Director of MDA did Governor Musgrove pressure/request/demand or any other way ask for my resignation. The article states otherwise which is factually in error.

While I have frequently travelled on weekends, as the job requires, I was never told I would be doing more weekend travel as a mystery source claimed. The fact is I missed several important family events and holidays, which forced me to make a choice of being there during family events for my wife and sons or talking about it after the fact.

The mystery source that commented about things being “designed for re-election” simply left me asking what in the world the point was in that paragraph. The article mentioned personnel changes made while I was Executive Director of MDA. As I have always stated, I made my own decisions and carried them out. I never terminated, promoted or reassigned anyone based on directives from the Governor’s Office.

One section that truly offended me was the mystery comments about tension within the organization of MDA and an attitude of self-preservation. While an organization of over 300 employees will always have a disgruntled few, MDA worked very hard to have inclusiveness and a true sense of teamwork. I was on a first name basis with the entire MDA team. There was too much work to be done. We formed a self-directed employee advisory team. I had a team building retreat with the Division Directors and everyone knew I had an open door policy. I enabled each Division Director to make their own decisions to encourage and motivate their staff. To project an image of anything other than encouragement for ideas and innovative thinking is again factually wrong.

One of the most preposterous sections is the one stating Nissan suppliers are directed by the Governor’s Office about where to locate. Again, this is just factually wrong. Nissan has requirements for each supplier. The supplier can locate anywhere that allows them to meet those requirements at the most economical cost. The assistance the state can provide to suppliers was an important point of the Phase II negotiations. Mississippi is still experiencing the supplier influx and will for years to come. Vicksburg, Forest, and Tupelo are just some of the cities in the state that are experiencing the impact due in part because they worked hard and did not give up. There possibly will be suppliers moving here for several more years. For your mystery source to blame the Governor for not landing a supplier in a particular city sounds like the comment was directed toward their Board of Directors as an excuse rather than factual statement.

Finally, concerning the new Executive Director, Steve Hale, he has worked hard for the entire state of Mississippi in economic development. More importantly, he has successfully lead economic development efforts in his hometown of Senatobia. While Mayor of Senatobia, Hale led the negotiations to land the BMW distribution center. He had to balance the incentive deal while watching the balance sheet for the city. Steve has been on both sides of the economic development equation and he has proven himself to be a professional. I asked Steve to be my Chief of Staff because I needed and wanted his counsel and advice on many projects we worked together. He is an asset to MDA and the state. While some may criticize Hale’s experience, few have served in the varied roles he has or have his experienced views. Steve has applied and lobbied for MDA programs as well as recommended awards for those programs. In other words, he has been on both sides of the table. That is a well-rounded professional. Any comment to the contrary is election year politics.

Lastly, I am proud of the team I was able to work with at MDA and our results. They supported and encouraged the ideas I had and I hope they felt I supported and encouraged them in return. MDA, under Governor Musgrove’s leadership, will continue to do well and be successful providing jobs for Mississippians. Nissan, Northrop/Grumman, Howard Industries and American Eurocopter are but a few of the recent successes for Mississippi and there are more to come.

There really is no mystery to it.

— Bob Rohrlack

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