HATTIESBURG – After five weeks on the job as president of the Area Development Partnership (ADP), J. Phillip Halstead is still working ’round the clock.
“ADP chair Paige York-Losee told me I’d be hitting the ground running, but geez, I love it,” said Halstead.
Before Halstead, 54, moved to Hattiesburg, he served as the executive director of Pittsburg State University`s (PSU) Business and Technology Institute, a university-based regional economic outreach organization comprised of seven operating units, 25 employees and a $3-million budget.
He served as director of the Kansas Polymer Research Center (KPRC) for seven years, during which time KPRC grew from four to 11 scientists, completed 10 bio-based materials competitive contracts, won a $2.2 million U.S. Department of Energy contract and partnered with Cargil, the world`s largest and most successful private company, to commercialize soybean oil-based polyols for use in foams, coatings, adhesives, elastomers (rubber) and other plastics materials.
Halstead, who earned undergraduate, master`s and doctoral degrees from Florida State University and is known for a creative leadership and financial management style, will apply his polymer experience to working closely with the Mississippi Polymer Institute at the University of Southern Mississippi to develop a polymer industry cluster in the region. Polymeric materials are increasingly used in the automobile sector, which continues its migration to the South.
Prior to working at PSU, Halstead founded Halstead Associates, a consulting firm specializing in multi-client strategy, economic development and business development services. He also served as the manager of government relations/affairs for several major corporations, including Tandem Computers, Nabisco Brands and The Clorox Company. While at The Clorox Company, he led a coalition that lobbied for and achieved a three-week extension of daylight saving time. This resulted in a quantified increase in the nation`s annual economic activity of at least $4 billion per year (in 1986 dollars).
“Dr. Halstead had everything the search committee was looking for and more,” said ADP vice-chair Richard Jones. “The position of president of the ADP is a very important role in this community. This person must be a ‘jack of many trades’ and able to work with diverse facets of our region. We feel Dr. Halstead will do very well in not only managing the tasks at hand, but also taking the organization to the next level.”
Halstead, a self-professed deep sea fishing fanatic who just started playing golf, succeeds former ADP president Gray Swoope, now deputy director and COO of the Mississippi Development Authority. Before Swoope, Tupelo`s Community Development Foundation president David Rumbarger held the post. Since 1995, the 1,000-member ADP has attracted a capital investment of $192 million, creating more than 2,100 new jobs.
Two weeks ago, Halstead closed on a French Country-style home in Timberton, overlooking the golf course. “In reality, it appears there will not be much time to play golf,” he said, with a chuckle.
Halstead chatted with the Mississippi Business Journal about his first 100 days on the job, his top priorities and greatest challenges as ADP president and his role in the community.
Mississippi Business Journal: Tell us about your first 100 days.
Phil Halstead: The first 100 days will be spent in a listening campaign, which will serve as a foundation for the next 1,000 days.
MBJ: What are the greatest challenges of your role as ADP president?
PH: The prize is creation of jobs and wealth in the context of a high quality of life and natural environment. I`ll focus on high value-added industry and jobs involving knowledge or technology-based economic development. The big tent is to be inclusive of all sectors and levels. Through love and cooperation, we`ll preserve and enhance the current high level of unity, consensus and support. The estimated 200 churches in the Hattiesburg area have done a great job of fostering love and cooperation.
MBJ: What are your top priorities?
PH: First and foremost, to meet and exceed our contractual obligations to ADP`s partners. Also, to work as a teammate with the ADP board of directors to provide leadership; support the staff in continuing the great job they are doing; facilitate the continued success of all ADP committee chairs and committees; assemble all ADP programs, projects and issues into a portfolio that facilitates enhanced management, productivity and accountability; make ADP`s mission, vision, goals, finances and expenditures more transparent by publishing an annual report of results, services and value-added; identify a list of measures of value delivered by ADP and collect, track and publish results over the years in a corporate annual report to show ADP and regional progress; and facilitate and implement a knowledge or technology-based economic development strategy for the region.
MBJ: The ADP plays a vital role in the development of the Mississippi I-59 technology corridor, which connects more than 400 technology companies employing more than 11,000 people that dot the interstate from Meridian to the Gulf Coast. Can you give us an update and tell us what your role will be?
PH: The I-59 Technology Corridor is a work in progress. My goal is to link the participating companies in a tighter network to stimulate transactions between and among companies, develop a compelling image campaign for the corridor and collaborate with my regional counterparts to grow existing and attract new industry to the corridor. Leveraging on the new Canton Nissan facility and the continued migration of the automotive industry to the South, the I-59 Corridor may become “The I-59 Automotive Technology Corridor” for the 21st century.
MBJ: Primary drivers of Forrest County`s economy are education, medical and military sectors, with USM, Forrest General Hospital and Camp Shelby as major employers. More than 2,500 manufacturing jobs were added between 1995 and 2002. Retail and service segments have had extraordinary growth even during the recent recession.
In the previous decade, Lamar County was one of the fastest-growing counties in Mississippi, and the fastest-growing in the Pine Belt region, with a population increase of 28% to 39,070. Based on conservative estimates, it is expected to grow to 47,279 by 2010. Per capita income in 1999 was $19,579, lower than state and national averages, reflecting a mix of blue- and white-collar workers. Retail and service sector growth has exploded along and near U.S. 98 and Interstate 59, but a lack of attractive, developed industrial property near major transportation arteries has hampered manufacturing growth. Can you tell us the current status, what changes are anticipated and how ADP is responding to those changes?
PH: The Forrest-Lamar County or Greater Hattiesburg Area can be characterized as a thriving diversified economy with a major university in the context of a superior quality of life and natural environment. The real competitive advantage of the area is the exceptional leadership and community that is fostered by the ADP`s private sector and government leaders working together. The image and symbol of where the region is headed is the Hattiesburg Convention & Visitor`s Center, where the ADP staff is located. My plan is to listen to hundreds of leaders and then work with them to develop and implement an integrated economic development strategy to sustain our region`s current forward momentum.
MBJ: An industry report in 2002 stated that manufacturing is low on the totem pole, even though there`s been some expansion in the industrial park. And tourism, especially promoting Hattiesburg as a golf and retirement destination, has been very successful. Can you give us an update?
PH: With only about 10% of area jobs being in manufacturing, our region could stand to double the number of manufacturing jobs and have a more balanced economy. There is an excellent opportunity to better package the Hattiesburg area golf courses and communities into a
haven modeled on the Alabama Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Positioning Hattiesburg as a retirement Mecca is working well, as we now have about 900 recent retirees in the area, with more coming every day.
MBJ: The Innovation & Commercialization Park, a private/public partnership, is moving forward as planned and has already generated quite a bit of interest. Can you tell us the status of the project and how ADP plans to market it?
PH: The 500 prime acres that currently include a golf course and lake is proceeding on course to be developed into a national class research park. It will be environmentally desirable, with only about half of the land to actually be developed.
A competitive solicitation was executed and an architect and engineering firm has been selected to proceed ahead with the project. About $2 million in funding has been obtained and additional public and private sources of funds are actively being sought.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.