Hattiesburg — After a nationwide search to fill the post of president of the Area Development Partnership (ADP), the board named as its leader Angie Dvorak, former president of the Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA) and most recently, head of the Southern Miss Research Foundation.
“The search committee canvassed the country to find the perfect fit, and the best candidate was in our own backyard,” said ADP search committee chairman Paige York-Losee. “With Angie, you know exactly what you are going to get. Her passion for this community is pervasive, which is evident by her strong civic engagement on the local level. Today, the ADP is moving forward in its role as a leader in regional alliances and we are confident the organization’s goals will be reached with Dr. Dvorak at the helm.”
The PACE Group, an executive search firm based in Tupelo, initially recruited Dvorak to Mississippi five years ago. After Dvorak guided MTA from its infancy, Southern Miss president Shelby Thames hired her as the university’s vice president for research and economic development and head of the research foundation. For the last year, Dvorak has also served as an ADP board member and was selected to chair the organization’s important strategic planning committee.
The Mississippi Business Journal chatted with Dvorak about her new position, and her vision for moving south Mississippi forward.
Mississippi Business Journal: How will you be integrating your technology development experience with recruiting?
Angie Dvorak: As (Harvard professor) Michael Porter has stated, there is no such thing as a low-tech company. All companies are technology companies to some degree. Therefore, it is critically important in recruiting any type of business or industry that we communicate the technology infrastructure and the technology-savvy workforce in our community, while trying to understand as quickly as possible the company’s technology requirements and how science and/or technology is integrated into the business model.
MBJ: What are some types of businesses that will be a good fit for development in the area?
AD: Fortunately, the areas that ADP serves are extremely compatible with a wide variety of business and industry types. From service industries and retail enterprises to light or heavy manufacturing, the location, transportation access, the workforce, the business climate, the cultural amenities and technology infrastructure allow us to provide an exceptional fit to a very diverse group of industries.
MBJ: What plans do you have for increased development at the Southern Miss Innovation & Commercialization Park being built in Hattiesburg?
AD: This year’s federal funding for the park is approximately $5.5 million. A marketing plan is pending development, which we’ll launch in 2005. A very robust Web site will give potential tenants the ability to review the park and its features in great detail. A joint project with the City of Hattiesburg and the University of Southern Mississippi has initiated a road development on Classic Drive between U.S. Highway 49 and the property line of the park. This $1.4-million project will provide infrastructure and transportation enhancements leading into the park.
MBJ: You have been busy in this transitional period from your position at Southern Miss to this new challenge. How have you prepared for your new role?
AD: Prior to my being considered for the position, I served as the chair of the strategic planning committee for ADP. The new ADP Blueprint for 2010 really has provided an excellent starting point for me. My goal has been to immerse myself in reading and studying the ADP and its direction and many successes since its inception. The ADP staff is nothing short of extraordinary, and I’ve tried to spend some time with each of them to better understand the organization and each person’s role.
MBJ: Do you see the ADP taking a much broader role in the development of the I-59 Technology Corridor?
AD: The ADP has been a strategic partner in the I-59 Technology Corridor initiative from the beginning. Mitch Stennett, EDA of Jones County, and I have already spent some time talking about our continued efforts to grow and build the Corridor. We plan to meet with our peers up and down I-59 in early 2005 to initiate a strategic plan that maximizes the opportunities of the corridor.
MBJ: What changes can we expect to see at the ADP?
AD: In January 2005, we will roll out a new look in our logo. With the “sky as the limit,” ADP will adopt blue as its new marketing color. We will also add “Chamber of Commerce” and “Economic Development” into the text of the logo itself, so that we can more consistently communicate our dual role. Sometimes, people looking for the chamber of commerce may or may not know to look for the ADP.
We are also revamping our Web site and will be working to maximize its usefulness as a reliable, meaningful information clearinghouse to members and for the community at large. We want to drive people to our Web site, www.theADP.com as often as possible. If it is a helpful site, we believe that they will return again and again and use it as a major tool.
MBJ: What goals have already been highlighted for ADP?
AD: Our 2005 board chair, Richard Jones, has announced a goal of 1,200 members. That will be an increase of about 300. We are excited about this opportunity. I hope that two to three years from now, no individual or business in our area would even consider not being a member of ADP because it is viewed as a “must-have” relationship that is valuable and worthwhile.
I’ve laid out some simple guiding principles for us as an organization: to be simply the best that we can be in every way; to focus on our relationships as the secret to our success (Mark Sanborn, “The Fred Factor”); and to “persist without exception” in everything that we do (Andy Andrews, “The Traveler’s Gift”).
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.