It might seem that Madison attorney Andy Taggart served as head of the Mississippi Technology Alliance (MTA) only briefly, but his tenure actually ran much longer than he anticipated.
“It was a wonderful professional opportunity for me, and I’m very gratified by the progress MTA made during the time that I was there,” said Taggart, who resigned as MTA president and CEO in late 2005. “But I had decided four years ago that I really wanted to build my law practice, and I’ve just now been able to make the move back into my full-time law practice and give it the attention it requires.”
An outspoken first-term elected Madison County supervisor, there had been rumblings that Taggart’s departure from MTA might be politically motivated. “That’s not the case at all,” Taggart emphasized.
Taggart, whose law practice concentrates on business consulting with an emphasis on healthcare and government relations issues, was named interim director in 2001 after MTA founder Angie Dvorak relocated to Hattiesburg to join the University of Southern Mississippi. She is now president of the Area Development Partnership serving Forrest and Lamar counties. Taggart was named permanent MTA chief in 2002.
“When Andy became our president/CEO, he challenged us to ‘Think big. Think often.’ Hence, the reason you see it on all MTA collateral material,” said Heath Hall, MTA vice president for development. “He also challenged us at the end of each day to be able to answer the question: ‘What have you done for Mississippi today?’ Those are more than just slogans to Andy, they are his way of life. And through his solid leadership, they are MTA’s approach to our mission of championing science and technology-based economic development.”
During his tenure, Taggart developed the Mississippi Angel Network, which now has 55 active participants and is led by Jim Lowery; established the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a consulting group for manufacturers connected with community college and university resources led by Jay Tice from Virginia; and led the successful start-up of a technology incubator, which now houses 100 private-sector jobs.
Stronger financial status
Taggart also guided MTA to strengthen, diversify and stabilize its financial status. He reduced operating costs while increasing program services, and developed credibility with entrepreneurial, investment and academic communities.
Tony Jeff, COO of MTA, who is serving as interim director, said it sounds strange to say Taggart could leave without MTA skipping a beat “but he’s been preparing us, in terms of the way the organization was structured, to carry on without him.”
“He made sure all of our programs have really good program managers,” explained Jeff. “Andy’s a well-respected person, so it’s always great to have his input, and we’ll miss that.”
MTA recently launched a new Minority Entrepreneurship Training Class, in conjunction with Jackson State University, Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University. Jeff plans to eventually expand the program to “anyone who is interested,” he said.
For 2006, MTA will focus on developing richer relationships with communities and universities, said Jeff.
“It’s real important that Mississippians know we’re the MTA for all of Mississippi,” he said. “We’ve always had offices in Jackson and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and we plan to expand resources, perhaps some shared positions with local communities and universities.”
The MTA board of directors is handling the selection process for a new CEO, and the timeline and list of candidates is unknown. When asked if he was in the running for the permanent job, Jeff, a member of the 2005 class of Mississippi’s Top 40 Under 40 said, “I don’t know, but the board has been highly supportive and has asked me to run the company for now.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.