MENDENHALL — Brad White is still new to professional economic development, but he’s definitely committed to contributing all he can to his home county. The 29-year-old became executive director of the Simpson County Development Foundation (SCDF) one year ago after serving as the organization’s president and chamber of commerce president. He’s always been involved with doing things for the community where his family has lived for generations.
A resident of the Jupiter community in rural Simpson County, White worked five years with the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) where he was on Commissioner Dick Hall’s staff. He says he learned a lot about funds, budgets and working with elected officials. Prior to that, he worked with the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
“I stopped driving 36 miles to work and started driving six miles when I took the job with the foundation,” he said. “My grandmother put it best when she said, ‘every day when you wake up, you’ll know you’ll be doing something to make the community a better place.’”
White earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from Belhaven College. He has been heavily involved in Republican Party politics and held leadership positions since his election as Simpson County chairman at age 18. He currently serves as a member of the party’s state executive committee and chairs the third congressional district.
Additionally, he has served as a trustee of the Simpson County Economic Development District, a director of the Harrisville Economic Council and president of the Simpson County Hunting Dog Association. He is also a member of the Mississippi Economic Development Council and serves on the board of the Metro Jackson Economic Development Alliance.
This busy young professional took time to answer some questions for Mississippi Business Journal readers.
Mississippi Business Journal: What led you into the economicdevelopment field?
Brad White: Actually, I came to my current position by accident. I served on the board of the foundation for many years. The year I was president, our executive director left for another position. I filled in for a couple of months on a limited basis and found I liked it.
After a couple of weeks, people started asking me why I wouldn’t consider taking the job full time. At first I thought it was crazy. I had a good job working with Commissioner Dick Hall at MDOT and didn’t care to leave. However, I love Simpson County. After I thought about it a while and talked the possibility over with the other board members, I agreed to take it. That was over a year ago and I haven’t regretted the decision at all.
MBJ: How do you see your role in the community?
BW: I believe the SCDF can best serve Simpson County by facilitating efforts that can further develop the quality of life of our people. This obviously focuses on industrial recruitment and bringing better paying jobs to Simpson County, but I believe we must also focus on other initiatives that could also be of great benefit.
For example, our organization is leading the way in promoting the Simpson County leg of the Central Mississippi Interstate Loop. As the executive director, it falls to me and our board to lead these efforts. I’d like to believe we have and can continue to provide the necessary leadership to get important things done for our community when called upon to do so.
MBJ: What goals have you set for the organization?
BW: We have one overriding specific objective that drives all the other goals we set for ourselves: to see Simpson County prosper. Everything we do at the SCDF has this objective at the very heart. To be more specific, we are in a reorganization phase where we alter the way in which our leadership is put together.
We hope to incorporate all areas of our county into what we are doing in order to be successful in garnering support for specific initiatives. For example, we hope to see countywide zoning come to our area. However, we know our politics must be right before we can convince our Board of Supervisors to tackle such a large endeavor.
MBJ: Are you targeting specific types of industries to recruit for the area?
BW: Healthcare has a large base in Simpson County, so obviously we are a very good fit for any business associated with that field. We have two wonderful hospitals, both of whom are undergoing large expansion plans now. We have two nursing homes, Boswell Regional Center and Millcreek, and much more.
We are currently preparing for the opening of a rural health clinic in the northwest corner of the county, which is being administered through Simpson General Hospital. We are happy to also have Pioneer Health Services’ corporate headquarters here.
MBJ: Do a lot of Simpson County residents work outside the county?
BW: Yes, more than half of our workforce travels outside Simpson County to work.
MBJ: Is that a growing trend?
BW: Actually, I think the figure is somewhat smaller than it used to be. We have many small businesses being started in Simpson County by younger people who wish to be closer to home. However, with our geographic location being so close to the cities of Jackson and Hattiesburg, it’s relatively easy for our people to commute to a good job.v
MBJ: What are your personal goals?
BW: That’s simple. I want to do a job of which the people of Simpson County will be proud. When all is said and done and the final tally is made, I hope to find that I leave the wood stacked a little higher than it was when I got here.
I want my friends and neighbors to be able to say that all in all, Brad White cared for Simpson County and did all within his power to make it a better place to live, raise a family and own a business. Lord willing, one day I will be an old man. When that time comes, I hope to find much comfort and satisfaction in knowing I made a difference.
MBJ: If you weren’t working in economic development, what do you think you would be doing?
BW: I’m not sure. How about hosting ”The Tonight Show?” That’d be fun. Seriously though, I’ve spent my whole life in the public sector so I’m sure if I weren’t here at the SCDF, I would be serving my community in some other capacity.
MBJ: What would people be surprised to learn about you?
BW: I really don’t know. I think most would tell you that with me, what you see is what you get. There aren’t many bells and whistles about me.
When I’m not working, I am usually involved with the sport of fox hunting. I have seven dogs with a litter of puppies on the way. I just got back from a field trial that was held in Simpson County where I placed a dog fourth out of about 75 dogs. It’s a very relaxing and very rewarding sport that is full of great people. I credit spending my time in these fox pens while growing up with keeping me out of a lot of trouble.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.