Ben Bounds is a young professional on a mission to tell the world about his great community. The 30-year-old Jackson native lives and works in Starkville where he was recently named coordinator of member relations and communications for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership (GSDP).
“Starkville is where I am now and I love it,” he says. “I’m able to see the potential here. I want to live somewhere I can help.”
He grew up in Jackson’s landmark Belhaven neighborhood where his parents, Woodie and Shirley Bounds, were hands down the two greatest influences on his life, he says. They also contributed to his affection for Starkville by taking him there for Mississippi State University sports events throughout his formative years. He estimates that most years they spent 30 out of 52 weekends in the Oktibbeha County city.
In addition to his enthusiasm, Bounds brings a variety of experience to his new post. After college, he had stints with The Oxford Eagle and the Starkville Daily News, was president and co-founder of Dirt Road Records in Oxford and created and hosted a radio show. He also served as executive director for the Starkville Area Arts Council and was the Starkville-based vice president of event coordination and promotions for First Team Marketing of Jackson.
At the Starkville Daily News, he learned a lot covering city and county government. In his new role with the GSDP, he’s proclaiming and promoting the good news about economic development in his adopted city.
“I developed a relationship with Mayor Dan Camp, and I saw a lot of things that tie in to economic development,” Bounds says. “I didn’t realize how much things tie it. I felt like Starkville needed a fresh perspective from young people. And, I’m motivated by any challenge. That’s why I took this job.”
He finds the eight people who’re working at the GSDP imbued with team spirit. It’s a three-prong organization that includes economic development, chamber of commerce and convention and visitors bureau activities.
“We all get to work earlier and stay later than most people,” he says. “I’ve never been happier working for any organization. I’m still learning about economic development, but my goals are to help recruit more major businesses for Starkville and Oktibbeha County.”
Although he’s presently negotiating the learning curve, Bounds hopes to develop and implement a comprehensive public relations plan that will communicate the impact of economic development for the area.
“I want to communicate all that our area has to offer, and I want to open doors to younger people. I don’t think we have enough involvement from those in their late 20s and early 30s,” he says.
Part of his involvement is serving as a commissioner from Ward Four on the Starkville Planning and Zoning Commission. “Ward Four has the youngest average age in Mississippi. It’s around 21 and encompasses university fraternity and sorority houses,” Bounds says. “These are future leaders. I love being affiliated with Ward Four.”
He especially likes working with the Starkville Young Professionals, a group that raises money for a different charity each month, giving them opportunities to make a difference in a variety of ways.
Bounds felt that pull to help in a more direct way after going to the Coast to cover the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina for the Starkville Daily News.
“It touched me and kept me up at night,” he recalls. “There were not enough people there helping, and I couldn’t turn my back on it.”
If he could change one thing about the town he loves it would be to encourage citizens to be more progressive. “There’s too much complacency,” he says. “I don’t like that because we have so much potential here.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.