When the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) set out to look for a new director for its Existing Industry and Business Division (EIBD), it knew it needed a proven commodity. The state’s lead economic development organization has long focused on assisting Mississippi’s existing businesses, and the EIBD is arguably the agency’s most important division. So, the position required a seasoned veteran, one preferably familiar with the Magnolia State’s business community.
MDA feels it has found just that person in Chandler Russ, who was named head of the division October 13. Russ comes to MDA with a street-level view of the business community, having worked in local economic development organizations and for a utility. He has spent his entire career focused on developing and growing existing business and industry and on job creation.
Gray Swoope, MDA executive director, said, “He will play an essential role as MDA broadens our scope of work with Mississippi’s existing industries and businesses. Chandler’s experience on both the local and regional levels will be a great asset as we continue to focus on taking care of our existing businesses.”
“It was always a hope of mine to work with MDA,” Russ said. “I know most of the people here already. It’s a great team, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
A native of Natchez, Russ received his bachelor of science degree in regional and community planning and a master’s degree in economic and community development from the University of Southern Mississippi. He said he was “recruited” into the economic development field by long-time economic developer Robert Ingram.
“Bob got me interested and showed me what a great career economic development is,” Russ said. “I am fortunate in that I have a job that allows me to play a role in bettering communities and peoples’ lives. It’s very rewarding. I look forward to going to work every day.”
Russ comes to MDA from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). As a project manager at TVA for the Mississippi region, he assisted with more than $4 billion in new and expanding industrial projects on a team that helped create in excess of 23,000 jobs. He has also been involved with the construction of three new industrial parks, numerous community projects and private site-location consulting.
Prior to coming on board with TVA, Russ was executive director of the Brookhaven/Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Development Foundation. He also worked as the executive director of the Copiah County Economic Development District and the Nevada County Economic Development Office in Prescott, Ark.
Russ said his experience gives him a unique perspective on Mississippi’s business community. He knows firsthand how important MDA’s assistance can be to the state’s business and industry, and his aim is to make sure MDA’s resources are being fully utilized by the business community.
MDA’s resources were never been more important to Mississippi’s business community than now. The troubled economy and financial crisis are challenges the EIBD must meet head on, Russ said.
“We have to be proactive, aggressive,” he said. “We need to know about issues they may have before they become a crisis.”
Whit Hughes, deputy director of the Economic Development Office at MDA, agreed. In these tough times, he said MDA would work hard to keep the lines of communication open with Mississippi’s business community.
“We have to make sure that business and industry knows about our services,” Hughes said. “I don’t see us adding services, but rather making sure we’re doing a good job of promotting what we have to offer.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at email@example.com.