HATTIESBURG — The last two presidents of the Area Development Partnership (ADP) had limited economic development experience. Needing a new leader to replace the departing Dr. Angie Godwin, the Hattiesburg-based organization’s board went looking for someone with a proven economic development background. And, the board feels it has found its man in Chad Newell after a national search.
“We are excited to have someone with the experience of Chad Newell to lead the Area Development Partnership,” said Mike Collins, current ADP board chair and manager of the Pine Belt region at Mississippi Power. “He has a track record of economic development success in both the public and private sectors. Chad and his family will be a great addition to our area.”
Collins said Newell was hired to ratchet up the ADP’s economic development efforts, and Newell said that is exactly what he plans to do.
“Absolutely, we want to build on prior success and take our economic development focus to a new level,” Newell said. “We want to continue our chamber and community development programs. But, we need to assess what we have, then get in front of decision makers.”
He added that the ADP, which has some 1,200 members and represents Forrest, Lamar and Perry counties, will concentrate on working with other economic development organizations to package South Mississippi to prospects.
“It is of paramount importance that we market the entire region,” he said. “The competition is fierce. We have to work hard – and work smart.”
Newell, who will take the helm of the ADP Dec. 28, has deep experience in partnering and regionalism. The Meridian native earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Mississippi State University before earning a master’s degree in economic development from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Newell worked with the Center for Policy Research and Planning while earning his master’s degree, and after graduation went to the Mobile (Ala.) Chamber of Commerce as a project manager. He left the chamber as director of business development to become director of economic development with the City of Opelika, Ala. His experience there landed him the position of executive vice president of the Metropolitan Development Board in Birmingham, Ala., a regional organization similar to the ADP.
For the past three years, Newell has served as a developer at Newton Oldacre McDonald, LLC, a full-service retail development firm based in Nashville, Tenn.
“I rank being named as president of the ADP as my highest personal and professional achievement,” Newell said. “I am honored, humbled and elated.”
Robert Ingram is president and CEO of the Baldwin County (Ala.) Economic Development Alliance. A former mayor of McComb, Ingram also served as economic development assistant to the president of the University of Southern Mississippi where he first met Newell. Ingram said he would put Newell at the top of the list of the candidates for the ADP position, and calls him a “perfect fit.”
The ADP is hoping this is the case. Approximately five years ago, ADP president Gray Swoope left to become deputy executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, an organization he now leads. Looking for his replacement, the board chose J. Phillip Halstead, who was the executive director of Pittsburg State University’s Business and Technology Institute. Halstead lacked hard economic development experience, and it showed. Some three moths after taking the job, Halstead was gone.
In Nov. 2004, Dr. Angie Godwin was named the ADP’s president. She, also, came from academia, and first came to Mississippi as the founding president and CEO of the Mississippi Technology Alliance. She, too, lacked hard economic development experience. Under her tenure, the organization’s chamber and community development programs flourished. However, over the past few years, announcements of projects that retained or created jobs in the ADP’s region became noticeably fewer.
Last August, Godwin announced that she would be leaving the ADP at the end of the year to focus on numerous family enterprises in the Hattiesburg area.
Newell said he is anxious to get down to street level, meet the community and begin to proactively promote the region. Relocating during the holiday season is a challenge for Newell and his wife, Jennifer, who have three children – Garret, 12, Jordan, 9, and Brooks, 5. A sports enthusiast who loves to play tennis and jog, Newell said he may not have much time for these activities any time soon, but since many deals are struck on the golf course, he added with a laugh, “I guess it’s time to dust off my golf clubs.”
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