Gov. Phil Bryant made the announcement during a press conference at the Marriot Hotel in downtown Jackson.
Christensen, who has been the CEO of the Gainesville (Fla.) Area Chamber of Commerce the last 10 years, replaces interim director Jim Barksdale, the former Netscape CEO, who has served as the state’s chief economic developer since January.
Christensen is the first permanent MDA director since March 2011, when former chief Gray Swoope left to head Florida’s economic development efforts.
Christensen was overseeing the operation of the Gainesville (Fla.) Area Chamber of Commerce, which is its economic development arm known as the Council for Economic Outreach. He also was in charge of the community’s high-tech business incubator, the Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center.
Prior to arriving in Gainesville, he was the Vice President of Member Services at the Greater Tampa (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce. In that position, he was responsible for the Chamber’s membership recruitment and retention efforts as well as small business development and assistance programs, including production of the prestigious Small Business of the Year Awards. He arrived at the Tampa Chamber in 1998 as Manager of International/Existing Enterprises Development within the Committee of 100, the economic development arm of the Chamber
Previously, Christensen spent three years at the Area Development Partnership of Hattiesburg, Miss., as Vice President of Economic Development, where he marketed the community internationally to business relocation prospects. Prior to that, he spent two years as an award-winning news reporter for The Herald Times in Bloomington, Ind., and for the Hattiesburg American.
Christensen is a graduate of Duke University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Public Policy Studies, and he earned his Master of Business Administration degree from the University of South Florida. He was named one of the “Top 40 Business Leaders Under 40” for 2001 by The Business Journal Serving Greater Tampa Bay.
He and his wife, Holly, have two sons – Connor, 13, and Will, 10 – and a daughter, Annabeth, 6.
A law passed this year says the state can pay the director up to $180,000, or 150 percent of the governor’s salary. That law also says the director can receive extra pay from outside sources, with no limit. Contributors would be listed on the agency’s web page.
A supplement was paid during Gov. Kirk Fordice’s administration, but not under Ronnie Musgrove or Haley Barbour.
More to come …