After years of limiting its exclusive Team Mississippi business recruiting to large utilities in the state, the Mississippi Development Authority this year is inviting the state’s economic development entities to participate.
The invitations to join in wooing business prospects in four major U.S. cities went out to around 700 members of the Mississippi Economic Development Council, a Jackson-based trade organization for professionals in the business recruiting field, said Marlo Dorsey, the MDA’s chief marketing officer. “We’re trying to be a lot more inclusive.”
With the change comes a rebranding to a new name: Team Mississippi is now One Mississippi.
The term more suitably fits the MDA’s goal of achieving a cohesive statewide marketing effort as well as providing the state’s economic development recruiters with opportunities to meet exclusively with site selectors and other key decision makers, the MDA says.
“We are doing something a little bit different as far as we have planned our out of state” One Mississippi events, Dorsey said of the new recruitment strategy. “We want to bring Mississippi to these cities as a group,” she added. “We want to try to get more people to go at one time so we can deliver a more powerful message.”
And gain some economies of scale on the costs. “Our budget does not allow us to travel much,” Dorsey said of the MDA, “When we have a larger group of people, the costs go down.”
The goal is to match up the interests of recruiters with what the state has to offer, she said.
“One-hundred percent of the attention of these site selectors will be on us at one time,” she added, and noted it is expected discussions will focus on such topics as the competitiveness of the state’s utilities costs and its competencies in advanced manufacturing.
“These are high-profile trips where we want to go in and make a splash.”
This year’s One Mississippi recruiting opportunities include exclusive meetings with economic development consultants and key executives in Dallas April 4-6, New York City June 12-14, Chicago May 1-3 and Atlanta Sept. 11-14.
One Mississippi also includes the “Blues Road Trip” from Oct. 15-17 and other events yet to be announced. As with the exclusive meetings with recruiters in the major markets, the Blues Road Trip was previously limited to such utilities as Mississippi Power, Entergy and the TVA and included tours and backgrounders on the Mississippi Delta’s opportunities in manufacturing and other business endeavors.
The MDA is offering three pricing options for participation in One Mississippi, ranging from $5,000 to $45,000.
Participation fees include up to two representatives and the subscriber’s selection of guests to be invited. It does not include travel and lodging.
Dorsey emphasized that economic development entities in the state unable to make the trips to the major markets will still have representation from the MDA.
“Sometimes people don’t want to go out of state. That’s fine. We will still pull in any opportunities that come their way,” she said.
Response has been strong, according to Dorsey, who said the invitees have a March deadline for sign-ups.
The Community Development Foundation representing Tupelo and Lee County will take part, but has not yet decided at what level, said Shane Homan, senior vice president of economic development services.
“The CDF is excited about the new marketing opportunities being created by the MDA,” Homan said in an email.
“We would not be able to afford to do these events individually and the tiered membership allows us to choose how we can participate in this effort.”
The North Mississippi Industrial Development Association based in West Point sees the One Mississippi opportunities as a positive step for the MDA, said Joseph T. Geddie, executive director, in an email.
Geddie did not say whether the Development Association would participate.
The Greenwood-Leflore Industrial Board intends to participate in at least one of the out-of-state events, according to Angela Curry, executive director of the economic development agency. “While budgets will not allow us or some of the smaller communities to participate at larger levels, there is the opportunity to partner with MDA on our state recruitment efforts,” Curry said in an email.
Budget restraints will keep Tishomingo County’s representatives at home, said Gary Matthews, the Tishomingo County Development Foundation’s executive director.
The county recently celebrated the groundbreaking of Mississippi Silicon Metal’s more than $100 million plant, a recruitment effort in which the MDA had a large role. Matthews said for now he must continue to rely on the MDA to be a voice nationally for Tishomingo County, a small county situated on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway near Mississippi’s boundaries with Tennessee and Alabama.
“They have been very fair as far as not representing one area over another,” Matthews said of the MDA. “We really trust the MDA to be very fair.”
But those One Mississippi events are “way out of our budget,” he said, and noted that like many other Mississippi economic development agencies of its size, the Tishomingo County Development Foundation’s entire annual marketing budget is less than $10,000.
“We may be able to do something as a regional group,” Matthews said of his organization and others in the region.
Face-to-face talks with a site selector can bring rewards, Matthews said, but only if the economic development agency making the pitch is offering something of practical value to the selector’s client. “Site selection consultants are driven by how they can please their clients,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much face time you have if you don’t have what the client of the site selector needs.”