If you surveyed a hundred people and asked them what economic development is, I’m confident you would receive nearly 100 different answers. While they may be varied, the answers will likely be correct, just not complete.
As the state’s lead economic development organization, Mississippi Development Authority is a lot of things to a lot of people and communities around the state. For some, we are the state agency that recruits new companies and industries to Mississippi. For others, we are responsible for retaining and growing Mississippi’s existing companies. To many communities, we are the state agency that provides programs and grant assistance to revitalize their economic centers. These are all correct. MDA also promotes Mississippi as a premier tourist destination, working to attract visitors from around the globe. These are just a few examples of the many facets of MDA. However, our overwhelming goal is constant: We strive to create job opportunities for Mississippi’s residents and strengthen communities across the state, helping them remain competitive in today’s ever-changing economy.
Supporting Mississippi’s vibrant entrepreneurial community is one way MDA works to create job opportunities for the state’s residents. I recently had the privilege of attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony for MDA’s new Entrepreneur Center on the first floor of the Woolfolk State Office Building in Jackson. Gov. Phil Bryant, Entrepreneur Center Director John Brandon and a number of entrepreneurs from around the state joined us to celebrate this grand opening.
The Entrepreneur Center itself is not new to MDA. However, the Center’s new location offers an expanded capacity to efficiently provide budding entrepreneurs and existing small businesses the advice, training and resources needed to turn their creative business ideas into a thriving part of Mississippi’s business community.
I often compare economic development to a three-legged stool. The first leg recruits new businesses and industries to our state. This ensures that we are developing a diverse, sustainable and stable business community in Mississippi. The second leg of the stool retains our existing businesses and jobs. These companies know the advantages of doing business in our state, and they have made commitments to provide good jobs and economic stability for Mississippi’s world-class workforce by investing in their existing operations.
The third leg of the stool assists our state’s entrepreneurs. Countless successful companies started with a simple idea that developed into a thriving business, providing jobs for our residents and creating investments in our communities. The Entrepreneur Center at MDA is in place to help Mississippi’s innovators turn their ideas into a successful business venture. The center’s services are offered at no cost.
At the Entrepreneur Center’s grand opening celebration, more than 10 entrepreneurs were in attendance, all of whom worked with and received assistance and guidance from the Center’s resource team. Whether it was attending the entrepreneur boot camp or receiving help with developing a business plan, these companies have one thing in common – a person with an idea for a marketable product or service that had the desire to start their own company.
Their products range from gourmet food items to high-tech support offered in the field of calibration services. Mississippi’s strong creative and entrepreneurial spirit fosters a breeding ground for home-grown companies.
In fact, the state’s robust efforts to support entrepreneurs were recently recognized by the highly-respected Kauffman Foundation, which ranked Mississippi as the fifth-best state for entrepreneurial activity. Mississippi has also garnered other notable national rankings from economic development publications over the last year, including being named one of the Top 10 States for Doing Business, second best state for competitive utility costs and permitting speed and a top five state for overall cost of business, just to name a few. These rankings add up to one thing: Mississippi knows what it takes for businesses — large and small — to be successful.
MDA’s diverse and dedicated team of economic development professionals have a passion for creating new job opportunities and helping show the world all the great things taking place in our state. The team ensures the legs of our stool have access to the tools and resources needed to provide a stable base, which is the foundation of Mississippi’s growing economy.
» Brent Christensen is the executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority.