Born and raised in Pascagoula, Jan Collins remembers her younger years on the Coast with fondness.
“The thing I loved most about growing up on the Coast was the lack of cliques,” she said. “Everybody had a sense of community, and we knew each other.”
After graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in marketing, Jan pursued her ambition to develop a career in fashion. After going through McRae’s management training program, she eventually served as a buyer for the chain.
“It was a great experience, working for McRae’s,” she said. “I traveled not only to New York and California, but to Paris, Milan, Florence. It was demanding but very rewarding as well.”
Eventually, she gave birth to a son and left the career world for 10 years. During that time, through her husband’s work as legal counsel for municipalities in Madison County, she got to know many of the civic and business leaders in the region, and that led her eventually to work for the Madison County Foundation, and finally to the Madison County Business League.
“I was really honored when I was approached by a number of leaders to join the Madison County Business League as executive director,” she said. “I started in the spring of 2009, and it’s been a great experience.”
Today, the MCBL has 155 members. The mission of the organization is to foster communication and positive relationships between business and the public sector.
“I guess you’d say we’re the bridge between business and government,” she said. “We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in the past 5 years.”
One focus of the MCBL is to bring people together through a variety of events which have included health forums, energy, law enforcement, and education. Jan is particularly passionate about education, including early childhood education and programs benefitting children with learning disabilities.
Among other programs, there is a youth leadership program to prevent what Jan calls the “brain drain,” i.e., helping to keep some of Madison County’s best and brightest students in the county after college.
“There are great opportunities in our County,” she said proudly.
“That includes business and career opportunities for young professionals, as well as capitalizing on Madison as a certified retirement community.”
A key to Madison County’s growth and prosperity, she feels, is quality secondary education. She points to the A-rated schools in the county and the commitment to quality education shared by public and private leaders.
“That has to be a collaborative effort among all parties,” she said. “It’s hard to over-emphasize the importance of education to the future of this county and to Mississippi as a whole.”
She’s also involved in the creative economy initiative, which is dedicated to recognizing the impact that creative professionals and businesses make on the community as a whole. “That includes architects, designers, artists, craftspeople and many others”, she said.
Jan sees many opportunities for Madison County in the coming years, and points to the effectiveness of the Madison County Economic Development Agency and Executive Director Tim Coursey.
“If you look at what has been accomplished just in the past 10 years, it’s really amazing,” she said.
Asked what issues need to be addressed to keep Madison County as the hallmark of both economic development and a strong community with a high quality of life, she pointed to a perception that there could be some negative impact from crime spreading from Jackson into Madison County.
“For all of us, it means we need the very best law enforcement. We’re certainly pleased that we have professional agencies which react to the needs of the community.”
Otherwise, she points to a need to manage growth in an efficient and effective manner that will keep Madison County’s prosperity alive and well for years to come.
If energy, commitment, passion and determination can help Madison County meet its objectives, it’s obvious that Jan Collins can and will provide ample reserves of those commodities.
Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.