Home » MBJ FEATURE » ALAN TURNER — Full circle for Masa Liles

ALAN TURNER — Full circle for Masa Liles

ALAN TURNER

ALAN TURNER

During the past few years, I’ve met and become acquainted with a number of business professionals who grew up in Mississippi, left to pursue careers, and wound up coming home to the Magnolia State. However, I don’t recall any whose career travels have been more extensive than Masa Liles, the new Property Manager at Highland Village.

Having grown up in Learned, Mississippi, “home to 100 people and 500 cows” as she puts it, she began her career as an Assistant Manager at the Gap in Metrocenter. From there, she developed an active career in the retail and shopping center industry, a career that literally took her around the world—and finally back home to Mississippi.

“Well, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, San Diego, D.C., and a host of other places,” she said.

Also, during a period of time when she was involved in projects for the International Council of Shopping Centers, she traveled to numerous other countries, and became acquainted with many new cultures and nationalities.

“The world of retail has been a great career for me,” she said. “I got to do so many things and travel to places I couldn’t even dream about growing up in Mississippi.”

As much as she enjoyed that experience, however, she said that “Mississippi was always home, and it will always be.” She spent as much time as possible during the years with her family, who now live in Madison County.

“I was working in the D.C. area when I had the opportunity to come back to Mis-sissippi and take over the management here at Highland Village, and I jumped at the chance,” she said. “I’ve always thought of Highland Village as a landmark in the retail world, and today, I think it’s better than ever.”

Asked whether she considers Highland Village as one part of the north Jackson renaissance, she said she thinks it will continue to play a very significant role in the development of the area.

“Whole Foods has definitely made an impact,” she said. “And now you see new iconic retailers locating here, such as Kate Spade. I think we’re looking at a bright future for this property, and for all of north Jackson.”

What are her goals for Highland Village in the coming years?

“I think it’s vital that we keep it unique among Jackson retail developments,” she said. “This needs to be a place where family and friends gather, a place that’s always fresh, and with a continued focus on local.”

She says that “great retail helps everyone” in a community, including the surrounding residential areas. “I think Highland Village has proven through the years that it has huge staying power”, she said.

She also sees good healthy retail competition as good for everyone. But what about the threat from Amazon, which many suggest will own a growing share of the retail market?

“Oh, I think there’s room for both, as long as you have unique value proposition and a place where people genuinely want to go and spend their time. Amazon obviously can’t deliver on that,” she said. “You also need to have a great dining experience for customers, and we have some great restaurants and eateries all around us. Again, that’s not something Amazon can deliver.”

How does she view the challenges and problems Jackson faces as a city, such as infrastructure and crime?

“I think the city’s problems just have to be tackled one at a time,” she said. “You can’t separate Jackson from the rest of this area and the state overall. And somehow, I have faith that if everyone will work together, things are going to get better.”

She thinks that in 10 years, “the place won’t look the same”, and the renaissance of the north Jackson area will have come to pass. “I’m betting on the good things coming down the road,” she said.

Asked whether she thinks retail continues to be a good career choice for young people just entering the workforce, she said that in her view “definitely. It’s a vibrant, exciting, and challenging field that will continue to evolve through the years. It’s been a great career for me, and it can be for many others.”

What advice does she have for those young career-minded folks?

“Well, if I have to make one strong suggestion that I think would benefit young people, it’s to get your head out of the phone sometimes. Don’t just rely on email and texting and social media, but actually get out and meet people, develop real up-close and personal relationships, build your connections in the old-fashioned way, face to face. I love tech myself, but that doesn’t stop me from interacting with people on a personal level.”

We say amen to that advice.

A short video featuring Masa can be seen on our website, MSBusiness.com, or on our YouTube channel, mbjournal.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.

About Alan Turner

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