Home » MBJ FEATURE » New MDA chief enters arena in competitive fashion

New MDA chief enters arena in competitive fashion

Florida economic development pro Brent Christensen takes over the reins from interim director Jim Barksdale

The background of Brent Christensen, the new executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, stacks up well against his rivals around the South, a review of the professional biographies of the chief executives of several nearby states shows.

One of those rivals, Florida’s Gray Swoope, is well known in Mississippi, having led the Mississippi Development Authority from 2007 through spring 2010, when he departed to run Enterprise Florida.

Swoope’s MDA-produced biography credits him with bringing $12 billion in investment to Mississippi and helping to create 46,000 jobs through financial assistance to business relocations and expansions.

Swoope served as chief operating officer of the MDA from 2004 until taking over its leadership. In that role he helped to bring a Toyota manufacturing plant to Blue Springs and six tier-one suppliers.

Like Christensen, Swoope holds a master of business administration degree.

Christensen served 10 years as president and CEO of the Mississippi Development Authority. He came to that job after serving as executive with the Tampa (Fla.) Chamber and as an economic development specialist with the Area Development Partnership in Hattiesburg.

In his work at the Gainesville Chamber, Christensen headed the business organization’s Economic Outreach Council, a private-sector funded business and industrial recruiting effort.

Here’s a look at Christensen’s counterparts in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas.

>> Chris Cummiskey took over Georgia’s Department of Economic Development in January 2011. He came to the state post after serving as manager and director of energy and gas derivatives trading for RWE Americas, Mirant and Miieco. He also worked as a senior director for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and former Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson. Later, he served as director of state relations for the University of Georgia.

He graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

>> Greg Canfield has served as secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce since July 2011, after having served in the state House of Representatives as chairman of the Commerce & Small Business Committee. He is credited with writing legislation to overhaul Alabama’s tort laws and enhance the state’s business environment and economic development opportunities.

He opened a marketing and insurance business in 1993 and sold it in 2008. He then joined J.H. Berry Insurance in Birmingham, Ala.

He earned a finance degree from the University of Alabama Birmingham in 1983.

>> William “Bill” Hagerty IV has served as commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development since January 2011. While in the post he is on leave from Hagerty Peterson, LLC, a merchant bank and private equity firm he founded.

He has founded and funded a number of business enterprises and served in executive and chairmanship capacities for a variety of domestic and international firms, including medical records company CyMed, home entertainment retailer Sound Advice and automotive supply chain management software company Powerway Inc.

He also served in as national finance chair for Mitt Romney’s 2008 GOP presidential nomination bid and later as part of the transition planning team for Republican general election candidate John McCain.

He graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in economics.

>> Grant Tennille became executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission after serving as deputy chief of staff to Gov. Mike Beebe. He came to Arkansas from Florida as a reporter for the Democrat-Gazette and later worked in communications in offices of the governor and the Game and Fish Commission.

Tennille worked in the telecommunications field before becoming vice president of a start-up company, The Distribution Point, in Birmingham. He later returned to Arkansas to join Gov. Beebe’s office.

He graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio in 1992.

>> Stephen Moret became secretary of Louisiana Economic Development in 2008. Before his appointment by Gov. Bobby Jindal, Moret served as president & CEO of the Baton Rouge Chamber.

Previous to his Chamber post, he worked as a management consultant with McKinsey & Co., an international consulting firm.

Moret also served as an assistant to the Louisiana State University chancellor and as an independent consultant to Harvard University.

He has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from LSU and an MBA from Harvard.


>> READ MORE: With Christensen, MDA gets its man

>> MBJ EDITORIAL: Questions we should ask the new chief of the MDA

>>VIDEO: Brent Christensen talks with the media about MDA appointment




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