By LISA MONTI
amela Weaver started the new year in a new job, as chief marketing officer for the Mississippi Development Authority, the state’s top economic development agency. She spent the previous eight years as communications director for Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office.
“We did everything from elections to forestry,” she said.
Weaver expects her job at MDA, with an emphasis on tourism and economic development, will have a global outreach.
“I think the reach is different but our main focus is the same: making sure that Mississippi is marketed and communicated in the best possible light. I appreciate the opportunity our director, Glenn McCullough, has given me to help support his work for the state.”
Weaver said the state has plenty of selling points, including excellent infrastructure and a trainable workforce. “We have a lot to offer any company globally to come here. We have a great message to sell in Mississippi and that’s what we’re doing, trying to promote our state as much as possible so they can see what Mississippian’s already know: that Mississippi is the best place to work and have a business and industry,” she said.
Visit Mississippi released an Ad Effectiveness Study in April 2015, which illustrates that Mississippi receives $12.93 for every dollar it spends on tourism promotion. For every dollar spent on economic development in the past five years, Mississippi receives $10.61.
As head of MDA’s marketing and communications efforts, Weaver and her staff work with all MDA divisions to create jobs and investment in the state by providing public relations, marketing, event planning, graphic design, website management and advertising services.
“My main focus is trying to find out how I can best support the state of Mississippi and each one of our divisions. Glenn has great plans for the future. We want to make sure that Mississippi is branded in one voice whether it be from the economic development side or the tourism side.
We want to make sure we’re promoting the high quality of life, the trainable workforce and Mississippi’s infrastructure. We’re looking over how we’ve done it in the past and how we can build on that in the future,” she said.
A big part of marketing Mississippi for Weaver is working closely with the local economic development authorities across the state “to see how we can best supplement them on a local level and how we can benefit other state agencies as well.”
Watching what other states and countries are doing to promote themselves is also on her checklist to make sure Mississippi stays competitive.
Weaver, whose father was in the military, moved with her family to Ocean Springs when she was 12. After high school graduation, she majored in broadcast journalism and political science at Southern Miss.
After earning her degree, she became an award winning anchor and news reporter at WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg where she worked for eight years before moving to Jackson to join Hosemann’s staff. “I always knew that I wanted to work in state government and help promote Mississippi,” she said.
Weaver and her husband, William, have an 8-year-old son W. Payne Weaver III, and are in the process of adopting a little girl from the Philippines. As a family they take advantage of the state’s natural resources and tourism events that help attract visitors here. “We like to go out to the reservoir and we like to travel around Mississippi to areas we don’t get to see very much,” she said.
Weaver said she wants her son to get to know the state’s assets firsthand. “One of our favorite things to do in the spring and summertime is go to festivals,” she said. “I took him to the Muscadine Festival in Pelahatchie most recently and he had a great time.”
Weekends, she said, are all about her son’s soccer and baseball games.
In her new job, Weaver said her number one goal is to promote Mississippi and attract businesses to come here. “Making sure we’re promoting Mississippi’s quality of life is very important to me.”
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