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Gov. Bryant Taps Brent Christensen as MDA Director

By Daniel Cherry | Published 15 May 2012 05:28pm | comments

Governor Phil Bryant has named a new head of the Mississippi Development Authority. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how the new chief economic developer hopes to focus on healthcare and energy to bring down Mississippi's high unemployment rate.

At the first roundtable meeting of Governor Bryant's Mississippi Works Committee, Bryant introduced Brent Christensen as Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority.

Christensen served as CEO of the Gainesville Florida Area Chamber of Commerce for the past 10 years. He says he needs time to get acclimated, but he's ready to get to work.

"You heard about energy today. You heard about health care. You know advanced manufacturing is great. You know aerospace is a big part of it. You know distribution. You know shipbuilding. You know the incredible opportunities that this state has. So that's what brought me here."

Mississippi's unemployment rate is still about nine percent, and developers say the state's workforce has to be better trained to compete on a national scale. Governor Bryant says he wants to work together with the MDA to improve workforce development.

"I'll ask him to work with employment security as head of the MDA and also our community colleges to make sure we get a better workforce product out of the system that we currently have."

The new MDA director will replace Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO, who served as interim director of the agency. Barksdale says challenges lie ahead, but Christensen needs to start by listening to leaders across the state.

"Everybody in every town in Mississippi wants something in the way of jobs, improvement, and plants, and so forth. And you have to be able to listen, and ask good questions, and learn quickly, and work with people to allocate the scarce resources we have."

Christensen will begin work as MDA director in early June.

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