Russ: Existing business focus now

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 13, 2009

Difficult economic times have placed a renewed emphasis on theimportance of existing businesses both locally and statewide, saida Mississippi Development Authority official overseeing thoseactivities.

Chandler Russ, a former Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber ofCommerce executive vice-president who is now director of MDA’sExisting Business and Industry Division, cited the importance ofretention and expansion of existing business and industry at alllevels.

“It is absolutely vital,” Russ said while speaking Wednesday tothe Brookhaven Kiwanis Club.

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Without that emphasis, Russ indicated that communities would seea slower climb out of the current economic doldrums. He said theexisting business and industry issue has everyone’s attention,including MDA’s.

“Everybody across the state is concerned with the existingindustry base,” Russ said. “We’re putting emphasis on that to movethat issue forward.”

Russ said his goal is for MDA to be the top business andindustry retention and expansion agency in the nation.

He mentioned a number of MDA activities, including a revolvingloan program for certain projects, cost-saving assistance and abusiness and industry needs survey, designed to help localentities. Regarding the needs survey, Russ said workforce-relatedissues tended to top the lists, but needs varied around thestate.

“Each community is different and has its own uniquecircumstances,” Russ said.

Russ left Brookhaven in 2004 to work in economic development forthe Tennessee Valley Authority in northern Mississippi. With adesire to be closer to home, including family in Natchez, Russ wasgranted a move to a TVA office in central Mississippi about twoyears ago.

Russ accepted the MDA post about a year ago, he said.

“It has been a wonderful, wonderful experience,” said Russ, whorecently returned with his wife Sarah and two children to live inBrookhaven.