MDA director Swoope headed to Florida post

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

After a successful seven-year stint with the Mississippi Development Authority, West Point native Gray Swoope is moving to the Sunshine State to head Enterprise Florida.
Swoope begins his new job on March 21, but he’ll continue to lead the MDA until then.
“Anytime there’s a transition there’s work to be done on both ends,” he said after his move was announced Monday. “There are projects ongoing, and we’ll continue to work with the Legislature and our local communities. We’ve met with our management team, let them know the things that are going on and we plan to work for them through the 21st.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Swoope’s hire.
“Bringing new energy and expertise to Florida’s economic development activities is an ideal task for which Gray Swoope is well suited,” Scott said. “I am excited to have him leading the job creation and economic development mission in Florida.”
According to TampaBay.com, Swoope’s contract hasn’t been finalized, but the group’s board discussed an annual salary of $130,000 that, along with incentives, would not exceed $300,000.
Swoope has been an economic developer for more than 30 years, having worked at the local, state and regional levels, including stints in West Memphis, Ark., Starkville and Hattiesburg. He began his career with the North Mississippi Industrial Development Association.
His accomplishments at MDA include the successful recruitment of Toyota, Paccar, Severstal, GE Aviation, Kior, Soladigm and a host of other projects that have generated nearly $12 billion in investment and created more than 46,000 jobs.
All this occurred despite a 15 percent cut in the agency’s work force and a 26 percent decrease in its budget.
“We were able to change the lives of Mississippians and helped changed the views that people had of our state,” Swoope said. “We were able to do all this through some of the most difficult times that we’ve ever had, with Hurricane Katrina, the global meltdown and then last year, our tourism took a hit with the Gulf oil spill.”
Swoope credited his team at MDA and Gov. Haley Barbour for their work in prioritizing economic development.
Barbour, who appointed him as executive director in 2007 to follow Leland Speed, said Swoope “has done a tremendous job for Mississippi over the last seven years. … Gray will now be the head of economic development for a state eight times the size of Mississippi, and he deserves that opportunity. Florida’s gain is our loss.”
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.