MDA head: Groundwork laid for strong Miss. economy

By The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The outgoing director of the Mississippi Development Authority says “the groundwork has been laid” for the state to have a strong economy in coming years.

Gray Swoope, who leaves his position later this month for a similar job in Florida, said several projects are on track in Mississippi with the potential to create thousands of jobs.

The projects include the Toyota plant in Blue Springs, which is expected to have an initial payroll of 1,000, eventually growing to 2,000. Auto suppliers are expected to add another 1,500 to 2,000 jobs.

Swoope also cited the Chevron project on the Mississippi Gulf Coast that’s expected to create some 1,000 construction jobs over the next two years and plans by Stion, a California company, to locate a solar-panel production line in Hattiesburg. That project also was expected to create 1,000 jobs over the next six years.

“With the work over the last couple of years during the economic downturn, we laid the groundwork for a strong recovery,” Swoope, 49, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Swoope became director of MDA in January 2007, moving up from deputy director. Swoope had been second in command at the agency since 2004, when Republican Haley Barbour became governor.

Swoope will begin work March 21 as head of Enterprise Florida, a public-private economic development partnership.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed Swoope on Monday, following Scott’s ouster of John Adams last month.

The new Republican governor said Swoope will bring new energy and expertise to his efforts to create new private sector jobs by making Florida more business friendly.

Florida Chamber of Commerce president Mark Wilson praised the appointment, calling Swoope “one of the nation’s leading economic development professionals.”

Swoope said Scott is “a governor who’s going to make economic development his priority.”