Musical chairs: What Florida adds in economic development talent, Mississippi takes away
Soon after becoming Florida's chief business recruiter, Gray Swoope (middle) came to Tampa. He's flanked at a Tampa Bay Partnership conference by (left) Rasesh Thakkar of the Tavistock Group and (right) Rick Weddle of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Comission. Photo: Lara Cerri, Tampa Bay Times.
Wake up and good morning. What one state gains in economic development talent, another takes away. I suppose it's fitting that in the wake of Florida recruiting Gray Swoope (pronounced SWOPE) from the top ranks of Mississippi's economic development ranks, the very same Magnolia State is taking one of Florida's most promising young stars: Brent Christensen (photo, right).
Swoope, the former executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, was Florida Gov. Rick Scott's pick in early 2011 to be the Sunshine State's chief business recruiter and the president of Enterprise Florida.
Now Mississippi has returned the favor, offering Swoope's former position to Christensen, who most recently served as CEO of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce. But Christensen's roots are in Tampa where he worked for the Tampa chamber, got his MBA at USF and in 2001 was named by the Tampa Bay Business Journal as one of the top 40 business leaders under 40. (He's also a big Bucs fan.) Christensen earlier worked in economic development in Hattiesburg, so he's not a complete unknown in Mississippi. And he even worked earlier as a reporter for small papers in Indiana and Mississippi. Try not to hold that against him.
Christensen faces high expectations, suggests the Sun Herald newspaper this week that covers the Biloxi-Gulfport area of Mississippi. "While MDA (Mississippi Development Authority) has not exactly been faltering... Christensen will be the first permanent director since Gray Swoope left in March 2011." During that interim period, the authority has suffered a talent drain, the paper reports.
We'll keep an eye on Christensen's work in Mississippi. Florida can always use a seasoned business recruiter with local ties down the road.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times