• Gov. Phil Bryant Names New MDA Executive Director

    JACKSON—Gov. Phil Bryant today named Brent Christensen as executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority. Bryant made the announcement at the close of the first roundtable meeting of his Mississippi Works Committee.

    The Mississippi Works Committee is charged with developing strategies to increase economic investment in Mississippi, spreading the state’s economic success stories and crafting a long-range workforce development plan.

    Bryant said an emphasis on workforce development and the ability to both attract new investments and expand existing businesses were key factors in selecting Christensen to lead Mississippi’s economic expansion efforts.

    “Brent has a proven economic development track record, and he sees the importance of business sectors like health care and energy,” Bryant said. “He also knows the value of a strong, vibrant workforce in attracting investment, and he understands the importance of growing existing businesses to compete in a wider market. I am extremely confident in Brent’s ability to lead Mississippi’s economic expansion efforts, and I know he will work hard to help me create a business climate that fosters growth and development.”

    Christensen began his career in Mississippi at the Area Development Partnership in Hattiesburg, Miss. For the past ten years, he has served as president and CEO of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce in Gainesville, Fla., and under his leadership, the chamber’s economic development arm has already in 2012 announced two major investments that will bring 500 jobs to Gainesville.

    Christensen says he agrees with Bryant that health care and energy hold great opportunity for Mississippi and that he is ready to focus on bringing new investment to Mississippi.

    “I am extremely honored to be chosen by Gov. Bryant to lead the state’s economic development efforts at MDA,” Christensen said. “Expanding the health-related industry and research in Mississippi and supporting job creation in the energy sector are visions Gov. Bryant and I share.

    “On a broader front, I’m going to be a tireless advocate for creating new businesses in Mississippi, expanding the businesses we have and attracting new employers to the state.

    “My career in economic development began in Mississippi, and my family and I are excited to come home.  I have a great appreciation for the extremely talented economic development and tourism professionals throughout the state, and I look forward to working with them as well as the team at MDA,” Christensen added.

    In January, Bryant appointed Jim Barksdale as interim executive director at MDA. Barksdale helped lead the search for a permanent director.

    ”When I accepted the job as the interim executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, I did so with the commitment to help find a permanent executive director who had the vision, leadership, experience and drive necessary to keep our economic development efforts on an upward trajectory,” Barksdale said. “Brent Christensen brings all those qualities to the table. I’m convinced he’s the right person at the right time to lead MDA.”

    Christensen holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and public policy studies from Duke University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of South Florida. He has served on the boards of the Florida Economic Development Council and the state’s primary economic development group, Enterprise Florida.

    Christensen and his wife Holly have two sons and one daughter.

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