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Jeter: Confidentiality remains one of the biggest challenges of economic development
Jeter: Confidentiality remains one of the biggest challenges of economic development

Below is a business column by Lynne Jeter:

Find out what the longtime economic developer and former Magnolia Tribune business columnist plans to do in retirement.

Phil Hardwick wears a coat of many colors. He started as an FBI agent, served in the Army on the White House security team, joined the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia, then moved to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office as chief investigator.

Hardwick, a Jackson native, then moved to the Mississippi Real Estate Commission and eventually became the agency’s director. During his time there, he was instrumental in establishing the national certification program for real estate investigators.

That experience led to an appointment as chief economic developer for the City of Jackson and a stint in economic development at Mississippi Valley Gas (now Atmos Energy) before landing at the John C. Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.

A master of multitasking, Hardwick has also found time to teach at Millsaps College Else School of Management for more than a quarter century and to write more than 1,000 business columns, most recently for the Magnolia Tribune. He is also the author of several crime novels.

Magnolia Tribune sat down with Hardwick to ask him about the highlights of his career, the challenges of economic development and his plans for “retirement.”

What was the highlight of your career?

Awarded lifetime membership to the Mississippi Economic Development Council in 2016. At the ceremony, I was honored to have my bosses from my career in economic development, as well as my nominator, David Rumbarger, CEO/President of the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo, one of the state’s leading economic developers, in attendance for the moment. Of course, my biggest supporter and friend (and wife), Carol Hardwick, was there as well.

Attending the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in the summer of 2004 as a Fannie Mae Foundation Fellow was also an “experience of the highest level” for me. I still have friends from that course today.

What was your most enriching experience?

My most recent full-time position was at Millsaps College as the Director of Economic Analysis in the Else School of Management. Each year I had the pleasure of coordinating graduate student and corporate economic development activities in Midtown Jackson.

By the way, Millsaps College has been a constant in my career. I earned my MBA there and taught as an adjunct professor for over 25 years.

What challenges have you experienced in economic development?

One of the biggest challenges in economic development is maintaining confidentiality when working on large projects. Elected officials, in particular, are very interested in being informed about projects that might take place in their community.

The other thing is simply balancing all the details that need to be done, such as options, tax issues, incentives, and data collection. On the other hand, economic development is a team sport, and there are many people involved in any project.

When a project finally comes to fruition, the economic developer usually stays in the background. Mississippi is fortunate to have one of the best concentrations of economic developers in the country.

What is one of the best things you have learned in your career in economic development?

When I joined Mississippi Valley Gas Company (now Atmos Energy), Matt Holleman, President and CEO, said my title Vice President of Community & Economy Development instead of the more common VP of Economy & Community Development.

What he knew, and what I learned, was that community development comes first. Communities must be prepared for economic development.

What do you plan to do in “retirement”?

Carol and I now live in Georgia, where we moved to be closer to our grandchildren and family. I plan to remain actively involved in the community. I am now the Vice Chair of the Canton Tourism Board. In my free time, I play on a couple of tennis teams. Carol and I continue to travel abroad at least once a year. I am also working on a couple of novels.

So family, community, tennis, traveling and writing keep me plenty busy.

— Article courtesy of Lynne Jeter of the Magnolia Tribune —

By Aurora