Sunday, June 12, 2016

New Winston County Eco/Devo Director is on the Job

Glen Haab may be a south Alabama native but he seems sincerely happy to be in Winston County. Haab is the new Executive Director of the Winston County Economic Development District Partnership (WCEDDP). As he completed his first week on the job, he took a few moments out of his busy schedule to visit with us at WinstonWebNews.

A native of Mobile, Haab comes to Winston County from the Monroeville, Alabama/Monroe County Economic Development Authority where he served as Executive Director for six years. A family man, Haab’s wife, Melissa has strong Mississippi ties. She is a native of Madison, Mississippi and received her undergraduate degree from MSU and worked for the University for a period of time. Haab indicated that this move was almost like coming home. The couple has two children, Alice Ann, 12 and Cole, 11 and the family will be moving to Louisville over the summer months.

“Professionally it’s a good move given the assets that are here in Winston County and personally, it’s a move that gets us back to my wife’s side of the family. There ‘s a lot of synergy for us here in central Mississippi and we are excited about the opportunity” said Haab.

He indicated that the assets and structure of economic development in Winston County were a factor in the move. The fact that everything was under one umbrella (the Partnership) was critical. By having economic development working under one board with tourism and the Chamber of Commerce, a unified approach is possible for the recruitment of new businesses. Haab also noted the strong and aggressive leadership in terms of the Eco/Devo Board, Aldermen and Supervisors and the assets available here including land for development, rail access and a good utility structure. The involvement of TVA and ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) and the existing staff were all positive factors as well.
Glen Haab - new Eco/Devo Director, Linda Skelton - Chamber of Commerce
Gerald Mills - retiring Eco/Devo Director

Another asset that Haab finds to be instrumental in economic development is the strong community college base in the area, especially in terms of workforce development. Haab said, “I come from an area with a strong community college base but it’s possible that ECCC may be the gold standard. When you have strong community college systems such as ECCC and EMCC to our north that develop strong workforce programs … and a prestigious research institute just a few miles up the road, that’s a great thing for this area and a great thing for Winston County.”

Haab noted that his biggest challenge will be the learning curve – learning what structures for Eco/Devo are in place, personalities and the political leadership of the community. He also sees great opportunity with the assets that currently exist. “Those things are very promising, infrastructure, a four lane that runs from Jackson to Starkville - an area that could be a business catalyst …I think this is a good opportunity and a good time for Winston County.

I know there have been some hardships here in the past but the community stands out in terms of how it has handled the tornado and the things that the community has been able to cover in that short amount of time. You might not see it locally but people outside and outside the state see….that people here work together. That’s not like a lot of small rural towns.”

One of Haab’s first goals is to build relationships and network not only in the community but across the state and with those agencies such as TVA and MDA that work to recruit new industry.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have Gerald Mills to work with over the next few weeks and gain the knowledge of where he’s been and what’s he’s done in this position. That type of information is important to gather before he leaves.” (Mills is the current Economic Development Director for Winston County and will be retiring at the end of June.)

I’m excited about being here and I think it’s going to be a good challenge. Anytime that you have a learning curve, it’s going to be tough but I’m excited to take on the challenge. The welcome that I have received and the optimism and the hope have been very positive.”