Gray Swoope, the executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, smiles as he speaks to the audience gathered for the Greater Starkville Development Partnership banquet Thursday night.
The organization tasked with fostering the community's growth got a pat on the back from one of the state's leading officials in the field Thursday as the group celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Gray Swoope, the executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, gave the keynote address at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership's annual banquet.
The organization was founded in 2001 out of the merger of several community development groups.
In speaking about the MDA's work, it truly is about changing minds, both inside and outside the state, and changing lives, Swoope said.
"I'm very passionate about the work that we do," he said.
There's been $12 billion in investment in recent years in the state, he said, adding that the state budget is about $5.2 billion.
"What says even more about our team ... we've done this in some very unusual circumstances," he said, nothing the recovery effort after Hurricane Katrina and the recent economic downturn.
"... We still are finding ways to eek out jobs and create investment in our state," Swoope said. "I'm very proud of that."
Swoope says Gov. Haley Barbour has said officials have laid the groundwork for 2011.
"And this is the year, it's time to step on the accelerator ... and do more," Swoope said.
There are several guiding principles MDA officials use as they develop their strategy.
One of these is teamwork.
"If you're a good team, if you're a winning team, everybody knows their role on that team," Swoope said. "It's so important today."
He said the local team has been doing a great job.
Swoope recalled a recent situation in which the region competed for a project, declining to name it.
"... We worked together as a region ... we were able to put together a compelling case, even though we may not have won the project," he said. "That's true teamwork and it was a great exercise. ... You did it and I'm proud of it and you will have success in the future and I can tell you, from that experience there's going to be many good things that are going to come out of that."
Former Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, the chair of the GSDP Board, worked with Swoope in Jackson during her time there.
"He is one of the most dedicated public servants in our state. We're fortunate that he serves in that role," Tuck said.