Economic growth in heath care focus of MDA director

Madison County economic development officials are counting on one of Madison’s newest residents to assist in improving the local business climate.

Brent Christensen is two months into his job as Gov. Phil Bryant’s choice to lead the Mississippi Development Authority. As of the end of July, he is a resident of the city.

“We’re hoping he can bring Madison County to the forefront of Mississippi economic development,” said Bill Guion, a member of the Madison County Economic Development Authority and the Madison County Business League, which hosted Christensen at its annual luncheon Tuesday.

State Sen. Will Longwitz of Madison said he was encouraged by Christensen’s reference to Madison County and the Health Care Zone Act passed by the 2012 Legislature. “It was exciting to hear him mention Madison County with regard to the health care zones.”

The act provides tax incentives to health care companies that locate within a five-mile radius of a hospital. Because Madison County’s only hospital is located in Canton, the south Madison County area can not be part of a zone, Longwitz said.

“I am working to have the health care zone radius extended, or to pass similar incentives that will cover south Madison County so that we can attract new health care jobs here. I hope Gov. Bryant will support my efforts. I was glad to hear Brent Christensen say that MDA is working to help Madison County grow our health care economy,” he said.

At the luncheon, the Business League recognized the Nissan manufacturing plant as the winner of its 2012 Visions Award.

“I was glad to see you honor Nissan,” Christensen said. “It proves the vital role that existing businesses play in our community. Gov. Bryant’s charge to MDA is do all we can to support our existing businesses.”

The Business League also honored Jo Ann Gordon, head of the Canton Film Office and the city’s convention and visitors bureau, with the 2012 Visionary Leadership Award.

Created a little more than three years ago to help the county in economic development, the Business League has grown to more than 125 members, executive director Jan Collins said. “We want to continue being involved in all aspects of community development,” she said.

Tim Coursey, director of the Madison County Economic Development Authority, said communication is vital to help the Business League reach more people. “As we work together, we want to do more,” he said.

The league now provides a new means of contacting those interested in its workings via a texting platform. To receive news and updates, text MCBL to (601) 990-2284.

By Lucy Webber / Madison County Herald / August 9, 2012