Markus Simmons – From Business to Business Recruitment
I graduated from college in 2011 and spent two years working in sales and customer service. A job came along in 2013 with the summer conference office at USM, and I found myself marketing Hattiesburg to out-of-town clients and employing my customer service experience with our existing camps and conferences. That experience with recruitment and retention served as a springboard into the Area Development Partnership’s international recruitment of companies and the business retention and expansion efforts we employ with existing industry.
I saw the job posting for the ADP’s Project Manager soon after completing my MBA in 2016. With two degrees in business (undergrad and master’s) I had planned to pursue a more traditional business career, but there seemed to be substantial overlap between the job description and my prior experience, so I applied. I researched the organization and the field of economic development, but I was still surprised by how much I needed to learn to get up to speed. As a “newbie,” I couldn’t have been more pleased with the field or the organization. The rest of our E.D. team consists of a President with 25 years of E.D. and chamber experience, an Executive VP with 10 years’ experience as an industrial engineer, and two graduates of USM’s Master of Economic Development program – all of whom appreciated my unique skillset and supported me as I identified and filled knowledge gaps. The diversity of knowledge on our team allows me to really be myself and embrace the business development side of the job.
The ADP’s First Friday Breakfast events are a snapshot of all that I love about working in economic development. Walk through the door and you’ll see executives in suit and tie, members in business casual, and some in golf polos with Southern Miss black and gold or their company logos – and they’re all talking to each other! Those events are an opportunity for the Greater Hattiesburg business community to unite and share ideas. They’re a glimpse of what I love about economic development because when we all move forward together, pulling in the same direction and offering assistance to each other when needed, the results compound and the community benefits exponentially.
My role focuses heavily on supporting a business-friendly environment through working through tax and finance questions, smoothing out the licensing and permitting process, and helping to move commercial properties so they can generate jobs and tax revenue. I get to use my business degrees, sales experience, and customer service experience alongside the technical details I’ve learned in the field and it’s all for the betterment of our entire community.
When I was younger, I never fully understood the advantages I was afforded growing up here in Greater Hattiesburg. Top school systems, a diverse economy and population, amazing restaurant and retail amenities and the energy generated by our college town environment weren’t details I picked up on as a teenager. Now, I’m fully able to appreciate living in the Hub City and I love having the chance to work with our citizens, businesses, and elected officials to make Hattiesburg a premier city in the Gulf South.
Project Manager, Economic Development