Natchez Inc. director field narrows

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2010

NATCHEZ — The seven-member Natchez Inc. board has interviewed candidates for an executive director since Sept. 1 and has narrowed the pool to seven, board member Debbie Hudson said.

A smaller selection of second-round interviews will begin as early as next week. The board hopes to hire someone in October and have the new director in the office churning the new economic engine by November, Hudson said.

The director will work full-time for a salary up to $130,000 a year, based on experience and qualifications, according an advertisement placed by Natchez Inc.

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Hudson said she feels confident an excellent future director exists among the group of applicants Natchez Inc. board members chose to interview from the 46 applications received.

Top candidates applied from a variety of locations across the United States, Hudson said. She would not say whether any of the seven candidates live in Natchez.

To assist the executive director search, Natchez Chamber of Commerce members were asked to fill out surveys assessing qualities the business community wants to see in the person who will be the face of Natchez Inc.

Hudson said the surveys consensus includes:

– A strong leader who can speak his or her mind

– Someone who can generate a strategic plan for economic and community development

– Someone who can market the positive aspects of the community

– Someone who can become familiar with the community and work well with different groups

Hudson said the interview process has been informative.

“We had great candidates, and I learned a lot, too. There were a lot of great suggestions,” Hudson said.

The impressive pool of candidates is attributed to the method of advertising Natchez Inc. used to attract applicants to Natchez, Hudson said.

Natchez Inc. placed ads in areas that offered exposure to economic development circles nationwide.

Ads were placed in publications and on Web sites of The International Economic Development Council, Southern Economic Development Councils and the Mississippi Economic Development Council.

Each interview lasted approximately 1.5 hours, Hudson said.

Natchez Inc. board members questioned candidates on their knowledge of the formation of Natchez Inc. as a public-private partnership funded in part by the business community.

The Natchez Inc. board asked candidates what unique aspects they could bring to the table, as well as questions pertaining to each individual’s background and experience.

Hudson said after a candidate is chosen, his or her strengths will partially depend on the director’s communication with the board.

“We don’t just walk away after (the director) gets here,” Hudson said.

Preferred qualifications listed in the ad include a bachelor’s degree in public administration, business, economics, marketing or a related field, and at least five years of experience in economic development, marketing, planning or related business experience.

Natchez Inc. Chair Sue Stedman has said she hopes to find a candidate with previous economic development experience on a state or local level, or with a chamber of commerce or corporation, and someone familiar with project development and site selection who can communicate well with corporate executives.

Hudson said 80 percent of the candidates interviewed have professional experience in economic development.