Leadership in Mississippi

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The leadership team at the Mississippi Development Authority is driven by a single mission: attract and retain top businesses and people to create vibrant Mississippi communities. With experience in every industry, our team is well equipped to help companies with their expansions and new locations in Mississippi. Contact us today.

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Executive Director

Bill Cork

Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director and Chief Economic Development Officer Bill Cork has been a leader in economic development and urban planning for more than 30 years and boasts extensive experience in the areas of industrial park development; port, airport and short line railroad leadership; regional planning; distressed asset redevelopment; energy; and workforce development. Prior to his current role, he served MDA as Deputy Director and Chief Economic Development Officer. Cork was instrumental in bringing $8.8 billion dollars in new investment and more than 15,700 jobs to Mississippi. He previously led the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where he drove economic development success at Stennis International Airport, Port Bienville Industrial Park’s maritime port and the Port Bienville Railroad. Additionally, he founded Cork Consulting Group, a real estate, urban planning and public finance consulting firm, and he served as CEO of TexAmericas Center, a 13,000-acre industrial complex in New Boston, Texas. Cork is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and earned a Master of Urban and Regional Planning Degree from the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign. He is married to wife of 39 years Nina Cork. They have four children and six grandchildren.

Chief Operating Officer

PJ Waldrop

Chief Investment Officer

Steven McDevitt

Deputy Chief Economic Development Officer

Christian Lockamy

Vickie Watters
Director of Trade

Vickie Watters

Vickie Watters serves as the director of the International Trade Office at the Mississippi Development Authority. In this role she leads the state’s international trade program, which helps Mississippi companies develop and expand exports around the globe, which helps create and retain jobs in the state. Watters brings three decades of domestic and international business experience in the public and private sectors. Before assuming her role as director, she oversaw the administration of the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP), funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Watters is dedicated to helping Mississippi companies grow through international trade.

Director of Minority and Small Business

Carol Harris

Carol Harris joined the Mississippi Development Authority in January 2002 as an associate manager within the Minority and Small Business Development Division. She has since served in several positions within the division, ranging from associate manager to interim director. As current director of the Minority and Small Business Development Division, Harris leads the division in advocating on behalf of minority- and women-owned enterprises and promotes the participation of small-, minority- and women-owned businesses in the statewide economy.

Director of Business Incentives

Sara Watson

Sara Watson is the director of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Business Incentives Division. In this role, she is responsible for coordinating state-funded incentive programs for the agency and developing incentive packages for new and expanding industry in the state. Sara also leads the agency’s efforts to provide technical assistance to companies, site selection consultants, and economic development professionals in the state regarding Mississippi’s business incentives programs. Sara joined MDA in 2006, and joined the Financial Resources Division in 2011.

Director of Energy and Natural Resources

Jason Pope

Jason Pope is the director of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Energy & Natural Resources Division. In this role, he is responsible for coordinating the functions of the Office of Energy, as well as other energy-related initiatives. Previously, he served as associate vice president for Physical Plant and Auxiliary Services at Hinds Community College. There, he oversaw sustainability and facilities management functions of more than 200 buildings across HCC’s six campuses. Under his leadership, HCC experienced a 32% reduction in energy consumption, which equated to more than $20 million in utility savings. At MDA, Jason continues to promote Mississippi as a leader in energy development through programs that strengthen energy security and independence.

Director of Community Incentives

Steve Hardin

Steve Hardin has served as a part of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Community Incentives team since 2007. His current primary responsibility is the oversight of the financial assistance programs that advance the state’s economic and community development efforts. Prior experience includes three years with MDA as the manager of the Community Operations Bureau and three years as director of the Regional Services Division. Hardin is a member of the Mississippi Economic Development Council, where he served as president from 1991 to 1992. He also serves as Mississippi’s representative on the Council of State Community Development Agencies.

Director of Business Research & Workforce Development

Bill Ashley

Bill Ashley brings to the Mississippi Development Authority decades of experience managing Mississippi community colleges and examining workforce needs in the region. He previously served as president of Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, guiding the college through workforce and economic development initiatives. He has more than 20 years of experience with four of Mississippi’s community colleges. During that time, he saw firsthand how community colleges, communities and the state can work together to develop a strong workforce.

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