Maximizing energy-based economic development
Photography by Greg Campbell
The Mississippi Energy Institute was created in 2009 and was originally under the Mississippi Economic Council for close to a year. In 2010, it was spun out as an independent organization, which it remains today.
Patrick Sullivan is the current president of MEI and has held that position since mid-2011.
“We’re a privately-funded organization,” Sullivan says. “And our mission is to partner with Mississippi’s government leaders, academic institutions, and economic development and business communities to develop growth-minded policies and strategies to maximize energy-based economic development in Mississippi.”
The institute was created during former governor Haley Barbour’s administration.
“When Governor Barbour was first elected and came in as governor in early 2004, he created a group called Momentum Mississippi,” explains Sullivan. It was under the Mississippi Economic Council. It was a group of business leaders and they were tasked with looking at the way the state did economic development across all sectors.”
In 2009 the idea came up that Mississippi had a lot of momentum in energy and was getting a lot of recognition nationally in the energy sector as a state.
“It was then that it was realized it would be wise of us, as a state, to create something similar to “Momentum Mississippi,” but specific to the energy sector,” Sullivan says. “A way of thinking that would leverage energy as a way of economic growth, and to make that creation a permanent thing. A permanent institution that is constantly thinking about where are the opportunities within each fuel area; where the opportunities in technology are and what are some things that we can realistically attract.”
In agreement with Barbour and business leaders around the state, the groundwork for today’s Mississippi Energy Institute was created.
Sullivan himself spent five years on Barbour’s staff when he was governor, prior to his present position. He was in the policy shop during his time with the former governor and handled energy, environmental, economic development, transportation, natural resources and agricultural issues.
“Toward the end of our administration I continued to do that and managed the disaster response shop the Governor created after Katrina, which included preparation and response to the Great Flood of 2011,” explains Sullivan.
Community organizations tackle revitalization and preservation projects
The Mississippi Main Street programs in the Delta pack a big punch. Providing new life to historic downtowns that builds civic pride and fosters economic development, in the past five years Main Street Mississippi in the Delta has helped launch a net of 499 new businesses and created a net of 4,301 jobs, according to Mississippi Main Street Executive Director Bob Wilson.
During that five-year period there has been $66 million invested in public funds, and $107 million in private funds. There have been 389 façade rehabs and 300 upper-housing units created.
“We continue to work in the Delta to try to access grant funds or funding resources that would apply to technical assistance,” Wilson says. “A lot of the grants are project based. We partner with municipalities anytime a Main Street program is in place. The Delta continues to have this mystique. The perception of it is so much more elevated outside of the state than in Mississippi and the Delta. We need to find a way to reach that market out there that is enamored with the South and the Delta, and give them opportunities to visit and invest.”
Main Street Greenwood has a particularly vibrant and effective Main Street program.
Participating in the Delta’s money industry
Photography Jay Adkins
About a mile away from the Mississippi River in Greenville, sprawls the newly-renovated, 33,000+ sq. ft. Harlow’s Casino Resort.
Reggie Fullwood has been the senior vice-president and general manager of Harlow’s since July, 2011.
Fullwood was born and raised in Hampton, Virginia and after high school, he went to West Point in New York.
“I spent four years at the U.S. Military Academy,” Fullwood says, “while there, I played football and we had some really, really good teams there. And I have to tell you that between the West Point experience and playing football on those teams, those experiences were the foundation for a lot of very early important life lessons that have carried me through my professional career.”
Following his graduation from West Point, Fullwood joined the military and was a helicopter pilot.
“I flew Cobra Gunships and Black Hawk helicopters and did that for ten years,” he says. “I had a lot of fun, learned a lot and it was just a really great experience for me.”
When Fullwood left active duty, he decided to go to graduate school at the University of Virginia and obtained his master’s in business administration. After grad school, Fullwood went to work on Wall Street.
“I was an investment banker for four years,” he says, “and served a wide variety of healthcare clients in particular.”
After 9/11 and the collapse of the Internet bubble, Fullwood decided that he didn’t really want to focus his professional career in finance any longer, but rather a career where he could leverage his leadership experience and expertise. He found the casino world to be a natural fit.
“Casinos are very people-driven,” he says, “team member-driven, and ultimately, our business needs people who have these skills, as well as business acumen.”
Fullwood started out his casino career in Atlantic City, where he worked for what is now, Caesars Entertainment.
“I did a variety of jobs there,” he says, “from director of customer service, to vice-president of service strategy, to vice-president of table games. After six years, I left Atlantic City and ran my first casino as a general manager in Colorado, where I worked for an Ameristar.”