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 Fall 2015


Ten people who made a difference

By Michael Randle

Steve Beshear
SB&D recognized Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear as "Person of the Year" in 2012, but he has never made the annual "Ten people who made a difference" list we publish each year. We could cite many of Gov. Beshear's accomplishments during his two terms. Leading Kentucky through the most successful run thus far of any U.S. state in President Obama's healthcare reform law ranks right at the top. Kynect, Kentucky’s healthcare exchange, has been a huge success. That success aside, we have Gov. Beshear on this list for the simple reason that he understands economic development. Each year during the recovery, Kentucky has improved its economic development performance in capturing significant projects, and in 25 years we have never seen an administration, through the work of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, distribute projects to so many different parts of a state.

Mick Cornett

Recognizing Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett in this spot is long overdue. He has been the mayor of Oklahoma City since 2004, and is the first mayor in the city's history to be elected to a fourth term. Much has been accomplished during Mayor Cornett's tenure. The Oklahoma City region continues to exhibit one of the best economies in the South and a lot of what drives the city's economy were ideas hatched by Mayor Cornett.

The city, led by Mayor Cornett's bold ideas, has invested in itself through the MAPS program time and time again. MAPS includes temporary tax hikes earmarked for specific projects. Our favorite program is OKC's MAPS for Kids. That ongoing initiative is rebuilding or renovating every single building in the Oklahoma City Public School District, while also providing funding to the 23 other school districts that serve the city. Mayor Cornett has been recognized as the top mayor in the state of Oklahoma, as well as the nation, by organizations and the media. In 2016, Cornett will assume the position of president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and is a noted expert on municipal issues as they relate to Congress as well as the White House.

Brenda Daniels
ElectriCities is a membership organization of public power communities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, and Brenda Daniels has managed the Raleigh-based company's economic development services since 1995. Daniels has been involved in locating hundreds of companies to North Carolina during her 25-year career. She recently received the prestigious award -- Economic Developer of the Year -- by the North Carolina Economic Developers Association.

Jay A. Garner

Jay Garner is the founder and president of Garner Economics, an economic development and site location consulting firm headquartered in Atlanta. Prior to becoming a site consultant, Garner had several stints as an economic development practitioner, most notably in Mobile, Ala., and Asheville, N.C. Today, Garner Economics assists clients in the U.S., Asia and Europe on a wide variety of projects, and Jay has made a huge difference for many communities in the American South. 

Bill Haslam
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has been Tennessee's governor since 2011, after serving as Mayor of Knoxville from 2003 to 2011. In his second term, Gov. Haslam immediately issued a challenge through a mission called "Drive to 55." Haslam's mission, and that of higher education in the state, is to get 55 percent of Tennesseans equipped with a college degree or certificate by the year 2025. The Drive to 55 goal is based on the prediction that by 2025, 55 percent of jobs will require a two-year or four-year degree. Today, about 33 percent of Tennesseans have degrees. Haslam's goal was made much easier with the passage of the Tennessee Promise legislation, which allows the state's high school graduates to attend two years of community or technical college absolutely free of tuition and fees. Currently, Tennessee is the only state in the country that offers a free two-year degree.

J. Mac Holladay

Mac Holladay is the founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Market Street Services and has been in economic development -- almost all of which has been practiced in the South -- since 1972. Mac is the only person to head state level economic development organizations in three different states. Market Street Services facilitates community, workforce and economic development strategies, and has made a difference with more than 160 communities in 34 states and abroad.

Doug McMillon
From an hourly summer associate in a distribution center to President and CEO today, Doug McMillon has worked for Walmart since 1984. The Jonesboro, Ark., native has been at the forefront of Walmart's U.S. manufacturing initiative to purchase $250 billion more "Made in the USA" products over the next 10 years. McMillon truly made a difference recently when he personally managed the associate pay increase for current U.S. Walmart employees to $10 an hour or higher. The pay increases McMillon introduced will give raises to approximately 500,000 associates by the end of the summer quarter. He was also behind the Arkansas-based retailer's launch of a new skills-based training program for Walmart associates. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation will commit $100 million over five years to strengthen the skills of its U.S. workforce.

Ellen McNair

Ellen McNair is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Development for the Montgomery (Ala.) Chamber of Commerce. She has worked tirelessly for over 25 years in economic development in Alabama and last year received the David R. Echols Distinguished Service Award in Economic Development. McNair is a certified economic developer (CEcD), the first woman CEcD in the state of Alabama. Prior to her job with the Montgomery Chamber, McNair was the first female project manager for the Alabama Development Office. She is also the first woman to lead a major metro area's economic development efforts in Alabama. McNair has brought many new businesses to the Montgomery River Region, including Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama and dozens of the South Korean automaker's suppliers.

South Carolina Ports Authority president and CEO Jim Newsome discusses the Charleston Harbor deepening project with Vice President Joe Biden.

Jim Newsome
Serving as president and CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority since 2009, Jim Newsome has directed the mighty comeback of the Port of Charleston. When Newsome was named CEO, the port in Charleston had lost 40 percent of its cargo volume. Each year since, container volume has increased at the port by at least double the U.S. port average. Newsome has also put the port in position to become the deepest harbor on the East Coast by the end of the decade.

AC Wharton, Jr.

As the Mayor of Memphis, Tenn., the heart and soul of the Mississippi River Delta region, Mayor Wharton is no stranger to challenges. First and foremost for the Delta is the training of its workforce, and Wharton knows it. That's why he launched the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW), a multi-state effort to prepare the labor shed in the greater Memphis region, which includes northern Mississippi and eastern Arkansas. Snagging Dr. Glen Fenter, the president of Mid-South Community College (not located in Memphis, but in Arkansas) and one of the most decorated leaders in workforce training, to run it was a huge coup for Mayor Wharton.

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