Senator Laughlin Visits Mississippi Economic Development Expert

If you are looking for new and innovative ways to spur economic growth and job creation, do you visit a prestigious business school or scout the offices of Wall Street mavens?

For Senator Dan Laughlin and a group of Erie economic development officials the path to progress took them to a seemingly remote area of eastern Mississippi on Thursday to meet with a man who talks more like a football coach than a business tycoon.

Joe Max Higgins, Golden Triangle Development Link CEO, may not be a recognizable name for most folks in northwest Pennsylvania, but his effort to restore prosperity to a Mississippi area known as the “Golden Triangle” have earned him featured spots in national magazines and a segment on TV’s 60 Minutes show.

“We are familiar with the traditional theories and methods to attract business development, but with Joe Max, we are talking about a man with a proven track record of attracting billions of dollars of economic development to a region that was devastated by factory closings and subsequent job losses,” Senator Laughlin said.

Senator Laughlin said the local group went to Mississippi — the trip was paid for by private funds and no state tax dollars were expended –with a keen interest in learning how Higgins was able to attract major industries such as Yokohama Tires and a foreign engine plant to a region that lost hundreds of jobs with the closure of a Sara Lee slaughter house.

“We learned quite a bit from Joe Max, especially the need for tenacity and tactics when it comes to the competition for business relocation and development. He is a bulldog when it comes to the game,” Senator Laughlin said. “The keys are to know the companies you are looking to attract and also to know the other areas that you are competing with for the business.”

Senator Laughlin said he hopes to continue to build upon his new relationship with Higgins as a way to promote renewed and re-energized economic development efforts for the region.

My goal is to bring jobs to the Erie region. I feel that our population decline and related problems, such as crime and blight, are directly tied to the loss of jobs in our area,” Senator Laughlin said. “I believe we can – and must – do a better job of promoting Erie as an attractive place to do business. In that effort, we should aggressively market Pennsylvania and all that it offers to top national and international businesses and industries.

“We are an important crossroads that connects the northeast, the south, as well as the Great Lakes region and all points west,” Senator Laughlin continued. “We have an energetic and dedicated workforce. This, combined with our evolving natural gas industry and our multimodal transportation hubs, provide the foundation of a great portfolio that we can aggressively present to new and growing businesses.”

Pennsylvania State Senators Dan Laughlin (left) and Scott Wagner (right) traveled to Mississippi Thursday to meet with economic development expert Joe Max Higgins.

Pennsylvania State Senators Dan Laughlin (left) and Scott Wagner (right) traveled to Mississippi Thursday to meet with economic development expert Joe Max Higgins.

Contact: Matt Azeles

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