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MDA chief Rohrlack resigns

By Staff
from staff and wire reports
May 31, 2003
Three days after one of the state's largest economic development projects opened in Madison County, Mississippi's chief industry recruiter on Friday turned in his resignation.
Robert Rohrlack's departure, effective June 13, after about 20 months as executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority means the state will get its third MDA chief since Gov. Ronnie Musgrove took office more than three years ago.
MDA chief of staff Steve Hale, a former mayor of the north Mississippi town of Senatobia, was immediately named to replace Rohrlack.
Rohrlack himself had replaced former Musgrove fund-raiser and banker J.C. Burns of Batesville, who was fired in October 2001.
Rohrlack threw in the towel after the official opening of a $1.4 billion Nissan automotive manufacturing plant near Canton, the largest economic development project on which he had worked in Mississippi.
In a statement, Rohrlack said he was resigning because of the demands of the position on his personal life. Rohrlack is married and has three young sons.
Locally, the news of Rohrlack's departure seemed to cause little anxiety.
The local agency has been working with the governor and congressional offices on joint development of a twin-state industrial park that could straddle the Mississippi and Alabama state boundaries.
It could not be immediately determined whether Rohrlack's sudden departure will impact the proposal that Musgrove and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley outlined on April 11 at a news conference in Montgomery, Ala. But one East Mississippi developer said Rohrlack did not seem to be pursuing the proposal very vigorously, despite what others called its "tremendous potential" to attract a major manufacturer to East Mississippi and West Alabama.
It's important to me that I spend more quality time with my family,'' he said in the statement.
Musgrove said in a news release: Bob Rohrlack has been a tremendous part of our effort to build Mississippi, and I appreciate the energy and the leadership he has brought to the position. All of our work has been about creating jobs for the people of this state, and Bob has done a fantastic job for us.''
MDA oversees economic, community and tourism development programs with a staff of about 300.
Rohrlack has worked on several high-profile projects, including persuading the Legislature to authorize millions of dollars in bonds for the expansions of computer maker Howard Industries in Jones County and Northrop Grumman Ship Systems on the Gulf Coast.
Rohrlack's $150,000 salary has been the highest among state employees. Mayo said she didn't know whether Hale would get the same pay. Hale has been making $85,000 a year in MDA's No. 2 job.
In announcing Rohrlack's hiring, Musgrove said he had found an aggressive, energetic developer who understood how to put a plan of action in place.''
Musgrove had touted Rohrlack's success as a marketer, negotiator and business recruiter in Gainesville, Fla. The governor also praised Rohrlack's master's degree in economic development from the University of Southern Mississippi and his designation as a certified economic developer.
Hale is a former mayor of Senatobia. He has been MDA chief of staff since June 1, 2002. Before moving to MDA, Hale oversaw economic development policies for Musgrove's staff.
I think Rohrlack did a great job and I hate to see him leave,'' House Speaker Tim Ford, D-Baldwyn, said in an interview Friday. However, I have known Steve Hale ever since he was mayor of Senatobia and he'll do an outstanding job. We shouldn't lose any momentum whatsoever.''
Charles Campbell, an economics professor at Mississippi State University, says he disagrees with the MDA offering big incentives to businesses, a philosophy he said Rohrlack followed.
He is a smokestack chaser bring them in wherever you can get them,'' Campbell said. You don't worry about 20 years down the road, you worry about today.''
Campbell said he doesn't believe Hale's appointment will be any different.
It's too political and the direction Mississippi is going in is so pro-business, I don't see any change,'' Campbell said.
Rohrlack is the second of Musgrove's high-ranking appointees this week to announce a resignation. Gary Anderson is leaving as executive director of the state Department of Finance and Administration on Sunday. Anderson is running for state treasurer, and said he wants to spend more time campaigning.
Musgrove, a Democrat, is running for re-election.