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Markus Simmons – From Business Degree to Business Development

May 10, 2021


After graduating from college in 2011, I spent two years working in sales and customer service. A job came along in 2013 with the summer conference office at USM, and I found myself marketing Hattiesburg to out-of-town clients and employing customer service techniques with our existing camps and conferences. That experience with recruitment and retention served as a springboard into the Area Development Partnership’s international recruitment of companies and the business retention and expansion efforts we employ with existing industry.

I saw the job posting for the ADP’s Project Manager soon after completing my MBA in 2016. With two degrees in business (undergrad and master’s) I had planned to pursue a more traditional business career, but there seemed to be substantial overlap between the job description and my prior experience, so I applied. I researched the organization and the field of economic development, but I was still surprised by how much I needed to learn to get up to speed. As a “newbie,” I couldn’t have been more pleased with the field or the organization. Our ED team has such diverse work experience. Our President had 25 years of ED and chamber experience, my boss had 10 years’ experience as an industrial engineer, we had graduates of USM’s Master of Economic Development program and others with marketing and workforce backgrounds – all of whom appreciated my unique skillset and supported me as I identified and filled knowledge gaps. The diversity of knowledge on our team allows me to really be myself and embrace the business development side of the job.

I’ve come to love so many of our events and activities in nearly five years with the ADP. Whether it’s Accelerate Breakfasts and the diversity of their attendees, seeing 30,000 people in Downtown Hattiesburg for Hubfest, Local Industry Luncheons that provide valued information and networking for area manufacturers, or seeing 1,200 high school juniors explore new careers at JumpStart to Success, the ADP provides tremendous value. All these events serve as strong reminders of our ultimate objective – to move Greater Hattiesburg forward together, pulling in the same direction and offering assistance to each other when needed. These results compound and the community benefits exponentially.

My specific role focuses heavily on supporting a business-friendly environment through assisting with tax and finance questions, smoothing out the licensing and permitting process, and helping to move commercial properties so they can generate jobs and tax revenue. I get to use my business degrees, sales experience, and customer service experience alongside the technical details I’ve learned in the field and it’s all for the betterment of the community I call home.

When I was younger, I never fully understood the advantages I was afforded growing up here in Greater Hattiesburg. Top school systems, a diverse economy and population, amazing restaurant and retail amenities and the energy generated by our college town environment weren’t details I picked up on as a teenager. Now, I’m fully able to appreciate living in the Hub City and I love having the chance to work with our citizens, businesses, and elected officials to make Hattiesburg a premier city in the Gulf South.

Markus Simmons
Business Development Director, Economic Development
Twitter: @HeyitsMarkus
LinkedIn: Connect with Markus