HATTIESBURG - Dr.
Judson Edwards has a unique perspective on economic development.
Edwards, who joined the economic development department
at The University of Southern Mississippi this fall, has worked
in both the private and public sector, mixing real-world experience
with academic research.
Coming from a dual perspective, he understands the
challenges and misconceptions economic developers face in the changing
"We were once seen as smokestack chasers, bringing
factories to towns. Now we're advisers to cities, helping them develop
new business strategies and encouraging local entrepreneurship,"
"We're trying to counter the idea that economic
developers are just here to show a business a good time and lure
them (to the community). It's a whole different animal than it used
to be in the '60s and '70s," he added.
Before joining Southern Miss, Judson served as the
former director of economic development and planning for Phenix
City, Ala., and before that, taught geography as an assistant professor
at the University of North Dakota-Grand Forks. He is returning to
the university from which he earned his master's in economic development
and Ph.D. in international development, and he specializes in rural
economic development and economic geography.
"I'm such a believer in the master's program
here at (Southern Miss) and the benefit it has given me and hundreds
of other economic developers," he said.
One of his first tasks, Edwards said, is to reestablish
business contacts in the state "to help the program along."
He is also excited about teaching courses in both the master's program
and executive format master's program, which incorporates online
courses for economic developers who are looking for ways to advance
their education while working full time.
Ken Malone, chief operating officer at Southern Miss'
Gulf Coast campus, said demand for the new master's degree format
has been extraordinary.
"The format allows economic developers from all
over the world to earn their degrees while staying fully employed.
We needed a person of Judson's caliber to meet the demand and grow
the program," Malone said.
Edwards said, "The exciting thing about Southern
Miss is it's one of the few places where you gain access to the
real world of economic development. They do a great job with their
outreach unit, the Center for Economic Development.
"There are not too many opportunities out there
that could lure me away from my hometown of Phenix City, but coming
back to Southern Miss was one of them," he added.
In addition to his work in Alabama and , Edwards served
as executive director for the Marion County Economic Development
District, serving in an advisory role to the Marion County Board
of Supervisors with regard to economic development activity. He
also worked as a project consultant for the Institute for Technology
Development in Jackson, conducting research on broadband telecommunications
legislation at the state and federal level.
Edwards also served as director of program development
for Lee-Russell Council of Governments in Opelika, Ala., director
of research for the Lamar County Economic Development District-Purvis,
and adjunct faculty member at Chattahoochee Valley State Community
College in Phenix City.