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Released September 9, 2004


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 economy.

"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," Edwards said.

"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.


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September 9, 2004 1:24 PM