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County hires economic developer

After a more than yearlong search, the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors hired an economic developer Thursday.

Blaine LaFontaine will begin working as the county’s economic developer on Jan. 1, 2020. He has a master’s in economic development, an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering and is currently finishing a term as Hancock County Board of Supervisors President. He previously served on Diamondhead’s City Council.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to be a part of this. Pearl River County is rich in history and culture,” LaFontaine said.

LaFontaine has already met with the Economic Development Council, who also voted to hire him, said District V Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith.

LaFontaine and the Economic Development Board have discussed short-term goals that he can begin working on immediately, he said. Those goals include evaluating the existing workforce to see what support the county can provide to industries that already exist in the area and increasing collaboration between the cities and the county, LaFontaine said.

One goal LaFontaine plans to work toward is certifying the county workforce as an ACT Work Ready Community, he said. According to the work ready community website, the certification helps evaluate what skills exist in a workforce and identifies the ones that can be used by economic developers to market the quality of a community’s workforce.

The Board has been discussing trying to find an economic developer for the county for over a year, said County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin.

Smith said LaFontaine was highly recommended by a neighboring economic developer and Lumpkin said state leaders sent letters of recommendation for LaFontaine.