Cindy Symons-Milroy has over 27 years of experience in economic development and holds two professional designations; an Ec.D. from the Economic Developers Association of Canada and a CEcD from the International Economic Development Council. Cindy’s work experience covers a broad range of business support including investment attraction, business retention and expansion, labor force development, real estate, airport operations, entrepreneurial development, finance and organization management.
Cindy has spent the last 15 years of her career as the Director of Economic Development for the City of Oshawa, a mid-size city on the outskirts of Toronto, Ontario. Well known for its automotive excellence, since she has been in this role, the City’s economy has diversified beyond automotive manufacturing and today includes significant investment in new post-secondary institutions that have resulted in the development of high tech growth sectors that are driving the new economy.
Cindy grew up in an entrepreneurial environment and knows first-hand the challenges that businesses face. This is part of what contributes to the success of her efforts in attracting and maintaining investment in the City. Her drive to succeed comes from the desire to make a difference in her community.
Cindy’s favorite quote is “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain.”
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Brian Hilson is President and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) and is responsible for all areas of the BBA, including economic development, public policy, communications and other programs designed to grow and diversify the Birmingham regional economy and enhance the quality of life for all citizens.
He has been involved in economic development in Alabama since 1980. Prior to his joining the BBA in 2011, Brian was President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County. Previously, he was a Vice President of the Birmingham Metropolitan Development Board and has held economic development positions with the Birmingham and Mobile Chambers of Commerce. Over the years he has worked with a wide variety of national and international companies’ economic development projects, such as Lockheed Martin, Toyota, LG Electronics, Sterilite Corp., UPS, Delta Air Lines, Verizon and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.
A native of Huntsville, Brian is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute. He is a graduate of Leadership Alabama, Leadership Birmingham and Leadership Huntsville/Madison County, and is active in state and national economic development organizations. He is past president of the Economic Development Association of Alabama and the Japan-America Society of Alabama, and is the 2015 chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama. He is a recipient of the Rainer Bauer Award from the Alabama Germany Partnership and the Samuel Ullman Award from the Japan-America Society of Alabama.
He currently serves on boards of directors or advisory boards of several additional state and local organizations, including the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the Business Council of Alabama. Having spent his entire career in the economic development profession, Brian is a strong believer that employment opportunities are the best way to make communities better.
Brian and his wife, Windy, have two married children. Carlton is an attorney with Burr & Forman in Birmingham and Abby is a teacher in Arlington, Tenn.
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Scott Connell serves as the President of the Sherman Economic Development Corporation in Sherman, Texas and has more than 25 years of experience in economic development. He recently served as Vice President of Economic Development and Senior Vice President of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce since May 2005. In that role, he managed over 4,000 jobs in the Waco area.
Prior to Waco, Scott was the Vice President of Winston-Salem Business Inc. for 7 years in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He was involved in attracting 3,900 jobs and $750 million of investment during that time. Scott has also led programs in Kannapolis, NC, Belton and Yoakum, Texas (all start-up organizations) and worked with Victoria, Texas Economic Development Corporation.
Scott and his wife Victoria have a 9-year old son, Paten. They are active in the Waco community where Scott serves as a member of the Vestry at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Scott is also an active member of the Waco Rotary Club and serves as chairman of the City of Waco Recycling Advisory Committee.
Scott is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and received his Certified Economic Developer certification in 1999.
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A recognized leader in economic development, Gray Swoope has served both the public and private sectors for more than three decades most recently as Florida’s Secretary of Commerce. He has held leadership roles for a variety of organizations, as well as managed successful economic development entities. His management style is described as focused and steadfast when it comes to solving problems and winning competitive projects. Gray is also known for building highly effective teams noted for their ability to devise and implement strategic plans, and to get results. His expertise is international in scope, with a proven track record of successfully conducting business abroad.
Gray served in Governor Rick Scott’s administration (2011-2015) as Florida’s Secretary of Commerce and President & CEO of its principal economic development organization, Enterprise Florida, Inc. Under his leadership, Enterprise Florida completed a record fiscal year in 2013-14, and increased competitive projects by 40%, resulting in 73% more new jobs and 95% more capital investment in the state than in 2011.
During Gray’s tenure, Florida announced competitive project wins involving dozens of leading companies including Amazon, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Deutsche Bank, Embraer, GE, Hertz, Navy Federal Credit Union, Northrop Grumman, USAA, United Technology Corporation and Verizon. Since 2011 and in only 3 years, more than 728,000 private-sector jobs were added in Florida, surpassing Governor Scott’s goal of creating 700,000 private-sector jobs over 7 years.
Prior to his tenure in Florida, Gray served as the Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority under then Governor and current VisionFirst Advisors chairman, Haley Barbour.
During his tenure at the Mississippi Development Authority, Gray persuaded companies such as Toyota, PACCAR, GE Aviation and Severstal to build facilities in the state, resulting in a refocus of the state’s efforts to aggressively support industry retention and expansion. He also launched the Priority One Program targeting existing businesses, resulting in a measurable increase in jobs saved and/or created.
In addition, Gray worked with the legislature and the state’s private sector partner, Momentum Mississippi, to retool economic development incentives, thus laying the groundwork for significant new investment and expansion opportunities. Throughout his service at the MDA, Gray created a team that is recognized by site selection consultants and businesses alike as one of the most responsive state economic development teams in the nation.
Gray earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Mississippi State University.
*Please note, when we interviewed Gray, he was in his final days at Enterprise Florida. Today, Gray serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of VisionFirst Advisors.
Andrea Schruijer is the executive director for the Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority (VLCDA). Before joining the VLCDA, Andrea was senior vice president for the Albany-Dougherty County Economic Development Commission. Her primary responsibilities were business retention and expansion, operations and development of industrial parks.
She spent ten years with The Ritz- Carlton Company LLC, serving in different roles. She completed several different levels of training to include: The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Course, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Mastering Sales and Presentations and customer service training. Andrea was part of the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award Team and Sales Team of the Year, and she was nominated for Leader of the Year.
Andrea has been a member of Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) since 2007. She served as GEDA’s chair for the Special Awards Committee in 2010 and 2011. Andrea was appointed to the 2014 GEDA Board of Directors to serve a second three year term. She is an alumnus of Leadership Georgia and Leadership Lowndes.
Andrea is a native of Cordele, Georgia and a graduate of Georgia Southern University. She is married to Raymond. They are the proud parents of three children: Justin, Emma, and Willem.
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Bob Marcusse joined the Kansas City Area Development Council (KCADC) in 1991 as president and chief executive officer. During his tenure, KCADC along with its state and local partners, have attracted companies and helped expand and create companies that have created more than 40,000 direct new jobs and added more than $8.0 billion in capital investment to the 18-county, bi-state Kansas City region.
Bob has an extensive background in domestic and international corporate attraction, business growth and retention, and regional marketing. He has spearheaded major growth initiatives in the region such as the Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, KC Animal Health Corridor, KC SmartPort, and KCnext–The Technology Council of Greater Kansas City.
Bob’s community involvement extends well beyond his role at KCADC. Bob serves on the executive committees of KC SmartPort, KCnext, KC Animal Health Corridor and Central Exchange. He is a member of the University of Kansas Edwards Campus Advisory Board, and University of Missouri Economic Development Cabinet and the board of the KU Endowment. He is a past chairman of the University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute and is a member of the listing review committee for BATS, the country’s third largest stock exchange. Bob is also a member of the national Alumni Board of Calvin College.
Bob has also held leadership positions with the Columbus (OH) Area Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Council for the Peoria area, Battle Creek (MI) Unlimited and the Inland Port Authority of South Central Michigan and Foreign Trade Zone #43.
Bob graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Science degree. He received his Master of Science from Purdue University.
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