Martinez leaving Alliance|[12/06/06]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The Laurel native tapped in January to lead the Vicksburg-Warren Community Alliance has resigned to take a position with the Mississippi Development Authority set to begin at the first of the year.

Scott Martinez, 35, who won out over four finalists vying for the first permanent Alliance director’s position, will spend half of his time at MDA focusing on Hurricane Katrina-related projects and the other half on economic development projects across the state.

Martinez has a master’s degree in economic development from the University of Southern Mississippi. He said he came into his role with the Alliance expecting to do what his degree entailed.

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&#8220When I came to Vicksburg, I thought this would be more of an economic development position, and that hasn’t turned out to be the case,” he said.

Before heading the 5-year-old self-formed community interest and advocacy group here, Martinez spent seven years luring new business and capital investment into two Texas metropolitan areas – Houston and Austin.

He served as associate director of the Greater Conroe Economic Development Council from 1999 to 2004. He also served as vice president of economic development with the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce, where he helped garner $1.6 million in private sector money for local economic development.

One of Martinez’s responsibilities since signing on with the Alliance was holding the post as interim director of the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce, a position he held until the board hired Christi Kilroy, former special projects manager for the City of Vicksburg, in June. While there, Martinez worked to combine efforts of the two organizations, a move he said &#8220didn’t work.”

Mayor Laurence Leyens said he believes Martinez has found a job &#8220more suited for his background.”

&#8220What Scott was hired to do was not what the Alliance was formed to do,” he said. &#8220The Alliance was trying to change what they originally started out as.”

The Alliance has had a shifting identity. It was formed in 2001 as a liaison among local entities to assist in tourism, government, industry and local retail business. In 2005, the group, headed by trustees, formed specific councils in those areas.

Although Martinez said he sees &#8220tremendous potential” for economic development in Vicksburg, he doesn’t see anyone taking the lead.

&#8220There is not a viable economic development effort in Vicksburg and Warren County. Not as I see it – and not as others would see it,” he said. &#8220There’s been a real void in leadership when it comes to Vicksburg and its potential.”

Martinez’s goal upon taking the position, which held an annual salary of $80,000, was making Vicksburg &#8220a great place to work, live and visit.”

Margaret Gilmer, director of the Vicksburg Factory Outlets and a member of the Alliance’s Retail-Commerce Council, said she is saddened by Martinez’s decision.

&#8220I felt that Scott was so very capable of leading the group and helping Vicksburg get to the next level of economic development,” she said. &#8220It’s a great loss for Vicksburg.”

In the past year, the Alliance has been instrumental in getting the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau to contract with Compass Facility Management, the management firm hired in January to consult with the tourism agency. The group also drew up a list of &#8220qualified” tourism professionals for government officials to look to when placing members on the 11-member city/county VCVB board. A strategic plan for the Alliance was also passed Aug. 3, and is to act as a guide through 2008.

Ann Jones, chairman of the Alliance’s Tourism Council, said the group will continue with its mission.

&#8220Scott has a lot of talent and experience, and I’m glad the people from the state office recognized it. I’m disappointed things didn’t work out for him here,” she said. &#8220There is a reason the Alliance started and a reason it’s still here. It’s up to the leaders in the community to see that we make it work.”

Alliance board chairman Bobby Bailess said he understands Martinez’s decision to be a fulltime economic developer. As far as who will replace him, he said, it’s something the board will have to decide in the near future.

Bailess went on to reflect on the Alliance’s progress in the past year.

&#8220There is a complex situation in Vicksburg and getting everybody to pull in the same direction is not always easy,” Bailess said. &#8220Hopefully we have all learned from our mistakes and we will continue to go in the right direction – that depends on the people who make up our community and their desire to make things positive. I have confidence we will overcome this all.”

Martinez and his wife, the former Melissa Attkisson of Hattiesburg, will leave Vicksburg once they sell their house on Drummond Street, he said.