After assisting Cary Karlson at the Washington County Economic Alliance the past four years, Will Coppage is now getting adjusted in taking over his role as executive director.
After Karlson announced his retirement, which is effective July 31, the WCEA Board of Directors promoted Coppage to his new role, which he started July 17.
“I was elated in the board’s decision to name me the new executive director of the Washington County Economic Alliance. There had been discussion with the board and with Cary, but at the time earlier in the year, it was only discussion,” Coppage said. “When Cary came in and told me of the board’s decision to go forward, I was speechless. I was humbled. And, with the tools the board and Cary have provided for me, I was ready to take on the role.”
In Coppage’s new role, he will take on the responsibilities of spearheading industrial attraction; the retention and expansion of existing industry; workforce training and development; and Chamber-based initiatives centered on small businesses.
A Greenville native, Coppage first joined the WCEA in 2015 as project manager and in 2018 was promoted to deputy director.
After working closely with Karlson, Coppage said he wants to exude the passion he has seen from him during their time working together.
“Cary is a servant leader, and he demonstrated a passion for Washington County. It is that leadership quality that sets him apart from so many others. I hope others see those qualities in me as I continue to build upon the success Cary brought to this organization,” Coppage said.
Ryan Ashley, WCEA Chairman, said he is delighted to see Coppage transition into the leadership role.
“Will has done an excellent job in serving our organization in his roles as project manager and deputy director over the last four years. Will’s knowledge and experience with our communities combined with his passion and creativity will continue to propel the economic viability for Washington County in the future.”
One of the hardest aspects of his job, Coppage said, is not being able to spread the word on exciting new things taking place in the county until they are ready to make an official announcement.
“I would love to be able to tell the residents more of projects that are happening behind the scenes, but the truth is the confidentiality that our organization upholds is to protect not only the companies we are recruiting and working with, but the residents. Our job is to protect and manage expectation in the community. And not until you hear the facts from our organization, I will just say, it is speculation and hearsay,” he said.
Moving forward, Coppage said he wants to see a continued growth in positive community attitude and more engaging community events that support local businesses, such as the Bunny Hop and the Chamber Chow Down.
“I want to leverage that and enhance it even more. I want our organization to be out front engaging the community through our Chamber. We have a stellar Chamber that supports the business community in Washington County,” he said.
Already getting out into the community to meet local residents and business stakeholders, Coppage said the WCEA relies on those people to become Chamber members or sponsors to their organization.
“The community depends on our organization to recruit new industry and to support our existing companies, and we depend on you to support our organization. As I am meeting with folks, I am learning they are excited, and they want to be apart of the story. And that makes me want to work harder and push harder for this community,” he said.
For anyone who would like to learn more about becoming a sponsor, Coppage can be reached at 662-378-3141, or by stopping by their office, 342 Washington Ave., Ste. 201.
“At the end of the day, this is something that I just love doing. When I get the opportunity to drive someone around, I love pointing out a business going up or maybe just a building getting a facelift. That is positive investment,” Coppage said. “Good things are happening. No one can deny that our community is in a better place than it was 10 years ago. Investments are being made. Jobs are being created. We are growing together. And not only are we telling our story, but we are writing our own future.”
Coppage, a United States Air Force Veteran, is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Economic Development Institute. He holds both a Master of Fine Arts and a Master of Arts from McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Prior to joining the WCEA, he worked as executive assistant to former Mayor John Cox with the City of Greenville and as a reporter at the Delta Democrat-Times.
Coppage has been the recipient of Mississippi Top 50 Under 40 (2017), Mississippi Business Journal; Washington County Top 20 Under 40 (2017), Delta Democrat-Times; Mississippi Development Authority Ambassador (2017); and the Ray and Jimmy Heidel Economic Development Leadership Award (2017), Mississippi Economic Development Council.
His wife, Missy, is the Director of Gymnastics at the Hodding Carter Memorial YMCA in Greenville, and his daughter, Lyla Jane, will turn 4 years old in August