JESSICA HOOD: Bringing Business to Effingham County
JESSICA HOOD: Bringing Business to Effingham County
Story by Cindy Reid
Photography by Leidi Lester
"Global Access—Local Feel” is the motto at Effingham County Industrial Authority (ECIDA) where ECIDA Vice President Jessica Hood brings her expertise for global industry as well as a true-to-her-roots Southern touch to her role.
“I may start the day in high heels in a boardroom and end the day in snake boots on an undeveloped site,” Jessica says, “I have learned to just try to be prepared for whatever the day may bring.”
The ECIDA’s defined purpose is to develop and promote the public good and welfare of Effingham County. Jessica says, “Our primary mission is to attract and retain industrial businesses to the community for the purpose of quality job creation, capital investment, and economic opportunity.”
She says the recruitment and retention of industrial businesses also contributes to a balanced tax digest, which is a good thing because “that allows the county to provide high quality services and education while keeping taxes relatively low.”
As Vice President, she specializes in business attraction and business retention for the organization, among other tasks. No day is the same, in fact she says, “My day to day tends to look very different from one day to the next. Since we are a relatively small staff, we all tend to wear a lot of hats.”
For Jessica a typical week can include new client correspondence and orchestrating prospect visits, as well as marketing functions like website updates and the creation of collateral marketing materials. She is also involved in the planning and execution of existing industry and other miscellaneous events, as well as managing special projects like office renovations and grant applications.
She says she enjoys her work because, “I genuinely appreciate the variety of tasks and projects that I get to work on, as well as the new people that I get to work with on a regular basis.”
Jessica comes fully prepared with an impressive resume of steps leading to her current position. A Georgia native, she “grew up just up the road in Stilson.”
Jessica says she originally wanted to be a teacher, “but once I got into high school and college, I took an interest in construction and engineering. Ironically, I ended up majoring in economics.”
After graduating high school, she continued her education at Georgia Southern University, where she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Economics and a minor in regional development (cum laude graduate). She went on to earn a Master’s in Business Administration from the Parker School of Business, also at Georgia Southern University.
Higher education focused on business appealed to her because, “Pretty much any industry or career path you choose in life requires some sort of business acumen, so I think it only makes sense to establish a foundation in business that will serve you in whatever pursuit you choose in life.” She says.
“My undergraduate degree is in economics, and I minored in regional development. I think that the coursework at Georgia Southern gave me a good foundation for starting my career in economic development.”
Of course nothing compares to “boots on the ground” real life experience, because as she says, “this industry is so nuanced that it took me a few years to really be comfortable in the role and I feel like I learn something new every day.”
Work Experience and Certifications
Before her current position at the ECIDA she was the Project Manager at the Liberty County Development Authority, then worked on the business development team at the Savannah Economic Development Authority before rejoining the LCDA as the Director of Business Development.
Jessica has served as the Executive Director at the Development Authority of Burke County and has been actively involved with a number of organizations—including the Board of the Georgia Economic Developers Association and Leadership Southeast Georgia.
She is a graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development, Leadership Liberty, Leadership Burke, Leadership Effingham and Leadership Southeast Georgia and she is an Economic Development Finance Professional as designated by the National Development Council, as well as a Certified Economic Developer as designated by the International Economic Development Council.
Her hard work has not gone unnoticed—Jessica was honored as one of Effingham’s 20 under 40 in 2021 and 2022 and was named to Georgia Southern University’s 40 under 40 list in 2022.
As Vice President at ECIDA, Jessica has been serving on the advisory board for the Effingham College and Career Academy (ECCA) and says she has thoroughly enjoyed “plugging in and working with the students.” She says. “I’ve had the opportunity to work on and be part of some pretty unique and groundbreaking projects, but I think the most satisfying work that I’ve been able to do has been in partnership with our school system.”
“My favorite program that we have partnered on is the Workforce Ph.D. program for graduating seniors.” The Workforce PhD program is a partnership between the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority, Effingham College and Career Academy, Savannah Technical College and local employers to give students who are looking to enter the workforce immediately after graduation the same level of support offered to college-bound students.
Jessica says “This program is for students who are not planning to attend college or enlisting and are looking to gain a better understanding of the types of industrial careers that are available in the area.”
It is a four-day program that takes the students through the process of resume building, interview skills, financial literacy, and concludes with industrial facility tours and speed networking with employers.
Jessica says, “What I love the most about this program is that it has had a positive impact on the students who were able to get a quality job with our local industries prior to graduation. It also helps to strengthen the relationship between our local industries and the school system.”
Making Effingham County Home
When asked what she loves about living in our area she says “Outside of the outstanding quality of life that this area has to offer, I love living close to my family. I’ve lived in other areas that were nice, but ultimately decided to move back to be much closer to my family and friends.”
And she makes time to enjoy all our area has to offer, especially our waterways. “I really enjoy being out on the water,” she says. “My favorite summer day consists of taking a boat out to Ossabaw or St. Catherine’s and enjoying the company and a cold beverage.”
She also enjoys “going to concerts, shooting sporting clays, or spending time with my two miniature schnauzers Jasper and Eloise.”
Jessica believes the future for Effingham County is very bright.
“This area is definitely going to experience significant growth over the next five to ten years. I think there is a unique opportunity for Effingham County to really shape the future of development and create a community that appeals to both current and future residents. I look forward to seeing the community evolve in positive ways for many years to come.”