Olivier Takes Louisiana Job

Harrison County's longtime economic development director is leaving for a job promotion in Louisiana.

Michael Olivier has been chosen to head the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.

Governor Kathleen Blanco made the appointment Wednesday afternoon, following weeks of speculation that Olivier was looking at the Louisiana job.

Olivier has long had some close connections with Louisiana. In fact, he once worked for Governor Blanco's husband.

He's well respected within economic development circles. But reaction to his departure is mixed.

Michael Olivier began attracting economic development to South Mississippi more than 17 years ago. The director of the State Port of Gulfport says Olivier had the knowledge and the vision to see economic development as an international endeavor.

"I think the name he built for himself is one that reflects success. He's a good salesman and I think that's a key to being a successful economic development professional. Michael represents that," Gulfport Port Director Don Allee said.

Olivier made headlines in Louisiana back in 1997 when he helped persuade Oreck Manufacturing to locate its vacuum cleaner plant in Long Beach. Louisiana had also been in the running for that plant project since Oreck is headquartered in New Orleans. Its decision to locate here in Mississippi sparked an outcry in Louisiana and led to an overhaul of that state's Department of Economic Development.

In recent months, Oliver had a somewhat contentious relationship with the Harrison County Board of Supervisors. Last month, board voted against a proposed industrial park in Saucier.

"I think a change is good sometimes. I think we've had a great era of growth in the county with gaming coming on. Maybe somebody new and fresh with some new business ideas will be good for our county. So, I think it's good for both parties," said Supervisor Larry Benefield.

Olivier's most outspoken critic is Supervisor Connie Rockco.

"I can only speak to the years 2000 to presently. And I think a better job could have been done," she said.