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A recognized leader in economic development, Gray Swoope leads the VisionFirst Advisors, LLC team, serving as President and Chief Executive Officer. After a successful 30 year career managing state, regional, and local economic development organizations, Gray helped launch the VisionFirst economic development consulting practice in March 2015. The firm, a wholly owned subsidiary of Butler Snow LLP, works with a diverse base of private and public sector clients focusing on ways to gain a competitive edge. Current client work includes location advisory services, designing high performance organizations, business development planning and result driven marketing and communications strategies.
Gray is known for building highly effective teams noted for their ability to devise and implement strategic plans with positive results. He most recently 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 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.
Prior to his tenure in Florida, Gray served as the Executive Director of the Mississippi Development Authority under then Governor and current VisionFirst Advisors board of director’s chairman, Haley Barbour. During his tenure at the Mississippi Development Authority, Gray played a vital role in recruiting companies such as Toyota, PACCAR, GE Aviation and SeverCorr (now Steel Dynamics) to the state, resulting in a refocus of the state’s efforts to aggressively support business recruitment, 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 enhance economic development performance, thus laying the groundwork for significant new investment and expansion opportunities. Throughout his service at the MDA, Gray created a team that was recognized as one of the most responsive state economic development organizations in the nation.
Gray earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Mississippi State University.