The Jackson County Economic Development Foundation staff is committed to creating jobs, generating capital investment, increasing the quality of life in this area, and diversifying industry.

staff-freeland George L. Freeland, Jr.
Executive Director

George L. Freeland, Jr., has led the JCEDF since March 2001.  Under his leadership, the Foundation and its member partners have lead the creation of over 2,500 direct new jobs and have generated over two billion dollars of new capital investments.  The diverse range of companies and related sectors recruited include:  aerospace industries (Northrop Grumman Aerospace Unmanned Systems Center); energy based companies (Gulf LNG, BP, and Chevron); advanced shipbuilding and propulsion systems (Rolls Royce Naval Marine); construction components (Tindall Corp.); and, homeland security technology.

He is a graduate of Auburn University where he earned both Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Public Administration, Economic Development, and Community Development.

The Journal of South Mississippi Business and the Mississippi Sun Herald have recognized Freeland as a Top Business Leader on the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi Business Journal recognized him as one of the State’s Top Forty Under 40 Business Leaders.  George has earned the prestigious Certified Professional Economic Developer and Economic Development Finance Professional designations, and is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma. 

Mary Martha Henson

Mary Martha Henson
Deputy Director

Mary Martha Henson, former legislative director for U.S. Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran is the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation’s (JCEDF’s) deputy director. Henson, a Mississippi native, has extensive experience working on Capitol Hill in various roles for members of both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, she has served as the executive director and chief executive officer for the Mississippi Economic Development Council – the state’s organization of economic development professionals – where, among other things, she oversaw a study of Mississippi’s competitiveness based on an in-depth analysis of the state’s tax structure, business environment, and workforce and professional development offerings.

Henson has interfaced with all levels of government and has been instrumental in numerous projects benefitting Jackson County and the Gulf Coast region. Her vast federal portfolio includes work with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Economic Development Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration- and a variety of programs and agencies related to infrastructure. She has worked closely on issues ranging from unmanned aircraft systems to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s former TIGER grant program and was instrumental in working to secure RESTORE Act funding for coastal communities impacted by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. She has also worked extensively on workforce delivery and development issues on both the state and federal level. Henson also has significant foreign relations experience and a unique understanding of the state’s competitive advantages in the global marketplace.

Henson holds bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University; in addition, she is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute.


Natalia Diaz
Director of Asset & Resource Management

Natalia was born and grew up in Moscow, Russia. From an early age, Natalia has been involved in international affairs through volunteer programs at the Soviet Peace Committee. She received a full international scholarship at the University of Southern Mississippi, moving to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in July 1991.

Natalia joined Jackson County Economic Development Foundation in 2003. Some of her current responsibilities include managing investor relations and events; industrial site development; existing industry expansion assistance; training and workforce development activities; marketing and recruitment outreach to prospective companies and consultants; as well as working on regional economic development activities across the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  

For ten years before that she was a Project Director for the US Department of State’s international training programs at the Mississippi Consortium for International Development in Jackson, MS, focusing on democracy, leadership, entrepreneurship and economic development programs for the countries of the former Soviet Union. Natalia traveled this state extensively, allowing international scholars opportunities to learn from the best practices everywhere in Mississippi.

Natalia is a recipient of the prestigious Mississippi 50 Leading Business Women Award, as well as the 2017 recipient of the Marsha N. Hamilton Spirit Award for Extraordinary Service in Economic Development. Natalia is a Paul Harris Fellow a long-time member of the Ocean Springs Rotary Club. Her other memberships include MS International Friends Club; MS Economic Development Council (MEDC); Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC); and International Economic Development Council (IEDC). She is an immediate past president of the Duchess Club of Ocean Springs. She is a graduate of the Leadership Jackson County Class of 2004, Leadership Mississippi Class of 2010 and Gulf Coast Business Council Master’s Leadership Program Class of 2013.

Hope Obrien

Hope O'Brien
Executive Assistant & Office Manager

Hope O’Brien joined the JCEDF staff in 2018 to serve as the executive assistant and to work alongside the executive director to coordinate Foundation’s operations and office activities. She also provides support to the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Some of Hope’s responsibilities include official records management, organizing meetings, overseeing capital campaign and human resource records and services, preparing and reviewing documents and minutes, as well as coordinating with vendors and service providers. Hope has extensive paralegal experience, working for several attorneys and law offices for over a decade. She also handled medical records, transcription and maintained legal files for several insurance carriers.

Hope is a native of Pascagoula and holds a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies from the University of Southern Mississippi. She is a graduate of the New South Basic Economic Development Course and is a member of the Leadership Jackson County Class of 2019.

DHS picks Mississippi

Mississippi State University in Starkville was chosen by the Department of Homeland Security as a base of operations for drone research. Research

B&D expands, creating 35 jobs

B&D Plastics, LLC is expanding in Gautier, Miss., a $750,000 corporate investment that will create 35 jobs. B&D Plastics is one of the

Northrop expanding in Moss Point

PASCAGOULA, Miss. – Northrop Grumman Unmanned Systems Center will expand its operation at Trent Lott International Airport in Moss Point,

Call Toll-Free: (800) 362-0103  •  Fax: (228) 762-8431  •  Email:  P.O. Drawer 1558, Pascagoula, MS 39568-1558   
©2015, Jackson County Economic Development Foundation, Inc.