Blake Wallace

Executive Director

Serving as executive director since 2006, Blake is a hands-on leader with over 30 years of experience in business attraction, business retention and expansion, workforce development and retail development. He also leverages his skills in marketing, strategic planning, project management and technology utilization to foster new economic opportunities for Hinds County. His professional certifications include Certified Economic and Community Developer (CEcD) and Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP). Blake is the chair of the Membership Development Advisory Committee for the International Economic Development Council, serves as a member of the Mississippi District Export Council Board of Directors and is a past member of the Board of Directors for both the Southern Economic Development Council and the Mississippi Economic Development Council. His educational credentials include a Bachelor of Science degree in American Studies and a Master of Science degree in Economic Development from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Master of Business Administration degree from Belhaven University where he serves as an adjunct instructor.

Sharron Cunningham-Beamon

Director of Office Management and Governmental Affairs

A native of Louisville, Miss., Sharron has worked with the Authority since 1997. She has spearheaded efforts to create community organizations in each municipality within Hinds County and served as an ambassador for the Greater Jackson Chamber of Commerce. In 2000, she was awarded the Community Development Award by the Friends of Utica, Inc. A graduate of Hinds Junior College, Sharron has also completed coursework at Tougaloo College as well as the University of Southern Mississippi’s New South Economic Development Course and the University of Central Arkansas’ Community Development program.

Curnis Upkins III

Director of Business Development and Marketing

Curnis is responsible for coordinating the Authority’s business recruitment and existing industry activities. As a Jackson native, his work experience ranges from nonprofit-sector economic development services to public-sector community development initiatives. Curnis is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (Bachelor of Science in Business Administration) and Jackson State University (Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning).

Kemsye Smith

Director of Workforce Development

A native of Jackson, Kemsye has over 20 years of experience working in the government, private and nonprofit sectors. She brings with her a strong skill set in organization, administration and project management along with a heart for community service. Kemsye is a graduate of Jackson State University with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Social Work.

Erica Burton


Born in Jackson and raised in Japan, Erica is the first point of contact when calling the HCEDA office. She is a graduate of Holmes Community College where she earned an Associate's degree in Spanish.