For Gulf Coast native and Jackson State alum Jhai Keeton, “Jackson’s got next.”
It’s an attitude that reflects his belief that the City With Soul should take its rightful place amidst coming opportunities for development.
Jackson’s Deputy Director of Economic Development in the city’s Planning and Development division, Keeton moved to Jackson in 2019 after hearing offers from Dallas and Houston.
“I was trying to go,” he said of plans to leave Mississippi after originally returning here seven years ago.
From 2007-2012, Keeton served as a federal auditor in Washington D.C. He also has an entrepreneurial background in the clothing and entertainment industry.
“I came back to (Moss Point) Mississippi on vacation in 2014 (after coming off a music tour) and got involved in the community,” he recalled. “But it happened naturally. I had saved up money and hadn’t seen my family in ten years. I just wanted to go home and eat good food and get hugged by my grandma. And I looked around and thought, ‘Man there ain’t nothing to do.’”
His mother, who was actively involved in the community, introduced him to an area where he believed he could make a difference.
“My consulting background kicked in,” Keeton said. “There was a gap between local government and community. There needed to be a nucleus in the middle. I helped organize back-to-school rallies and food drives and worked with Parents for Public Schools.”
Keeton opened a business in Moss Point and ran for mayor in 2017, and was Chief of Staff for State Representative Jeremy Anderson. In 2019, he earned his master’s in economic development from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Former Jackson CAO Robert Blaine heard Keeton speak at the 2019 International Economic Council conference and asked him to bring his skills and enthusiasm to Jackson.
With a “champion attitude,” Keeton said, he busted through the doors asking, “What are we doing?”
“Get up, do something, move around, get it done. Let’s celebrate the small successes.”
Keeton said he aims for the city to “do better business.”
“I don’t want to be a part of anything that’s not progressing.”
This weekend’s TECH Jxn is a chance for Keeton and his team to showcase what the city has to offer, specifically to high school students, in the areas of tech, education, creativity, healthcare.
The third annual workforce initiative, funded by the WK Kellogg Foundation, is being held at the Jackson Convention Complex on September 23 and 24 and at the Mississippi Museum of Art on September 25.
Watch Keeton on My City TV to learn more about this weekend.