To say Bill Rayburn has a vision for Mississippi is an understatement. Mr. Rayburn is a former finance professor at the University of Mississippi and a successful entrepreneur several times over. The company he co-founded, FNC, has been ranked as one of the fastest growing private companies in the country numerous times, and consistently ranks as one of “best places to work” in Mississippi.
Not content to run a company which dominates the market share in its industry, Mr. Rayburn understands that building a successful company in the 21st century economy is as much dependent on attracting talent as it is a winning concept. For this reason, his vision extends beyond just growing FNC.
“We want to hire 5,000 software engineers over the next 10 years,” Rayburn says. “These are highly compensated individuals who contribute to an area’s Intellectual GDP. These are the types of individuals who can position a region as a real leader in the 21st century knowledge economy. There is absolutely no reason why this can’t happen across Mississippi in general and in the Oxford area specifically.”
FNC and Rayburn aren’t just talking the talk, but also walking the walk. The company has broken ground on a new 68,000 square-foot, $20 million complex in Oxford. The complex will provide a “Google-like” atmosphere for FNC staffers. Rayburn promotes a company culture that encourages such innovation-stimulating aspects as Yoga classes, regular office celebrations, and even the company’s own internal startup weekend/hackaton-type event, called The Forge. Company executives regularly visit other leading-edge corporations for collaborative sessions on how to further foster a culture of innovation in Mississippi. FNC runs a separate blog – Software Unwound – to showcase how its technology is delivering truly innovative solutions to the trillion dollar real estate mortgage industry.
Rayburn has the vision of Mississippi moving away from competing with other areas of the globe for lower-paying repetitive jobs and jolting as a full fledged force into an economy based on creativity, entrepreneurship, and knowledge production. A key component to his plan is attracting, investing in, and retaining the very best talent. One can almost think of FNC as “Google South.”
“We could have gone anywhere in the world and headquartered FNC. In this digital age, it is less important where you do business as opposed to what you produce. We’re not doing our state any good if we move to Austin or Seattle or London. Our headquarters is in Oxford because we’re concerned with growing and retaining our native intellectual capital, and attracting those same types of individuals to our state. That’s how you grow a competitive economy in the 21st century, and that’s how Mississippi will become a force to be reckoned with.”