The boxes have the distinctive logo that millions recognize on sight. And Northwestern State University alumna Jessica Breaux plays a part in making sure orders from Amazon get to consumers quickly.
Breaux, a 2004 graduate in journalism with an emphasis in public relations, is a manager of economic development for Amazon.
She leads the company’s investment projects throughout the south central United States. Breaux works closely with internal business partners to identify and develop new locations for Amazon fulfillment centers. Through this process, she partners with local policy makers and economic development organizations to address any challenges or impediments to development, facilitate the permitting and entitlements process and negotiate any potential economic development incentives.
“What I love most about my job is that every day is different,” said Breaux, who joined the company in late 2019. “Every project is different and every community is different. I am always working multiple projects simultaneously and this requires me to pivot between various responsibilities regularly.”
Since December, Amazon has announced three new fulfillment centers in Louisiana. One will be built in Carencro and should open this year. Centers in Shreveport and Baton Rouge are scheduled to open next year. The company said the centers will create more than 2,500 new, full-time jobs and more than $500 million in new capital investment.
“There’s a little bit of mystery around economic development work,” said Breaux.” When I first engage with a community about the possibility for a new Amazon fulfillment center, everyone has signed confidentiality statements and we’re operating under a project code name. It’s really exciting to work behind the scenes for months (sometimes years) with a local team of passionate community leaders towards finalizing a project.”
Breaux said the day of the announcement of a project is exciting for both Amazon and the community.
“You really can’t beat the excitement that comes with announcing a new Amazon fulfillment center is locating in a community,” said Breaux. “By the time you get to this point, so much hard work has happened and I always enjoy celebrating the accomplishments with our local partners.”
Breaux worked at various levels of state and local government supporting economic development initiatives for several years. Just prior to joining Amazon, she worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest public power company in the United States. Breaux led a 14-person regional economic development team that managed job creation projects throughout TVA’s seven state territory. She worked on successful site location projects with major corporations such as Nissan, LG Electronics, Facebook and Warner Music, among others.
Breaux called her time at Northwestern was “the perfect college experience.”
“I had amazing opportunities to serve our university through various student organizations, which provided me with invaluable leadership skills,” said Breaux. “I obviously learned a great deal related to my professional life, but I am most thankful to NSU for the life lessons it provided me. Opportunities such as being a Freshman Connector, or serving Phi Mu as president, taught me how to value the opinions of others and to always treat people with the respect they deserve. The most important take away from all of these experiences is that you really can accomplish more together when no one is concerned with getting the credit. That is something I apply to my work on a daily basis.”
According to Breaux, one of her major influences was Dr. Paula Furr, who taught journalim at NSU and served as head of the Departments of Journalism, Language and Communications and New Media, Journalism and Communication Arts.
“I’ve never told Dr. Furr this, but she made a significant impression on my professional and personal life,” said Beaux. “She is an accomplished professional, but also a strong and independent woman. Dr. Furr was always honest, direct and shared her opinions with such poise they couldn’t be ignored. By watching her, I learned how to speak my mind and that what I had to say was important. Learning from her gave me courage and confidence to push myself and believe I could accomplish my professional goals.”
Breaux remembers Furr as being “a tough professor and didn’t accept anything but my best effort.”
“She challenged me and encouraged me,” said Breaux. “I owe a lot to Dr. Furr and will always be grateful for her guidance.”