Our Vision

A South where all people thrive.

Our Mission

MDC equips Southern leaders, institutions, and communities to improve economic mobility and advance equity.

All Southerners deserve the opportunity to thrive. MDC partners with Southern leaders and communities to catalyze systemic change that allows more people – particularly our most vulnerable neighbors – to thrive.

We offer research and analysis, community change and advisory services that can help communities create an “infrastructure of opportunity"– the aligned systems and supports that can boost everyone, particularly those who’ve been left behind, to higher rungs on the economic ladder.

At the heart of our work is an abiding commitment to the South, deep knowledge and 50 years of experience designing, testing and scaling strategies that work to bring equity and opportunity to the people of our region.


MDC was founded in 1967 as Manpower Development Corp. out of N.C. Gov. Terry Sanford’s North Carolina Fund, in collaboration with the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Its mission was to design job training programs to help poor and displaced workers in the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy and from a segregated to an integrated workforce. George B. Autry was founding executive director.

Since then, we’ve shortened our name and broadened our mission from a workforce development organization to a catalyzing force for economic progress in the South. We develop and implement programs in such areas as training and employment, community college improvement, rural economic development, strategic philanthropy, workforce competitiveness, school reform and grassroots community leadership.

MDC has gained the strong support of multiple Southern state and national foundations, as well as local, state and federal agencies. We have had a continuing role as both a convener and broker for collaboration between and among educators, workforce specialists, and civic and business leaders, as well as grassroots community leaders and the public at large.

Board members, including Juanita Kreps (U.S. Secretary of Commerce), William Winter (Governor of Mississippi), James Joseph (Chairman, Council on Foundations and U.S. Ambassador to South Africa), and Otis Johnson (former mayor, Savannah, Ga., and founder of Savannah Youth Futures) have provided personal attention that has fueled MDC’s reach and impact.