Gazebo Gazette

The Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission (HCPHC) recently hired a chief operations officer and a communications director to build its economic development team.

Blaine LaFontaine was hired as chief operations officer and port director. Jace R. Ponder was hired as communications director.

“We are excited to have the energy and experience Blaine and Jace bring to Hancock County Port and Harbor,” said CEO Bill Cotter. “Their education and knowledge make them valuable team members as we work to grow opportunities in Hancock County.”

In his role, LaFontaine facilitates day to day operations at HCPHC properties and is responsible for overseeing operations, procedures and development at Port Bienville Industrial Park. Home to 16 tenants employing nearly 600 people, Port Bienville generates nearly $10 million in ad valorem revenue for the county each year.

A Hancock County native, LaFontaine previously served as Pearl River County’s Chief Economic Developer. Prior to that, LaFontaine served a four-year term on the Hancock County Board of Supervisors as well a four-year term as a councilman for Diamondhead.

LaFontaine is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a master’s degree in economic development and a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering technology. In 2016, he was recognized by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce as a winner of the Top 10 Under 40 Award. In 2019, he was recognized by the Mississippi Economic Council as a winner of the Top 50 Under 40 Award. He lives in Kiln with his wife Heather and three daughters.

In his role, Ponder is responsible for planning, executing and integrating HCPHC marketing and communication activities for Stennis International Airport and Port Bienville.

A Waveland native, Ponder previously served as a public information officer with the Mississippi Department of Transportation in Jackson. Prior to that, he owned and published The Gazebo Gazette newspaper in Pass Christian.

Ponder is a graduate of the University of Mississippi with master’s and bachelor’s degrees in journalism. During his newspaper career, he received numerous Mississippi Press Association awards for writing, marketing and design. In 2018, he was named Emerging Practitioner of the Year by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi. He currently resides in Diamondhead.