Leadership Team

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John Abbate


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John knows American cities and communities by heart, having logged more than a half a million miles throughout the USA helping Marketing Alliance clients craft powerful marketing messages and compelling narratives that have resulted in dynamic economic development.

Fortunately, John is comfortable behind the wheel of a car after growing up in the Motor City area. In fact, he began his career at the in-house marketing department of General Motors more than 26 years ago, before heading south where he worked for advertising agencies and as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for an international graphics firm.

John founded Marketing Alliance in 2001, and over the past few years he and the rest of the MA staff have seen clients weather the Great Recession and thrive, thanks to successful economic development.

“I understand that American communities are facing a whole new world of global competition,” he says. “But I also know that cities and regions, large and small, can compete and win.  One thing, however, is key: our doing a good job in giving them every possible competitive advantage we can.”

One place John would like to put in more miles: his boat, sitting in a slip at Charlotte Harbor in Punta Gorda, Florida. Though he rarely gets the opportunity, he finds cruising the tidal estuaries particularly satisfying.

Mark Weilenman

Vice President, Sales & Marketing

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Working closely with Marketing Alliance clients over the past 10 years, Mark has developed a good feel for the rhythm of American communities, for what keeps them humming.

“It’s important to have a strong relationship between public and private sectors, which depends in large part on good communication,” he says. “And that’s just one avenue where robust marketing for economic development can make a difference, not only in attracting new investment but in creating a sense of shared enterprise among all stakeholders.”

Maintaining a shared vision and commitment is something Mark knows well, as a military veteran who served as the Mississippi Army National Guard’s Marketing Director for 21 years before transitioning to the private sector and to Marketing Alliance almost 10 years ago.

In his down time Mark hones his own rhythms as a singer and guitarist jamming with various musical groups in venues (and living rooms) throughout the Jackson area. Happily married, Mark's proudest accomplishment is helping raise their two children into wonderful young adults. His not-so-secret passion? The New Orleans Saints. Who Dat!

Lee Campbell

Account Executive

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Lee brings over twenty years of experience working in advertising, marketing, commercial printing and freelance graphic design. Lee has a wealth of experience offering insight on how to help businesses small and large market themselves effectively. A Business Developer with graphic design and creative skills, Lee has often been a guest speaker to college graphic design and marketing classes on marketing trends using new commercial print and internet technology.

Lee’s specialties include graphic design, business development, branding identity, variable data project manager, creative strategy and website development.

Mark Kitchens

Vice President, Creative Services

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You might say work has come full circle for Mark. He began his career studying architecture before the lure of graphic design drew him into marketing more than 25 years ago, and today he finds himself helping to design and construct virtual cityscapes and industrial websites as he guides the Marketing Alliance creative team in the production of 3D animations, interactive and print-based media for dynamic economic development marketing.

“Marketers often talk about their client’s ‘image,’ but an image is a ‘still life’ and what we do goes beyond that,” Mark points out. “By combining today’s technology with tried-and-true aesthetics and narrative, what we aim to create is a vibrant, in-depth portrayal that gets to the heart of what the city or region is all about.”

Mark’s off-hours pursuit is very similar. With his hand-painted digital portraiture of people, pets and places, he trades tubes of paint for meticulous digital strokes to create timeless quality in a thoroughly 21st century product.

Rich Winter

Creative Director

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Whether designing a logo or leveraging the latest technology in a video or web presentation, Rich approaches the creative process with a painter’s eye and a passion for design. And while messages and platforms vary according to the economic developer’s needs, the principles of good design—applied with skill and creativity—invariably lead to the most effective solutions.

Problem solving is vital, and so is collaboration with clients. “That has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my job,” Rich says. “Because so many of our client associations have been long term, over the years I’ve had working relationships become real friendships.”

The father of two school-age children, Rich has raised his fanatical love for the University of Kansas Jayhawks to a fine art. His dream design project: a day with more than 24 hours.


Jerome McLain

Creative Director

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A designer with more than 20 years experience, Jerome specializes in comprehensive marketing programs that include branding, website, print, interactive, video production, motion graphics, email marketing and e-learning development. As one of our production managers, Jerome helps to guide our clients throughout the creative development process. “I approach each project as a creative puzzle,” Jerome says. “Eventually everything just fits and flows together, and that’s very rewarding.”

Prior to joining Marketing Alliance, Inc., Jerome owned and operated Maxmedia Studios, a video production and web production firm in Fort Mill, South Carolina. “The experience I gained in running my own business helped me to understand the importance of production efficiencies coupled with the importance of highly satisfied clients.”

In his spare time Jerome loves spending time with his family, learning the latest in video production and playing racquetball.

Mike Mathis

Brand Director

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Mike joined Marketing Alliance after serving as executive creative director and writer in the ad agency world. As a leader in economic development branding, he’s worked with communities and corporations from New York to Florida. Mike has a passion for branding and it shows in his work and client presentations.

Mike honed his branding expertise for some of the most respected corporations in the United States, creating brand identities for category and industry leaders like SunTrust Banks, Gerber, California Casualty Insurance, Milwaukee Electric Tools, Wegmans Food Markets, New York City’s oldest bank and Long Island’s premier wealth management firm.

Mike is a native of upstate New York and a graduate of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Thanks to a U.S. Navy dad, he grew up in California, Hawaii, Washington, New Jersey, Tennessee and Virginia. He is the father of four and lives in sunny Florida.

Mike has authored two books. His first was a novel about the most statistically average man in America called “The Median Man.” Recently, he published a photo-essay collection of essays based on visiting a Florida beach daily for one year. It’s called “The Beach: 365 Little Stories.” Both will be available soon from Amazon, Kindle and Apple iBooks.

Bob Oertel

Visualization Director

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An industrial designer by training, Bob first realized the value of 3D technology in his job designing interiors for corporate aircraft.  Later when he opened his own architectural illustration and design company, his expertise—and enthusiasm—grew, as he saw again and again how 3D could “enable people to see what doesn’t yet exist.”  Naturally Bob became the perfect fit for Marketing Alliance’s mission helping economic development clients realize their potential by visualizing it through vibrant 3D site build-outs and animations.

“3D technology is one of the unique services that Marketing Alliance is able to offer,” Bob points out. “And seeing the results on the screen as well as in bottom line industrial investment for our clients is gratifying. We try to top ourselves with each project.”

Ironically, the man who visualizes the future is married to an American history professor.  And as the father of school-age children, he’s anchored firmly in the “now” of sports and school activities.

Porter Foster

Web Development Director

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How will site selectors access your website? Any way they want, thanks to Porter’s top-flight technical expertise and guidance.  It’s not an easy job. With internet habits and platforms evolving and proliferating at an astounding rate, Porter’s job as Web Development Director brings new challenges virtually every day.

“Any web solution is going to have to be tested and retested across at least a dozen configurations,” he explains.  But the effort, he believes, is worth it. “A website is one of the smartest investments that an economic developer can make.  A compelling website that communicates across platforms is crucial to insuring the investment yields the highest return.”

As a happy husband and father, Porter is something of a homebody, although he does enjoy launching into new worlds as he joins friends to explore and navigate the online environments of massive global multi-player games.

Kathryn Shuff

Creative Production

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Kathryn is responsible for website development including the process of incorporating Expression Engine content management systems, coding and programming, content migration, mapping, interactive systems, and client training services. In addition, Kathryn applies her design skills to a variety of client projects including email marketing campaigns, print material, ad development, and website design.

Kathryn is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

Carol Gassaway

Copy Writer

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For more than two decades, writer and editor Carol Gassaway has made compelling communication her business, promoting clients from every segment of the marketplace, from consumer to industrial. When it comes to economic development marketing, Carol excels at identifying community assets and effectively communicating the advantages of each. Carol has helped to create advertising and marketing strategies for numerous economic development agencies on both local and national levels.

In addition to her advertising and marketing experience, she has reported for local and regional business journals, and has served as a non-fiction editor for a variety of projects. She is also a published novelist.


"The Marketing Alliance team helped to package a world class, comprehensive marketing initiative for Sumter, South Carolina, that gets to the heart of a community with American Spirit and a Global Edge. Throughout the process their creativity and communications capacity were extraordinary... They have that 'something' that sets them apart from the rest."

Jay Schwedler, President & CEO, Sumter Economic Development

Charlotte, North Carolina
Punta Gorda, Florida
Jackson, Mississippi