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OUR TEAM

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John Abbate

President
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John knows American cities and communities by heart, having logged more than a million miles throughout the US helping Marketing Alliance’s clients craft powerful marketing messages and compelling narratives that have helped attract prospects and recruit workforce.

John founded Marketing Alliance in 2001 and has led the company to national prominence as a leader in economic development marketing. “I understand that American communities are facing a whole new world of global competition, 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.”

Marketing Alliance has worked with over 250 economic development agencies, ports, municipalities and chambers of commerce in 23 states. We partner with our clients to help them identify their strengths and craft their message in order to differentiate and compete. 


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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.

“Economic development success is becoming more about talent development and attraction. We help our clients tell that story about their community, that the product is as much about quality of place as land and buildings," he said. "We work to understand what drives the decision and then put our clients in the best position to compete through laser-focused marketing."

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 over 11 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 to Ginny, 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!


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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.


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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.


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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.


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Natalia Diaz-Payton

Digital Marketing Director
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Natalia is an award winning content and digital marketer with over a decade of delivering superior branding experiences. Highly adaptable, she has worked in various fields including film, education, finance, government, sports and live entertainment. She has also worked in tandem with some of the biggest event producers and sports teams in the NBA, NHL and MLS. As invited Judge for the American Business Awards, she consistently keeps up-to-date on trends and marketplace changes. She has a proven ability to identify opportunities and deliver effective strategies that generate results.


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R. Jay Ortiz

Web Developer
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The first thing to know about Jay is that he is fast on his feet and agile. He started his professional life as a dancer and choreographer in New York City before taking a leap into the business arena, first as a retail manager and later as an entrepreneur. Then several years ago Jay took another leap into computer coding with a mental agility that allowed him to race through a self-directed online education with the world’s top educational providers, including UC BerkeleyX, Harvard and Stanford, in a strategic path that culminated with IronHack’s global coding boot camp.

Today Jay’s supple coding skills are helping Marketing Alliance clients move faster and with more agility in the ever-changing digital environment, even as they enjoy greater ease and convenience, for example, with excellent front-end and back-end website coordination.

In his spare time Jay paints, creating both fine art and digital pieces. He also stays on the move, whether sky diving or honing his fast draw with the controller in games like Apex Legends and Fortnite. And he still hits the dance floor occasionally with family and friends.


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Carol Gassaway

Copy Writer
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Carol has the “write stuff” for writing and messaging, a skill honed through decades of experience creating compelling content for all kinds of clients and purposes. She has written for both newspapers and magazines, although most of her experience has been concentrated in advertising, marketing and public relations, creating effective messaging that is strategically customized across diverse formats and platforms.

Carol works closely with clients to identify critical sales features (such as the “USP” or unique selling proposition), and to promote those features in a way that engages and persuades the target audience. “A message that moves people to action must be unified and powerful on every level—explicit, conative and aesthetic,” she says.

Carol loves the mountain views of East Tennessee where she lives, and she enjoys learning new things to broaden her own outlook. Recently, that has meant learning more about how people learn, applying her real-world communications knowledge to theories of education and instructional design as she earned a Master’s degree in Educational Media and Technology.

Ready to tell your story? Carol is ready “write now” to help create your success.


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Michael Abbate

Account Representative
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After returning from deployment in Kuwait and Iraq as an intelligence specialist for the United States Navy, Michael now represents Marketing Alliance Inc. as an Account Representative.

As a Naval Reservist intelligence specialist with a high-level TS/SCI clearance, Michael is skilled in collecting, processing, analyzing, organizing and disseminating raw information into usable intelligence for the decision makers of the military.

Prior to his deployment, Michael attended Texas Tech University and simultaneously mentored with real estate developer Delbert McDougal, President and CEO of the McDougal Companies, in land acquisitions and real estate redevelopment.

Today Michael is applying his diverse skills to the interesting and dynamic landscape of economic development marketing.

What personally drives Michael in the economic development industry is his desire to see America’s heartland thrive. Michael is committed to helping organizations, cities, counties and regions willing to take the necessary steps to stand out, compete, and win in this highly competitive environment.


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John Abbate Jr.

Creative Production, FAA Certified Drone Pilot
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John Jr. is one of the company’s FAA certified drone pilots with close to five years of videography and photography experience under his belt. John graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor’s Degree in Media Production in December 2013. In early 2014, John started his own video production company, Electric Emu VP, providing photo, video, and drone services to real estate agents. Today, John Jr. provides Marketing Alliance Inc. the same skills he used with Electric Emu in order to take the company to the skies. 


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Kirsten Hill

Creative Production
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Kirsten is creative to her core. She is a film editor, camera operator, graphic designer, and web designer, with editing being her primary passion. Prior to Marketing Alliance, Kirsten, along with her business partners, launched their own production company, New Angle Films in Charlotte, North Carolina. Today Kirsten uses her extensive creative skills to enhance the products and services Marketing Alliance offers to our customers.


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Joseph “Jody” Hill

Creative Production, FAA Certified Drone Pilot
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Jody has a passion for video with more than a decade of experience in the field. He obtained his certification in digital film from Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina, during which he worked on a local TV show. Immediately after, Jody, along his business partners, launched their own production company, New Angle Films. There, he served businesses in multiple states to create unique promo videos to market their companies. He now uses his video skills, as well as talents in 3D modeling, animation, web design, and other fields to help take Marketing Alliance to the next level.