by Jamie Jones O’Quinn
BAMSouth.com Contributing Writer
HATTIESBURG, MS—Envisioning the future while incorporating the past can best describe the vision of The Agency owner, Paul Sims, who lives and works in Hattiesburg, MS. Sims, a graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi with a B.S. in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship and a Masters in Workforce and Economic Development, has returned to the Hub City to run his independent personal and commercial insurance business after being raised and living in Jackson.
“My wife, Shannon, and I both love living in the Oaks here in Hattiesburg. We stay involved in community service projects and with the University of Southern Mississippi.” Serving as an advisor for his former fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, he not only encourages young men to help give to the community but also lends his own hands to help strengthen the downtown area of which he is especially fond.
“There is a lot of growth potential in downtown Hattiesburg an area which is consistently ranked for high economic possibilities. I think my economic development background plays into my great interest and excitement in seeing it turn around,” Sims says. With several high-ed restaurants, a thriving night scene, Live at 5, and yearly festivals, he has seen the crowds start drawing back to the area.
“There is so much history in the old buildings here in Hattiesburg and much potential for revitalization such as the two big condo/apartment complexes recently coming to the the area. My vision is to help make sure downtown continues heading in the right direction” he insists.
Utilizing and capitalizing what is already in existence and maintaining a hometown feel translates to other parts of Sims life as well. As he explains, “In 2005, just three weeks after Katrina hit, I entered the business by starting out doing claims for Bobby Banks Insurance in this very building. In fact, I modeled my work atmosphere after his. You would walk in the front door and see Bobby sitting at his desk in the back. I like having that hometown feel and commitment to hard work even in times of distress.”
Over the next few years, Sims’s work experience grew as he continued working for local banks until, after graduating from USM in 2008, opening his own insurance business in Jackson. Remaining in the metro area until last year, the opportunity became available for him to reclaim the Hub City as his home. With wife Shannon recently finishing up Nurse Anesthetist School in Memphis, he explains, “We chose Hattiesburg because it seems like a great place for a young family such as ours getting started. It’s so convenient with both our families being in Jackson (Sims’ father, Billy, is a longtime executive with Southern Farm Bureau in Jackson) plus it’s close to the Coast, New Orleans and Mobile.”
As an independent insurance agent, Sims sees his special business niche in the provision of insurance to drivers deemed higher risks due to tickets, accidents or DUIs and commercial insurance for structures that might not be totally updated or perhaps having a little older electrical wiring, making them higher risks as well.
“I have access to right at 100 different insurance companies and have the flexibility to shop around for my customers” he explains. Sims’ provision of both personal and commercial insurance also includes disability, vehicle, boat, motorcycle, home, business, rentals, life insurance and other areas. “I do everything at this point except health insurance” he adds.
On a day in and day out basis, Paul’s service to both his customers, community, and the young men he mentors continues to thrive, expand and have impact. While the activities of Sigma Alpha Epsilon have tangible results such as funds raised through charity football games, Zoo Boo (a local Hattiesburg event), and even helping spearhead one of the big recovery efforts on the campus of USM after the devastating tornado earlier this year, Sims offers inspiration to these future business leaders.
Chris Lyman, Chapter Advisor for SAE says this of Paul: “Many think that when they finish school they have no choice but to go to work for someone else. Paul has demonstrated that if done the right way, it is possible to start your own business right out of college. It is possible to make it on your own.”
Just as Paul Sims as done, and is doing, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
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