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From chaos can come true wonder

Mary and Joseph may have been looking for room in the inn, but there is no way in the world they came down Government Fleet Road on their way.

As odd as it sounds, the story of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the shepherds and angels was rattling around in my head this holiday season as I traveled the brand new road to the Adams County port.

Looking down across the bottomland of the port to the Mississippi River, it dawned on me that the two might have some connection.

Let me explain. In the month before Christmas, Trinity Episcopal Church volunteers worked to stage the annual Christmas pageant. For the second year in a row, my son was part of an unruly herd of cotton-ball covered sheep.

He and 20 or so children enacted the Christmas story as told in the second chapter of the Luke in the Bible.

Twenty kids make for a lot of squirming and squiggling for those coordinating the event. Chaos is the only description for the first rehearsal.

It is truly astonishing how a small army of parents and four weeks of practice transformed this boisterous manger scene into something so amazing Christmas Eve night.

Amazing in a completely different way is the view from the top of Government Fleet Road down to the Adams County port below — especially when a barge pushing its load up river is framed by a large cut in the bluff that was made for the road.

What may be more impressive is what lies at the bottom of the road. After all, the new stretch of Government Fleet Road wasn’t meant to give our community another incredible river view. It was meant to give trucks a shorter and more direct route to industries at the port and to reduce heavy traffic on Providence Road.

A lot has changed at the port in a year. As in the Christmas pageant, community and business leaders have taken wildly divergent groups and focused their energy toward creating a positive future for Natchez and Adams County.

Just a year ago, the port consisted of only a few industries and active warehouses. An overgrown, abandoned golf course and a few empty fields used more for hot-air balloon lift-offs than industry startups remained.

Those areas are now bustling with activity. Shiny, new signs with names like Enersteel, Elevance and Genesis signify what is to come in the next few years.

Once-empty fields are filled with long stretches of shiny pipe and a newly-built warehouse awaits fracsand — a material used in an oil extraction process called fracking.

The overgrown country club is now cleared and ready for KiOR to begin construction of its renewable fuels plant.

Before June 2010, Natchez’s hopes of future industrial growth fell in the hands of fidgety, fractious and unruly city, county and economic development leaders who would not play well together or follow directions.

In two years, the public-private partnership that we call Natchez Inc., along with its funding arm Natchez Now, has been able to harness the energy.

On a much larger scale than the Trinity Christmas Pageant, the transformation of the Adams County port into what looks to be a bright future for Natchez and Adams County is a testament to the perseverance, planning and vision of those behind it.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.