Don’t forget the humpbacks

Published 11:58pm Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Write our state’s name vertically on a state map and somewhere after the last crooked letter, crooked letter and between the first and second humpback, humpback sits southwest Mississippi.

Near the bottom, alone and too often forgotten could be the motto, at least from our view down here.

Between the Ps isn’t a fun place to be, especially when the M is leading the way and the last I always brings up the rear with a sunny smile straight from the beach.

Our neck of the great state with a funny name and the silly spelling lesson is, very literally, in the woods.

And despite a growing interest in the promising timber industry our region brings, we still fail to make points of discussion when the topic is great, growing places in Mississippi.

Former Gov. Haley Barbour had been told that one too many times by regional leaders, and he learned — any time he spoke to folks from the area or about statewide economic development efforts — to make a point of saying, “We are working on something for southwest Mississippi.”

Current Gov. Phil Bryant hasn’t been as vocal about little ole us, but he did give statements on two economic development announcements in Adams County last year, during his first year in office.

And Tuesday night, as Bryant gave his state of the state address, a new industry in Amite County — a wood pellet production facility expected to hire 45 people — did make the list.

But Bryant’s speech named 24 different Mississippi cities and counties. Gloster and Amite were the only ones down here near the Ps.

The vast majority of those communities mentioned were included in his list of economic development successes from 2012.

But plot the communities he named on a map, and it’s quickly apparent that good news in Mississippi is still top heavy — mostly in the north.

In fact, based on Bryant’s own list of accomplishments, success in Mississippi leans northeast. Nothing much happens along what you’d think would be our greatest asset — the Mississippi River — once you travel three counties down from the state’s northern border.

The coast, as usual, shines, and you can almost draw a line of little smiles straight up the middle, running through Jackson, back to God’s country near the M.

A governor and his leadership team have to take opportunities where they come. It’s better for our state to see a new company locate in DeSoto or Marshall counties than it is to see one move into Alabama or Tennessee.

But it’s also important that Bryant plots his own map and remembers to focus on the forgotten.

Economic development news has been brighter in southwest Mississippi during the last two years than it was in the last 10. That’s a sign of good things to come, hopefully, thanks to diligent work from Natchez Inc. and maybe some luck.

We may never be the M or the last I, but life between a couple of humpbacks could soon become a bit more memorable than for all those other counties stuck in an ugly cycle of Is and Ss and life in the middle.

 

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.