JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Sen. Francis Thompson speaks about the importance of relationships between members of state, local and national governments during a legislative breakfast hosted by the Concordia Economic & Industrial Development District at Vidalia City Hall on Tuesday morning.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Sen. Francis Thompson speaks about the importance of relationships between members of state, local and national governments during a legislative breakfast hosted by the Concordia Economic & Industrial Development District at Vidalia City Hall on Tuesday morning.

Local legislators promise to work for Concordia’s future

Published 12:09am Wednesday, June 26, 2013

VIDALIA— Local legislators promised Tuesday they would work to ensure Concordia Parish is able to move forward economically.

“My goal for this area is to get an industry in every parish,” Sen. Francis Thompson (D-Delhi) said.

JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Rep. Andy Anders, right, looks on as Sen. Francis Thompson speaks to an audience during a legislative breakfast hosted by the Concordia Economic & Industrial Development District at Vidalia City Hall on Tuesday morning.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Rep. Andy Anders, right, looks on as Sen. Francis Thompson speaks to an audience during a legislative breakfast hosted by the Concordia Economic & Industrial Development District at Vidalia City Hall on Tuesday morning.

“I have worked hard to try to get some industry. Right now, it is very difficult to attract new industry to our area, but we are persisting. We met with a dozen (companies), but we have got to find something that fits well, like a hand in a glove, that will produce some jobs.”

The senator’s comments were made at a legislative breakfast hosted in Vidalia by the Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District, where Thompson along with Rep. Andy Anders (D-Clayton) were the invited speakers.

The Vidalia port, which has $5 million in priority 1 money set aside for it in the 2013 capital outlay bill currently awaiting the governor’s signature, will bring a huge potential for future expansion to the area, Thompson said.

“Just look at the port in Lake Providence — it is full,” he said.

But while Concordia Parish waits for new infrastructure, it already has two key elements in place for industrial development, Thompson said.

“Every community in America that is prospering has a rural hospital and a technical college,” he said. “If that hospital closes, you won’t have any industry.”

“The most important thing you have in this parish is your hospital — don’t you ever lose your rural hospital.”

The Legislature might need to look in the future at programs that provide incentives to recruit doctors to rural hospitals, Thompson said.

JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Beaux Pilgrim, center, listens as Sen. Francis Thompson speaks during a legislative breakfast hosted by the Concordia Economic & Industrial Development District at Vidalia City Hall on Tuesday morning.
JAY SOWERS / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Beaux Pilgrim, center, listens as Sen. Francis Thompson speaks during a legislative breakfast hosted by the Concordia Economic & Industrial Development District at Vidalia City Hall on Tuesday morning.

“Wouldn’t it be nice for people who graduated from here to come back to this local hospital?” he said.

The senator also said keeping local technical and community colleges open and funded are also important for future growth, and skilled labor will continue to be key.

“Today, I believe I would learn to be an electrician or plumber and not a university professor,” Thompson said. “I don’t want there to be a person in this parish who wants to get a GED who doesn’t. They need a skill that would allow them a good paid job.”

Anders said one of the key things the Legislature did to help local industry was to preserve an existing sales tax exemption for farm equipment, feed, fertilizer and fuel.

Anders said he caught that the exemption wasn’t included in budget discussions and worked to correct it.

“I was the only one in that room that realized we were fixing to lose that exemption on purchasing that equipment,” he said. “That exemption was 4 percent, but 4 percent of $100,000 is $4,000.”

Anders said continued development of local industry will take time and effort.

“Everybody thinks that Francis and I are supposed to drop the biggest industry in here, but you have got to work at it,” he said.

“Everything moves in cycles, and we have been through a cycle now that the towns’ water systems are getting aged and so much has changed, but the good thing I have seen in the last few years is that when (my wife) Nancy and I moved back here in 1979, there weren’t many people moving back, but with the agriculture industry lately we have seen young people moving back.”