Natchez Inc. far from self sufficiency

Published 12:10am Saturday, September 14, 2013

NATCHEZ — The possibility of Natchez Inc. being completely privately funded arose during recent city budget discussions, but officials say that self-sufficiency is a long way away.

Mayor Butch Brown and city aldermen were discussing the city’s annual appropriation to Natchez Inc. when the discussion turned to the possibility of of Natchez Inc. eventually being weaned off public funding.

Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said Friday he would looks forward to the day that Natchez Inc. would no longer depend on a contribution from the city.

“But I really don’t think that day is ever coming, to be honest with you,” he said.

It certainly isn’t coming anytime soon, Natchez Inc. President Sue Stedman said.

Natchez Inc. is funded by the city, Adams County and Natchez Now, the private business fundraising arm of Natchez Inc.

Natchez Inc. President Sue Stedman said Natchez Inc. received $100,000 annually from the city, $165,000 from the county and $115,000 from Natchez Now, a nonprofit whose contributors are local businesses and private residents.

“You can see that even thought the private sector is almost a third of the money, two-thirds of the money is still coming from the city and county,” Stedman said.

Dillard said he believes during the early discussions of the restructuring of the economic development authority into Natchez Inc., the concept of full private funding was presented.

“The idea was that by incorporating private money, there would come a day when Natchez Inc. was essentially self-supporting,” he said.

Stedman said that idea may have been talked about, but it was never presented as a structured plan for the future of Natchez Inc.

“We’re nowhere close to that,” she said. “We would certainly have to expand our base in Natchez Now to do that. Hopefully as some of the new industries come to town, we will be able to do that, but we are a long way from that.”

Mayor Butch Brown said he understands that Natchez Now has been able to build a reserve fund, essentially raising more money than its commitment to Natchez Inc.

Natchez Now board member Glenn Green said that by recruiting more members than Natchez Now budgeted, the group has been able to save up some money.

“Hopefully, we will be able to build a nest that will be used for future economic development needs,” he said.

The reserve funding, Green said, is nowhere near enough to completely fund Natchez Inc.

Green, who was the first president of Natchez Now, said the concept of complete private funding for Natchez Inc. was brought up in its initial discussions. He said, however, he agrees it is too soon for that to happen.

Stedman said continued success of Natchez Inc. may someday result in the absence of a need for public funding.

“It certainly would be wonderful if we could,” she said.