Concordia Parish reaching out to businesses for economic development funds

Published 12:14am Thursday, November 14, 2013

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish’s economic development team will be re-branding itself and approaching businesses in the near future to see if they will be willing to invest in the future of the region.

Concordia Parish Industrial and Economic Development Executive Director Heather Malone said the district will soon be launching a re-branding effort in the coming weeks, including with a new logo and a modified name — Concordia Economic Development.

“We dropped a couple of words out of our title to do business,” Malone said. “‘Concordia Economic Development’ is much less of a tongue twister in front of groups.”

At the same time, Malone and the district’s commissioners will be approaching local businesses about investing in the district’s mission, Malone said.

The district is funded by a hotel-motel tax — the budget projects $100,000 in revenue from the tax — though in recent years that funding has not been enough and the district has had to draw on its reserves. If that continues, the district will have less than $60,000 in reserves at the end of the fiscal year in June.

Earlier this year, the district approached local governments that benefit from the district’s work for funding, and now they will approach businesses, Malone said.

“We kind of held back to see what we could receive from the public sector so we can create that match from the private sector,” she said.

“I am hoping that businesses will see the importance — as they did on the other side of the river — of supporting economic development.”

Malone’s statement was a reference to Natchez Inc., which is financially structured on commitments from Adams County local governments and from Natchez Now, a private-sector group.

Malone said all of the businesses she and the board will approach have worked with Concordia Economic Development in some way before and will be sent a letter highlighting what the organization is and what it has done in recent years.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland — who is on Concordia Economic Development’s board — said the organization operated well at its current level of funding for years.

“We are getting to the point now where we are going to take that next step up, and you cannot operate at that level at the funding we have now,” he said.

Construction for the initial phases at the Vidalia port could start in the next year, Copeland said, and the area needs to be ready to recruit industry.

“The corridor on the Mississippi River is filled up from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Next it will be from Baton Rouge up the Mississippi,” Copeland said. “If the objective is to bring business and industry, this is the first step.”

The district’s re-branding and fundraising effort will coincide with the launch of the district’s new comprehensive website, highlighting the area’s infrastructure, site selection availability, workforce availability and tourism opportunities.

“We will have a map showing the parish in proximity to major metropolitan areas, where roadways and railways are, and radial rings showing area airports and ports,” Malone said.

“A site selector can come to our website and see what we have to offer for our particular location. We tried our best to highlight what we have to offer in Concordia Parish, but we wanted to make sure, as far as community resources — such as higher education and healthcare — we included both sides of the river.”

The website was designed by Marketing Alliance, which also designed the Natchez Inc. website, a decision Malone said was intentional because it would allow for an easier merger of information as regional industrial marketing becomes more synchronized.

“Marketing Alliance’s niche is site selection,” Malone said. “They have met with site selectors, and they have met with industry, so they have set it up knowing what a site selector wants, so the selector doesn’t have to go hunt for information.”