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Concordia Economic Development adopts budget

NATCHEZ — Concordia Economic Development will continue to operate on a shoestring budget for the next year, but the executive director said she feels confident the organization will be able to continue in its mission.

CED’s board of directors adopted a $138,500 budget Wednesday, which Executive Director Heather Malone said cut approximately $30,000 from the previous fiscal year’s costs.

Most of that reduction came from paying off funds owed to the City of Vidalia. City employees take care of payroll processing for the district, and the district in turn reimburses the city for the use of those employees.

When the district started feeling a financial squeeze a few years ago, the city gave it a reprieve on some of those payments, Malone said, but after getting on a payment plan CED was able to become current on its payroll with the city in the last fiscal year.

The parish economic development is funded by a hotel-motel tax, but in recent years, the parish’s three hotels haven’t generated enough of that revenue to meet the district’s expenses.

The district included an additional $15,000 in revenue to the budget for this year in anticipation of a new hotel opening on the Vidalia Riverfront near the end of the fiscal year.

Most of the budget is geared toward business overhead — salaries and office expenses — but Malone said the district was able to keep $12,000 for marketing.

“We can’t really cut any more (from the budget), but we kept a little in the marketing and advertising because that is what we are supposed to be doing,” she said.

The district will be promoting the area through print and Web advertising in economic publications geared toward site selection and industrial clients, Malone said.

“We want to have some sort of presence in the outside world other than our website,” she said.

“This year we will be able to promote the Vidalia port as an operating port rather than a coming port, and that will be a huge benefit for our advertising opportunities. Vidalia does a great job of promoting themselves already, so I think we can do a great joint job.”

Economic development faltered regionally during the recent recession, Malone said, but it is time for area economic development leaders to take the next step.

“We are starting to see a lot more activity, and we have got to pur ourselves back out there so people know what we have to offer,” she said.

And while CED will continue to reach out to the business and industrial community, it will not forget its local commitments to regionalism and workforce development, Malone said.

“We stay involved in the community, and we push what we have to offer our community and we go to the state and federal level to talk about what we are doing,” she said. “We have created a great network with our local, state and federal partners, and they know what we are doing to support our community.”