Economic task force a possibility

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 5, 1999

VIDALIA, La. – Local leaders who visited Tupelo last month to see how to create a regional economic development group shared their findings at the Natchez Chamber of Commerce’s First Friday meeting.

As a result of the meeting, which was held at Concordia Bank’s Vidalia branch, local business leaders are now working to schedule a meeting to appoint a task force to study creating such a regional organization.

&uot;The two chambers of commerce … need to get a group together, get businesses to put up the money we need to get started and hire (a director),&uot;&160;said Charles Yarbrough of Natchez, who went on the Tupelo trip. &uot;I’d like to see something happen in the immediate future.&uot;

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Task force committees could also be formed to work out ways to improve such things as transportation and job training to attract industries to the Miss-Lou, he said. As of Friday afternoon, no date has been set for the initial task force meeting.

During First Friday, Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland, Natchez Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown, Concordia Bank President Pat Biglane, and Britton & Koontz President Page Ogden spoke about the Tupelo trip and how to boost economic development in this area.

In October, 20-plus business and public officials visited the Tupelo-based Community Development Foundation, a mostly privately funded group that recruits industries to a 22-county area. The CDF has brought 250 new industries to Lee County alone in the last decade.

One thing to keep in mind is that it took the CDF about 50 years to achieve such success, Brown said.

Still, the panel said that some things must be worked on now for the area to see economic successes in the future.

For one thing, business leaders must lead the way in forming a regional authority. And there must be teamwork between such sectors as government, industry, banks, education and transportation from both sides of the Mississippi River, Brown said.

Also, the area must focus mostly on locating small industries – manufacturers with 100 or fewer workers – in the area. &uot;It’s unlikely we would ever get a Mercedes plant, for instance,&uot;&160;Ogden said.

&uot;We’re not talking about big smokestacks, but bringing in raw materials, getting local labor to add value to them and selling them to an outside third party, keeping the proceeds in this area,&uot; he added.

Bobby Lowe, president of the Vidalia Chamber of Commerce, also said it would be a good idea to get local leaders to lobby the Louisiana Legislature next year to hasten the four-laning of more area highways.

&uot;We can talk all we want to, but we’ve got to have something to offer (industry),&uot;&160;Lowe said.