Regional EDA leaders, banks to meet

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 30, 1999

This morning, Natchez-Adams County EDA board member Charles Yarbrough and representatives of local chambers will ask banks to take the lead in funding a regional economic development authority.

But Yarbrough, one of a group of local leaders studying the formation of an EDA to recruit industry to the whole Miss-Lou, would not say how much forming the organization might cost – or how much the banks will be asked to contribute.

&uot;This is just a beginning meeting,&uot;&160;he said. &uot;We want to see if we can get the cooperation of the banks … before we go any further.&uot;

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And bank presidents contacted Tuesday have differing opinions about the regional concept and their banks contributing to it, although they admit no contribution could be made without the approval of their boards of directors.

&uot;It’s great to do things as a joint venture, and we need to think regionally,&uot;&160;said Page Ogden, president of Britton & Koontz First National Bank. &uot;But why go outside our existing chamber (and EDA) to do that? Let’s work with what we have.&uot;

&uot;Sure we’re interested, if the request is reasonable and we feel it will work,&uot;&160;said Sammy Porter, president of United Mississippi Bank. &uot;We’re always looking for ways to improve the community. And this may be another avenue to do that.&uot;

Those set to attend the 10 a.m. closed meeting at the Natchez Chamber of Commerce include Ogden, Pat Biglane, president of Concordia Bank and Cliff Merritt, president of Louisiana Central Bank. Porter may also attend. Kevin Smith of Deposit Guaranty National Bank could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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 in the last decade.

The idea is resurfacing at a time when the future of the Natchez-Adams County EDA is unsure – and has been ever since former Director Andi Quartey quit earlier this year. City officials are drafting a proposal to submit to the Legislature in its next session to revamp the EDA board. One proposal is to shrink the board to five members.

Ogden said he would like to see the EDA’s problems sorted out and a director hired rather than forming a new organization. &uot;I’m open to discussions and to hearing their case,&uot;&160;he said.

Porter favors the regional economic development concept. &uot;Putting economic development in private hands would give us more leeway in what we could do,&uot;&160;he said. He said his bank’s board of directors could meet to discuss a contribution even before their next regular meeting.

Others were more noncommittal, at least for the time being.

&uot;It sounds like a good concept, and I&160;can where it would benefit the Miss-Lou area,&uot; Biglane said. &uot;But I&160;can’t commit to it – much less a specific dollar amount – without going to the board about it.&uot;

&uot;I’m going to see what they have to say,&uot;&160;Merritt said. &uot;I&160;would definitely need more information.&uot;