Gloom? Not all agree

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 15, 2001

Looking at economic indicators for Natchez-Adams County, officials say to focus on the positive and not the negative.

&uot;We’ve got a lot of good things to sell here,&uot; said Woody Allen, chairman of the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority. &uot;We’ve got a lot of good things to show people.&uot;

As the economy lags nationwide, evidence of the same can be seen in some Natchez-area economic indicators. Still, some numbers changed very little, and others improved from the same period last year.

The Adams County unemployment rate is at a high for the year at 7.3 percent in May with a low of 5.1 percent in January.

While sales tax figures for the City of Natchez improved by 3.71 percent this year with sales generating $3,546,875 from October 2000 to June 2001 up slightly from $3,419,967 from October 1999 to June 2000,

Car sales continued to fluctuate with the Adams County Tax Collector Office reporting 4,655 new tags from January to June 1999 and 4,715 in 2000 and 4,350 for 2001 during the same time period, said Betty White, chief deputy clerk.

The Natchez City Inspection Department issued 789 during the first six months of 2001 as compared to 631 during the first six months of the previous year.

But permit fees were actually down to $38,720 from $47,150, said Paul Dawes, building official for the City of Natchez.

The figures include annual license fees for local electricians, mechanics and plumbers as well as permits issued for building, plumbing and electrical contracts.

Dawes said the figures paint a picture of the type of work local residents and businesses are doing.

&uot;There were many small jobs relative to the value of the jobs (permitted),&uot; he said. &uot;The fee for a permit is based on the value of a job.&uot;

So more medium- and large-size jobs were permitted during the first six months of 2000, he said.

&uot;I think everybody could pretty well point to the economy on all this stuff,&uot; Dawes said. &uot;They’re very nervous out there.&uot;

Dawes has worked for the inspection department for four years but he thinks these fluctuations tend to happen routinely in the economy.

&uot;(It’s the) typical boom and bust with the economy that comes along every once and awhile,&uot; he said.

Adams County Supervisor Sammy Cauthen agreed. Things could be better, he said, and he sees potential for that improvement.

&uot;The county and the EDA are working on some things,&uot; Cauthen said. &uot;If they materialize, it will be a shot in the arm for the community but things just (tend) to take time.&uot;

Cauthen points to the larger problem – the effect the nationwide economy has on a small town like Natchez.

&uot;Everyday you see on the news where these major companies are laying off 6-, 8-, 10,000 people,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t know of any industry that’s interested in expanding right now.&uot;

The situation is similar to the 1980s, when Natchez-Adams County saw setbacks in the oil industry and in farming, Cauthen said.

Also at that time both International Paper’s Natchez mill and Armstrong Tire were thinking about scaling back.

&uot;There’s always been ups and downs and this happens to be a slightly down situation,&uot; Cauthen said.

Allen said the first order of business for the Natchez-Adams County Economic Authority is to find a new director.

The authority has scheduled interviews with five candidates for the end of the week.

Finding a director will help organize the community in its efforts to recruit industry,&160;Allen said.

&uot;We’ve got to have somebody that’s channeling and coordinating all these efforts that have been done,&uot; Allen said.

This will help the community make an impact in the economic arena, he said.