U.S. 84 commission will hold meetings in Miss-Lou

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – Location, location, location.

That’s why the Five States El Camino East-West Commission recently decided to hold its annual meetings in Natchez and Vidalia from now on.

Each year, officials from the five states working to four-lane U.S. 84 and smaller connecting highways – Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas – meet in a different location to discuss the project’s progress.

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But during this year’s commission meeting, officials decided to hold their annual meetings in the Natchez-Vidalia area, an area that is centrally located in the region.

That could bring from 50 to 100 officials from throughout the South to the Miss-Lou for two days, according to officials working with the commission. &uot;Economically, it’ll be a good boost for our area, and we’re elated they chose us,&uot; said Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland. He noted that a recent commission meeting held in Many, attracted about 50 to 60 people.

&uot;Maybe they’ll have it in Natchez one year and Vidalia the next, since we hope to have a hotel over here for them to stay in,&uot;&160;Copeland said, noting that Vidalia officials hope to break ground for a 100-room hotel this fall.

Natchez Mayor F. L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith could not be reached for comment Friday.

Perhaps the biggest value of holding the meeting locally will be to make local residents aware of the project’s progress – and the need for it to be completed, said Linda Gardner, economic development director for the Town of Vidalia. &uot;Maybe they’ll start writing letters to their congressmen,&uot; Gardner said.

For every dollar spent on four-laning U.S. 84, the region will see an economic impact of $1.90, said Jim Pratt, chairman of the Louisiana El Camino East-West Commission.

&uot;That’s almost a two-for-one return on your investment,&uot;&160;Pratt said.

Having access to four-lane highways – which, in turn, lead to interstates – is essential from attracting and retaining industries, Copeland said. &uot;The transportation system drives your economy,&uot; he said.