Opportunities await new EDA leader

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 2, 2001

Respecting and applauding their caution, we nevertheless grow excited and anxious to learn about the choice of a new director of the Natchez-Adams Economic and Community Development Authority.

The announcement may be days or weeks in coming, but we as members of the community that will benefit from new direction cannot stem the flow of curiosity and anticipation.

The new EDA director will face many challenges as a new high-profile leader in a small community. One of the biggest will be to sift through all the advice thrown his way and to come out with the gems that could make his work sparkle early on. Some thoughts:

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4Education. Too many friends and neighbors in Natchez live near or below the poverty line and the cycle is difficult to break. A solution will center on strong ties between economic development leadership and public schools – getting community leaders involved as mentors and tutors among the more than 5,000 students enrolled.

The importance of our outstanding community college cannot be underestimated. Copiah-Lincoln in Natchez has worked hand in hand with industries to train workers in areas of need. A careful look at how Co-Lin can further develop workforce potential is essential. So also is a close relationship with Alcorn State University.

4Entrepreneurs. Taking advantage of globalization of the economy is key to economic and community development in Natchez, where even the poorest workers must be included in the phenomenon. Promoting entrepreneurship is important. Natchez is chock-full of potential entrepreneurs. In only a moment, any of us easily can name a dozen possibilities. They are dressmakers, quilters, artists, writers, designers, builders, masons, musicians, merchants, cooks and many others.

These talented men and women have the initiative but perhaps not the expertise nor capital to put themselves into the global mix, which today is dependent on the Internet and digital technology.

4Transportation. Natchez has a great airport and a great river port. Now it is poised at a new crossroads, literally, as the highways north, south and east approach completion of long-awaited four-laning. Our new EDA director should take a good look at the possibility of an industrial park at that crossroads, specifically in Adams County near the Washington community on U.S. 84, where access to the new four lanes to Interstate 55 may make a new lady of Natchez in the eyes of prospective industries.

4Labor unions. Another EDA challenge will be to bring Natchez labor union leaders into the fold, to help them polish an image many in the community think was tarnished during the Titan Tire saga. Union folks should have an opportunity to step up to the plate and play as team members on the Natchez economic development front – setting a tone of cooperation and positive leadership. A state economist has said the hostilities between the tire company owner and the union workers there sent up a red flag that may take a while to neutralize in the industrial recruitment arena. We believe union leaders can rise to the occasion if given the chance.

Our glass is half full in Natchez, not half empty. The EDA board has set that positive tone and expects its new director to follow the lead.

Joan Gandy can be reached at 445-3549.