Natchez area should focus on technology, speaker says

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 16, 2001

Natchez has what it takes to become a technology-based economy, Dr. Angie Dvorak told business and civic leaders who gathered for an information-gathering meeting on Wednesday.

&uot;Natchez has the ingredients – the qualities that make people want to choose it as a place to live,&uot; said Dvorak, president and CEO of the Mississippi Technology Alliance. &uot;The preservation of your past becomes a vehicle for the future.&uot;

Dvorak said today’s global economy allows business leaders and entrepreneurs to live anywhere they choose. Natchez has the quality of life that attracts people to its environs.

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&uot;My husband and I recently brought friends to Natchez who were visiting from the North, and we all fell in love with Natchez,&uot; she said, citing not only the historic character of the city but also the warmth and hospitality of the people.

Natchez, along with all of Mississippi, has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent years, Dvorak said. &uot;But Mississippi has an excellent record of creating and keeping small businesses.&uot;

The Mississippi Technology Alliance is a nonprofit agency created by the state Legislature in 1998 and is funded by the state. Dvorak said the goal of the agency is eventually to become a privately funded nonprofit.

Describing what a community can do to prepare for technology-based initiatives, Dvorak suggested the following steps:

— Leaders in the community have to come together and commit to putting technology into the mix of any economic development efforts.

— Community leaders must assess where the city stands in developing its technology capabilities.

— Natchez and surrounding counties should consider forming a technology council to develop a marketing strategy.

Natchez Alderwoman Sue Stedman was among those attending the meeting. She was impressed by the statistics and proposals.

&uot;I think this is going to be a real important link,&uot; she said. &uot;I’m willing to spend as much time on this as it takes to get these ideas in place.&uot;

Dr. Ronnie Nettles, president of the Natchez campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College, also attended. He said Co-Lin is in a position to play a big role in enlarging the area’s technology-based economy.

&uot;I was thinking about our&160;Mississippi Virtual Community College classes,&uot; Nettles said. &uot;We have 60 to 70 (students) taking classes locally with the network.&uot;

The statewide Internet-based classes have allowed many students who otherwise could not take courses to begin working toward a degree, Nettles said.

&uot;In theory, someone could take enough classes on line to get a degree,&uot; he said. &uot;It allows someone to work, take care of home responsibilities and also go to school.&uot;

Dvorak and others from the state alliance are traveling throughout Mississippi, making stops at communities to inspire leaders and to inform them about opportunities.

Developing the entrepreneurial spirit is important. &uot;Begin in the sixth grade teaching your young people how to be entrepreneurs. Help them to grow up thinking, ‘I can have my business here. I don’t have to move somewhere else.’&uot;

The day of thinking of statewide economic development is passing, she said. &uot;Now it is community development. That’s what you have to focus on.&uot;

More information about the alliance is available on the Web at or by calling 601-960-3610.