Grants, new industry ‘positive things’

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; News of 55 new jobs and $750,000 in grants is a step in the right direction for southwest Mississippi’s economy, local officials said following Gov. Ronnie Musgrove’s Friday morning announcement.

Tessenderlo/Davidson Chemicals, a Belgian chemical company will bring 40 jobs to Natchez, while an expansion by CS Lumber of Jefferson County will employ 15 more. Grants will include awards for everything from employee training to infrastructure for new industries.

That’s good news for a city whose biggest industry, an International Paper mill, announced Thursday that it will close.

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&uot;Even with the IP announcement, this shows that at least some positive things are happening,&uot; said Darryl Grennell, vice president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

&uot;It’s not a whole lot, but it is something that shows the future for Adams County in terms of economic growth. It’s extremely positive and will help us recover from a major economic loss.&uot;

Natchez Alderman Ricky Gray said that, while the number of jobs announced was not that large, it will help the local economy.

&uot;As the governor has said, we don’t have to have 500 jobs (announced) all at once,&uot; Gray said.

Friday’s news &uot;shows businesses are interested in our community, that we’re being looked at seriously for (an industrial) location,&uot; said Mike Ferdinand.

Ferdinand, executive director of the executive director for the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority, worked closely with the state to broker the deals.

&uot;Even though we’re in a very difficult economy, we’re actively marketing this area,&uot; he said.

Hopefully, Friday’s announcement is just the tip of the iceberg, said Woody Allen, chairman of the EDA.

&uot;We have 17 active leads, and just last month we had four site visits and two proposals&uot; by prospects, Allen said. &uot;A year ago, we had zero.&uot;

&uot;This is just great for our community, and we hope there are more of those (announcements) to come,&uot; said Lynwood Easterling, president of the Board of Supervisors.

&uot;This announcement is a step in the right direction,&uot; said Fred Middleton, chairman of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce.

At the same time, Middleton said local officials need to continue to take advantage of all the state help they can get.

When Musgrove says he wants to give southwest Mississippi’s economy all the help he can, &uot;I think we need to hold his feet to the fire,&uot; Middleton said.

Friday’s announcement signals what can happen with local and state officials work together to land industries, other local leaders said.

&uot;We will bend over backwards to work with your and your economic team,&uot; David Massey, Natchez alderman and mayor pro tem, told Musgrove after Friday’s announcement. &uot;We want to make sure we realize economic prosperity here.&uot;

Alderwoman Sue Stedman said called the news &uot;exciting,&uot; adding that while rebuilding the Miss-Lou’s economy will not happen overnight, it can happen with the help of state funds and state-local cooperation.

&uot;With the extra money for strategic planning and marketing, we will do everything we can with the state to bring more jobs to this area,&uot; Stedman said.