Residents: Unity, aggressiveness key to luring industry

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 27, 2003


Banding together to support existing businesses and bending over backwards to attract new industries is what’s needed to boost the Miss-Lou’s economy once again.

That’s according to Adams County and Concordia Parish residents interviewed late last week in the wake of International Paper’s Thursday announcement.

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On that day, IP announced that it would close its 52-year-old Natchez mill by the middle of the year, leaving 640 people out of work, due to a poor market for the chemical cellulose it produces.

Some of those interviewed said they see grim times ahead for the area’s economy.

&uot;It’s a desperate situation, and people are going to have to move away to find jobs,&uot; Paula Johns of Ridgecrest.

&uot;I just wonder what’s going to happen with that new hotel,&uot; Artice Brown of Vidalia said, referring to a new Comfort Suites hotel that celebrated its grand opening Friday in Vidalia.

&uot;How are we going to support those new things when we can’t even hold on to what we’ve got? There’s no money here and our young are moving away to find jobs,&uot; she said. &uot;We need to work on putting money into what what’s here and not on things we can’t support.&uot;

&uot;It’s going to be tough because it has been here for so long and people have depended on it being here. It’s going to be a long time before it gets better, but we need to start building up what we already have,&uot; Cherry Dawson of Clayton, La.

The Rev. Don Tate of Ferriday said local leaders need to concentrate on keeping the businesses and industries they already have.

He referred to talk of Ferriday losing its Wal-Mart. &uot;We need to try to hold on to something like that,&uot; Tate said. &uot;For us, that’s like another IP.&uot;

Some take an optimistic approach to attracting new industries.

&uot;We need to make every effort to get more industries to come to this area. Things like Pilgrimage are still important, but we need industries to bring more jobs to this area,&uot; said Percy Rountree of Vidalia.

Rountree feels sure that the area’s selling points, such as its location on the Mississippi River, can be used successfully to attract more industries.

&uot;We’ve got so many things going for us,&uot; Rountree said.

In the 1980s, with hard times hitting the oil industry and local plants like Armstrong Tire, &uot;the motto was, ‘The last one to leave town, turn the lights off,’&uot; said Jim Sanders of Natchez.

But unity among local residents pulled the area through those tough times, and cooperation with surrounding counties and parishes will do it again, Sanders said.

&uot;You’ll see more unification, because it does effect everybody,&uot; Sanders said. &uot;There’s no quick fix. But people are more willing to work together because they know the impact something like this will have.&uot;

Logan Sewell, who was instrumental in located an industrial park in Vidalia, said events like Friday’s grand opening for Vidalia’s new Comfort Suites hotel show the importance of also attracting smaller businesses to the area.

&uot;It’s nothing like IP, but a lot of little things can help make up for something like that,&uot; Sewell said, referring to Thursday announcement of IP’s closing.

Rosemary Rose of Vidalia said she is not sure what direction local officials need to go in to attract new industries. All she’s concerned with is that they get moving &045; and fast.

&uot;We need to do something,&uot; Rose said.

But one Vidalia man probably had the most realistic advice on where the community can go from here.

&uot;We’ll just have to take it one day at a time and look to the Lord,&uot; Ronnie Boles said.