Governor discusses economy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and representatives of the Mississippi Development Authority met with local officials Monday at the convention center to discuss economic development efforts for the region.

In recent months, state officials have visited the area several times to discuss possible ways to bring jobs to the area, especially in the wake of International Paper’s closing announcement.

&uot;We’re talking with city officials about expanding job opportunities in this area,&uot; Musgrove said following the closed-door meeting.

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&uot;We discussed some financial incentives and some contacts they (at the state level) have&uot; to help attract and retain industries, said Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith.

A representative of the Kinard Group, a collections agency looking to bring 25 new jobs to the area, was present in the meeting.

But Michael Ferdinand, executive director of the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority, has said a deal with the company should be finalized soon.

However, Musgrove said the gathering was not held to discuss a single project, &uot;but two or three different opportunities.&uot;

Do those include opportunities to find a buyer for IP’s Natchez mill, which is set to close this summer, displacing 640 workers?

&uot;It’s our policy not to discuss an economic development project or projects&uot; until a deal is signed, Musgrove said. &uot;We have discussed a number of possibilities, including IP.&uot;

One thing that is new, Musgrove said, is his appointment of a staffer as the state’s liaison for economic development efforts in Natchez-Adams &045; the MDA’s Jeff Dukes.

Musgrove said the state is committed to the development of southwest Mississippi’s economy &uot;in spite of the challenge of the national recession.&uot;

The governor said follow-up meetings will be held, but that none had been scheduled as of Monday afternoon.

The meeting was held at the center just before a reception for retiring Alcorn Dean of Nursing Dr. Frances Henderson, whom Musgrove honored by proclaming May 12, 2003, Frances Henderson Day.