Leaders: Community Alliance is on right track

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Public officials and business leaders interviewed Sunday said they believe Natchez-Adams current economic development structure will reap benefits in the future.

Communities throughout Mississippi are finding ways for various development organizations to pool their ideas and resources and, in some cases, share space under one roof.

In Vicksburg, for instance, members of development groups have formed a group called The Alliance, which meets at least once a month to figure out its goals for the area and ways to achieve those goals.

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In Hattiesburg one organization, the Area Development Partnership, handle economic development, retiree recruitment and convention center management. It also contracts with other agencies in the area to provide economic development services for them.

Some interviewed Sunday said they see this area’s Community Alliance, a group of 32 officials and community and business leaders, as the ideal way to bring various interests to the table.

&uot;The Community Alliance is involving other leaders in the community&uot; besides elected and economic development officials in the development process, said Michael Winn, president of the Natchez Business and Civic League.

Bringing private business owners into the process also brings in private money that could be used for development efforts, Winn said.

Winn attended an April Community Alliance meeting at which economic developer Jimmy Heidel, who now works for Vicksburg-Warren County, spoke on the alliance concept.

At that meeting, Heidel mentioned that having members of The Alliance go to Washington with one list of funding requests made a positive impression on the leaders they were trying to lobby.

&uot;When you go as one body rather than different agencies, it makes a difference when you’re lobbying for these monies,&uot; Winn said.

Lynwood Easterling, president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, said he also believes the Community Alliance that has already formed is the right way to go.

&uot;Everyone needs to pitch in, Š and when you do that you get all these good ideas,&uot; Easterling said. &uot;(Members) might have people they know who could bring new industries and new jobs into this area.&uot;

But both Easterling and Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith emphasized that such leads need to be given to the Natchez-Adams Economic Development Authority to follow up.

&uot;The Mississippi Development Authority, at the state level, needs one agency to contact with these projects, and that’s the EDA,&uot; Easterling said.

The EDA should be the primary organization in charge of economic development for this area, while other organizations should work in a support role to the EDA instead of duplicating each other’s effort, Smith said.

&uot;They’re the ones that are full-time and, in my opinion, are the professionals,&uot; Smith said. &uot;They are supported and funded adequately to do the job.&uot;