Mayors: Area needs to work as one region

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Mayors of both Concordia Parish towns would like a seat at the table in discussing economic development efforts for the Miss-Lou.

&uot;For I don’t know how many years, we’ve been talking about a regional concept,&uot; Ferriday Mayor Glen McGlothin said.

McGlothin, who is directing his community’s leaders toward developing a strategic plan for the town, would like to see a formal plan for the whole region as well.

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&uot;We need to concentrate on our assets and look for industries,&uot; he said.

Vidalia Mayor Hiram Copeland sees similar opportunities.

&uot;I’m in total agreement with that,&uot; he said of the possibility of both communities working together. &uot;It would be an excellent idea to form a private (economic development partnership).&uot;

Copeland was one of several area leaders who took a trip to Tupelo a few years ago to see how that community has made a regional concept successful in economic development.

He noted that the entire region has been affected by the impending closure of International Paper’s Natchez mill. Of 640 employees there, 120 live in the parish.

Over the years, leaders on both sides of the river have worked together, but never in a formal group. The two communities cannot mix public money from two different states, but they could share private money.

Leaders in Adams County have discussed the possibility of initiating a private incentive fund to aid economic development needs, and Natchez has also just formed a private Community Alliance made up of local stakeholders.

&uot;Private money is good, but the way the economy is going, you don’t know,&uot; McGlothin said. &uot;But it’s the way to go. Private money is going to be there, but we don’t know how much.&uot;

&uot;Wouldn’t it be nice if the state of Louisiana and the state of Mississippi could look at areas like this (for economic development partnerships)?&uot; McGlothin said.

The idea isn’t unheard of. Just last week the state of Mississippi announced a collaborative effort with the state of Alabama to begin work on an economic development zone in the Black Belt of both states. One of the possibilities is an industrial park located half in one state, half in the other.

With a river separating Concordia Parish and Adams County, that at least is out of the question.

But Copeland sees other opportunities.

&uot;Adams County’s got the port, and we’ve got land on our side of the river,&uot; he said.

&uot;We might not have to be one economic development group&uot; but both communities can communicate with each other, Copeland said.

So far, no one from Concordia Parish has been asked to join the Community Alliance, but Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Fred Middleton said he wants to involve parish voices.

Joining those voices on both sides of the river is the next step, Copeland said.

&uot;I believe the climate’s there,&uot; he said. &uot;We need to join together now.&uot;

&uot;It’s time to take our own bootstraps and pull them up,&uot; McGlothin said.