Appearance plays a role in economic development

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; In the business of economic development, they’re called &uot;silent visits.&uot;

A site selector &045; one who finds potential sites for a new or relocating industry &045; will go into a community to see whether it’s suitable for such a development.

He and his &uot;scouts&uot; will go into the community unannounced &045; and they won’t just stick to Main Street, either.

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&uot;We’ll go into a community unannounced,&uot; said Buzz Canup, who has spent 25 years working with private industries, including finding location sites.

&uot;We’ll check out their downtown, their neighborhoods, restaurants, schools, everything,&uot; said Canup who, in recent years, has contracted with the State of Mississippi to get the Nissan plant in Canton up and running.

And yes, they’ll look at the community’s appearance in addition to all the other factors.

The appearance of litter, overgrown lots, abandoned houses and vehicles and the like &uot;isn’t a deal killer&uot; when other factors, such as an available, trained labor force and infrastructure are all in place, Canup said.

The weight that such appearances are given in a company’s decision to locate also varies from company to company, Canup noted.

But it is a factor for at least one reason &045;that the company’s management and employees will have to live at the new site, along with their families.

&uot;Clients are looking at (sites) with the perspective that ‘I may have to live there,’&uot; Canup said. &uot;If there’s a strong evidence of litter, things like that &045; the absence of ordinances &045; those things are noted.&uot;

Mike Ferdinand, director of the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority, said &uot;curb appeal&uot; is one of many factors in a company’s decision &045; and its importance varies by project.

Privately held corporations, because the CEO might be moving to a new community, often look at a city’s appearance as more important than others, Ferdinand said.

&uot;(The CEO is) not only saying this is where I want to do business, this is a place I want to live,&uot; he said.

For projects that use independent site selectors, the appearance may not play as great a factor &045; but it is still important.

&uot;If you’re talking about a business location, curb appeal is important because they’re talking about entertaining clients,&uot; Ferdinand said. &uot;They want to make a good impression.&uot;

Ferdinand believes Natchez and Adams County do a good job with curb appeal &045; but, as in many things, &uot;I think we could make some improvements.&uot;

And Ferdinand emphasized that curb appeal &045; or rather, community appeal &045; goes beyond just appearance. Companies look at how a community looks as well as quality of life, and those two factors are often tied closely together.

&uot;Curb appeal is something more than visual,&uot; Ferdinand said. &uot;A community has to be appealing from a visual standpoint but also from a quality of life standpoint.

&uot;It’s the impression, it’s the experience, it’s the community.&uot;