How about a checklist for development?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

So what’s the news in Natchez these days?&8221; is the question I hear most often from friends out of town.

The first thing that comes to mind is always our economy &045; and economic development.

They are buzzwords you’ll hear in any community, especially those struggling as we move away from a manufacturing-based economy in the South.

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And in Natchez, like most communities, economic development officials and elected leaders are accused of doing nothing.

Not surprisingly, this theme grows larger during an election year.

The fact is, most economic development happens behind the scenes, with folks bound by confidentiality agreements not to breathe a word until the moment someone signs a contract.

Trust us; the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority is working hard. Democrat reporters wouldn’t be dreaming of being a fly on the wall at so many closed-door meetings if they weren’t.

But we do believe there are some things that we can do as a community, out in the open, together, to attract industry.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be laying out those suggestions &045; a recipe for success, if you will &045; in a series of stories we hope will get people talking and, eventually, working toward getting them done.

Those suggestions are based on conversations with local officials and economic development experts in the region, on the wish lists overheard at chamber and economic development meetings, and on the &8220;vision&8221; of several residents we’ve spoken to over the past few weeks. Many of them are projects community leaders have been discussing for several months or even years.

Among the suggestions we’ve heard:

4An industrial park. Natchez and Adams County need an industrial park. You can argue that smokestack industry’s time in the South has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean other industries aren’t looking to expand or relocate. And they look, according to experts, for available property. We need an industrial park that is accessible, landscaped and equipped.

4Public-private partnerships. Often our economic development leaders work behind the scenes with local banks and other business leaders to pool their resources. We think a formal arrangement will maximize what we have to offer and show a united front to incoming industries.

4An incentive fund. Other communities &045; including our neighbor to the east, Brookhaven &045; have a slush fund at hand to help entice industry to move there. That incentive fund is most often built from the contributions of local businesses and banks, both of which would of course benefit from new industry coming to town.

We want to hear your ideas as well. Feel free to E-mail, fax or mail your letters to the editor at the addresses provided on this page.

The next few months and even years are, admittedly, scary. We don’t know what’s ahead. But we can either throw up our hands and start the funeral procession or we can look at the opportunity we’ve been given: a blank page on which to write our future.

But we need a vision and an action plan before we can get started &045; and we need everyone’s support to get it done.

Kerry Whipple

is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3541 or by e-mail at kerry.whipple@