Officials welcome new firm

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 14, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; It’s official.

On Tuesday, local officials and representatives of Michael Baker Inc. signed an agreement for the engineering firm to locate on office in Natchez.

The group then took a tour of the space the firm is expected to move into by March 15, the second floor of the city council chambers on Pearl Street.

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Within the first few months of operation, the firm is expected to employ 10 to 12 people, including two managers, said James &uot;Jim&uot; Kopf, vice president of Baker’s Jackson office.

&uot;We are proud to have a nationally recognized company Š choose to locate in our community,&uot; said Woody Allen, chairman of the Economic Development Authority.

&uot;Bringing their technology jobs to our downtown area is a plus for our future progress,&uot; Allen said. &uot;We look forward to a long and enjoyable working relationship.&uot;

Kopf said Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown, former Natchez mayor and current executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, originally let him know Natchez was looking for companies like his.

In addition, Adams County and Natchez officials, the EDA, the Mississippi Development Authority and the area’s congressional delegation, among others, worked together over three months to land the new business.

&uot;This is a classic example of what synergy among governments is all about,&uot; said Darryl Grennell, president of the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

&uot;We’re pleased to be part of this effort and pleased they’re locating here,&uot; Mayor Phillip West said, adding that landing the prospect will help stabilize the local economy.

Initially, Baker was considering locating in a high-tech incubator being planned by the city and Alcorn State University.

But the council chambers second-floor space was available, and the firm was still interested in expanding into south Mississippi.

EDA Director &uot;Mike Ferdinand found another avenue for us&uot; to locate in Natchez, Kopf said.

&uot;We knew Natchez was interested in high-tech (industries) Š and was aggressively pursuing service industries,&uot; said John Martinez of Michael Baker Inc.

Leland Speed, MDA executive director, said the firm’s choice to expand within Mississippi says good things for the whole state. &uot;This project clearly demonstrates confidence in our future,&uot; Speed said. &uot;Technology truly does have a home in Mississippi.&uot;

Baker, which also has an office in Jackson and whose parent company is based in Pittsburgh, employs more than 4,500 people in 40-plus offices throughout the nation and world. The firm, ranked 14th in transportation firms in the nation by Engineering News, also has offices in Jackson.

The Natchez staff is expected to work on mapping projects for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well as geographic information systems parcel mapping, among other projects.