Communication topic at luncheon

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 5, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Communication is the key to a successful city, a former mayor told those gathered Tuesday for the annual business and industry appreciation luncheon at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez.

&8220;One of the greatest problems and also one of the greatest advances in today&8217;s world is communication,&8221; said Tony Byrne, mayor of Natchez from 1968 to 1988.

&8220;We don&8217;t want to sit down and talk to one another, but maybe we can get better.&8221;

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As keynote speaker, Byrne followed the theme of &8220;Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.&8221;

Although a city cannot live in the past, it must know about its past, he said. &8220;I believe in continuity. You can&8217;t know where you&8217;re going if you don&8217;t know where you have been.&8221;

Providing some history of his terms as alderman and then mayor, Byrne told about problems between blacks and whites during the Civil Rights unrest and the efforts to bring blacks onto city boards as well as to the police and fire departments.

In his time as mayor, the city did all it could to nurture existing industries, Byrne said. And today that same spirit has helped to keep Natchez going despite the losses of big industries such as International Paper and Johns Manville in recent years.

He pointed out that 80 percent of the employment and economic development in a community comes from existing business and industry.

Some of the items on his wish list for the future include an out-of-state tuition waiver for Louisiana students who want to attend Co-Lin or Alcorn State University.

Further, Byrne urged economic development officials to consider buying more land south of town and to consider developing St. Catherine Creek as a recreational and tourism stream.

He also recommended city and county consolidation as a way to make local government more efficient and cost-effective. &8220;It absolutely makes no sense to duplicate those services,&8221; he said.

Howell Garner, president of Co-Lin, said the community college has been successful through the years because of strong partnerships, such as with Alcorn, with city and county leaders and with existing business and industry leaders.

Gwen McCalip, acting dean at the Natchez campus for the past two years, said the luncheon is &8220;a token of how Co-Lin appreciates the businesses and industries in Natchez and across the river in Louisiana. You are the ones we call on for support, time after time; you are the ones who hire our students and allow them to stay in this place they love.&8221;