Community can’t be picky about jobs

Published 6:00 am Sunday, January 14, 2007

Almost without fail, local politicians run for reelection on one primary campaign mantra (often repeated three times for emphasis) — jobs, jobs, jobs.

Each time the phrase is repeated, a chuckle ensues in my head.

Job creation is hugely important to any community, and ours with the exodus of several large industries in the last decade is certainly no different.

Email newsletter signup

Yet despite what politicians will tell you, government rarely creates massive economic growth — the free market does.

Capitalism, not political favoritism or power, is the ultimate driving force.

Don’t get me wrong; government can apply a bit of “grease” for the wheels, as it were, to help seal the deal with tax incentives and other economic lubricants.

Some folks will argue with that, pointing to such big-ticket deals such as the late 2000 deal that brought the Nissan plant to Canton.

Nissan didn’t decide to come to Mississippi only because of the state’s incentives. State dollars may have narrowed the selection when the decision came down to a handful of choices, but the location had to have all of the basic requirements first and foremost.

Often the best way for politicians to help economic growth is to provide the tools to economic developers so they can get the message of what the community has to offer businesses and have a menu of incentives at the ready to seal the deal.

Then, government should stay out of the deal unless involvement is absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately, the desire to be able to take credit for landing “the big fish” often outweighs common sense in many cases.

Such is the case right now in Adams County.

Two potential private prison developers are vying for a federal contract.

One developer is dealing with a private landowner and is considering a site on U.S. 84 West, near the Franklin County line.

The second developer is apparently courting the county for some land it owns at the Natchez-Adams County Airport.

Other locations outside of the county are also under consideration.

Logic seems to be on the side of the non-airport site. As much as the county may want to get some unused airport land onto the public tax rolls and be able to take credit for landing the prison, it would seem the airport land might be better used for something other than a prison.

The county’s airport is truly a goldmine for some industries. Its facilities match or better those of many much larger cities.

It would seem putting a prison there would be a bit like putting a sewage treatment plan on a downtown corner. Sure, it would fit, but it might not be appropriate or the best use of the location.

The likely next step in the prison issue is that residents near the areas of potential development will begin fussing publicly.

Almost every citizen supports bringing jobs to the community until those jobs are located nearby.

The Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) disease almost always takes hold. In this case, NIMBY will be fueled by the fear of having a prison nearby, what that will do to property values and the fear of potential escapes.

The “prison factor” in this case should be a non-starter excuse. Anyone familiar with the facility in Woodville knows it has largely been an uneventful neighbor, yet a great one for the community’s economy.

Woodville’s prison has brought good jobs for our area, jobs that do not require high-tech degrees or the importation of lots of people from outside the area.

And, at least to my knowledge, no gangs of prisoners have escaped and caused harm to the community.

Hopefully, logic and common sense, not fear and emotion, will be prevalent as the issue is discussed going forward.

The phrase “jobs, jobs, jobs” should always be followed by “be ready to welcome them, too.”

Even if those jobs may look different than you imagined.”

Kevin Cooper is associate publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or