EDA is here to serve residents

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 13, 2009

In an effort to prevent misunderstandings, misconceptions and mis-characterizations of the efforts by the Natchez-Adams County Development Authority, the board of the EDA would like to make a few comments. Please understand the EDA is comprised of five volunteer members with two appointed from the city and three appointed from the county for five-year terms. The sitting board members do not have input regarding appointments to the board and those appointed all serve with no compensation of any kind.

The EDA board and staff have worked tirelessly with only one goal in mind — promoting the recruitment, retention and expansion of business and industry in Natchez and Adams County.

It has been mentioned that there is a communication problem regarding information from the EDA. If this is truly one of the reasons for the recent controversy, this could have been corrected in a matter of minutes with some type of notice, phone call or letter notifying the EDA board of the problem. In the past several years, our executive director, chairman and other members of the board have attended numerous meetings with the board of supervisors to discuss many different economic development projects on which we were working. It is our understanding that the executive director has been regularly attending the meetings and making reports to the board. This is part of his job.

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Prospects requesting incentives or grants for their projects are presented by the EDA and discussed in-depth with the boards, with all final decisions to assist a prospect made by the board of supervisors or board of aldermen depending on location. The EDA does not have the authority to offer incentives without the approval of the city or county board.

House Bill 1847 was written by members of the board of supervisors and board of aldermen and enacted into law in 2002. The EDA board was told by both boards that the legislation was written to intentionally keep politics out of the operations of the EDA.

This was not our decision but that of both the board of aldermen and board of supervisors. In July of each year, a proposed budget is presented to both the city and county for their budgeting process to approve or change their funding commitment for economic development during the next fiscal year. Operations by the EDA are maintained under the allocated funding with a CPA audit conducted each year and presented to both the board of supervisors and board of aldermen. House Bill 1847 it specifically states that the funds allocated to the EDA are for the unrestricted use of the EDA. This is not what the EDA board has requested or demanded, but what was passed into law at the request of both the board of supervisors and board of aldermen.

The EDA has a reserve account, with most of the funds in this account having been there since 2002. The funds were accumulated during times the EDA was without a director salary and have been reported in the yearly audit presented to the city and county for the past seven years. The EDA board’s purpose for this account is to accumulate funding to use as needed for the purchase of industrial park lands and has been documented on past audits. This goes hand-in-hand with a grant obtained three years ago by the EDA for an industrial park study.

In the Nov. 19 meeting, the EDA board received the report on the Industrial Park Study, a 300-page report prepared by Jordan, Kaiser & Sessions and The Louis Berger Group, Inc., a consulting firm in New York, containing recommendations which would enhance the economic development efforts in our community. The study identified target markets, possible industrial sites and discussed the implementation of a marketing plan.

Funds from the grant also provided resources the county did not have to spend for the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment on the International Paper lands and surveying for the division of properties. In the November meeting, the EDA board agreed to present the plan to the supervisors, aldermen and chamber of commerce in February. However, due to the ongoing funding issue, the presentation has been delayed.

The Louis Berger Group has been contacted to make this presentation. This report should assist the supervisors and aldermen in making an educated decision regarding future needs for economic expansion.

The Natchez-Adams County Development Authority board members are dedicated to Natchez and Adams County and will do whatever is decided by both the city and county for future economic development efforts in our community.

Fellow EDA board members James T. West, vice-chairman; Leon Crawford; Ken Herring and the Rev. Leroy White have read and unanimously approve of this letter.

Woody Allen, chairman

Natchez-Adams County Development Authority