Deal with EDA wounds now, not later

Published 11:31 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Problems facing our community’s economic development authority were exposed recently when a long-festering scab was unceremoniously ripped off.

Since the county first said it planned on pulling its funding, allegations have flown about what the city-county EDA has — and hasn’t — done.

Cut through the rhetoric and the real issues boil down to a lack of communication on the part of all parties involved — city, county and EDA.

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For the moment, the county says it will restore funding, but hasn’t promised any funding beyond this fiscal year or shown long-term support to the authority.

Until we set out a plan for where we’re going with economic development, the future will remain dim.

At the Feb. 2 joint meeting of city and county leaders, after the dust settled, all agreed to meet soon to work out the remaining issues and discuss the future. But as of Tuesday morning no such meeting date has been set.

The county voted, begrudgingly at best, to do as the attorney general says — fund the EDA — but the board did so without talking to the city again.

The law governing the EDA says the city and county boards must meet in August to discuss funding, but these boards can’t wait that long.

Change the structure, adjust the funding or kill it entirely — though we remain convinced that our community needs a professional, independent EDA — it’s time for our leaders to make a plan. Now, not later.

The wound needs attention or it will never heal properly.

Our economy’s future is too important to let further stalling on this issue cloud what should be a common, unified mission.

For decades, leaders in our community have pointed to more successful areas of our state such as Tupelo and Madison and asked, “Why can’t we be more like them?”

The cold, hard truth is we’ll never be like them until we stop acting with our own self-interests in mind and start working as a team.