EDA formula is simple, let’s do it

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In serving on the Adams County Economic Development Authority for eight years, I gained the knowledge of what the agency should be doing and how they should be doing recruitment.

When a corporation decides to look at Mississippi as the site for a new business, they normally go to the Mississippi state economic development agency in Jackson. Most of the state’s information comes for the EDAs in each county.

This is one mission for the local EDA. If the Adams County authority does not supply good and current data to the state it will diminish our chances of ever being presented as a prospect.

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In dealing with the state EDA, it is important to present a consistent positive attitude. We have been without a director for four of the last 12 years. The state keeps up with who is representing Adams County and when we do not have a director familiar with economic development, our chances are once again lowered.

So if Adams County wants to attract new and good paying jobs we have to have a good economic development director who furnishes good data about Adams County. Showing derisions and bad mouthing the EDA in public sends the wrong message to Jackson and any industry looking to come to Natchez. It could run off a prospect that we are unaware of. Problems should be discussed in private if you want to attract industry.

In my first year on the board we took a trip to Tupelo to learn what they were doing as they have one of the best programs in Mississippi and have been very successful in attracting industries, like a Toyota assembly plant.

Two things they told us were that corporations do not like dealing with politicians and they do not like dealing with individuals to acquire land.

Therefore, the business community supports a staff of 14 and has 1,200 acres of land available for plant sites. They said that prospects like to make a deal when they come and leave with a title to the land in their pocket when the leave that night. Of course we cannot afford a staff of 14 or that much land, but we can keep a good director and have an industrial park and the port.

Both an industrial park and the port are necessary because most industries are not interested in port property like higher priced land!

The money we get from Rentech should be spent to build an industrial park. I believe these things are absolutely necessary if we are to bring good jobs to Natchez.

We have the port and the Foster Mound property. We must continue to maintain the port because it is an advantage that most communities do not have. While it has struggled since it lost the business of International Paper and Georgia Pacific, it has allowed us to attract Rentech. Because it is one of the few ports on the river in Mississippi, with property still available it will continue to attract industries, and it is in Adams County’s best interest to support it.

I observed Woody Allen for three years while we were both on the board and he worked selflessly with the best interest of Adams County in mind at all times. He recently received Natchezian of the Year for his work on the board, and I do not know of anyone who deserved it more.

Two suggestions I have for Woody is to try to get the business community and more individuals involved in the process. The most successful EDAs are run by the business community.

Select one industry to go after. I like pharmaceuticals. But we seem to becoming an alternative fuel center.

In the law governing the EDA there is a spot for an assistant director. This spot should be funded and the assistant director should be sent to call on our focus industry to attract them to Natchez. James West and all the other directors worked hard to make something happen. Winnie Kaiser has brought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of grants to Adams County. She does a great job in her position.

So that the supervisors and aldermen are kept up to date on what goes on the mayor and president of the supervisors should appoint one member of their boards to regularly attend the board meetings of the EDA.

Also, our state senator and representatives should attend meetings of the EDA quarterly so that they can coordinate their efforts to bring industry to Natchez. It is important that all of these government officials and boards are informed about each others policies and efforts to bring jobs to Adams County. It would also be good for the president of Alcorn or his representative to regularly attend the meetings. Alcorn is a great asset and we should be working with them to use all of their facilities to bring many jobs to Natchez. They have a lot to offer.

I want to thank the citizens of Natchez and Adams County for the opportunity to serve for eight years on the board and wish them great success in the future.

Charles R. Yarbrough is a Natchez resident and former member of the EDA board.