Area leaders to gather to learn about region

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — A group of local business and civic leaders will gather today with one question in mind — how can we better know our region?

In a workshop hosted by members of the LSU AgCenter and the Mississippi State University Southern Rural Development Center, the area’s leaders will tackle the question head-on.

The goal is simple — economic development. The stated purpose of the workshop is to help businesses and elected leaders think beyond their city and county lines and consider the ways whole regions are linked, such as transportation systems and regional assets like the Mississippi River.

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The workshop is the second in two days put on by the Louisiana Delta Initiative, the first of which was in Winnsboro.

Concordia Parish Economic Director Heather Malone said the planners of the event decided to do a separate regional workshop especially for the Miss-Lou.

“They decided to do a separate one for the Concordia Parish and Adams County area because we are so different because of the crossing of state lines,” Malone said. “But whenever you are recruiting businesses, they don’t even look at your town or parish lines, or even state lines.”

The Fruit of the Loom plant in Vidalia is the largest single employer in the area, and has employees from both sides of the river, she said.

“They’re taking a regional look at it, and if that is the way businesses are looking at it, that is the way we need to look at it.”

Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said that, because of the rural nature of the area, regional thinking only makes sense.

“I want to work with everybody in the whole region, because Natchez is the centerpiece for this whole area, and I am a guy who likes to work together and move the region forward,” Middleton said.

“Whether it is on the Mississippi or Louisiana side of the river, what is good for one of us is good for all of us, because we cross that bridge a lot of times. As long as our region is growing we are all growing.”

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said he would not be able to attend the session because of a previous engagement, but regionalism is a concept he has pushed for years.

“In economic development, business retention, business development, education and healthcare, by joining together it will make us stronger in all those concepts,” Copeland said. “I think it is our key to the future, and it is imperative we strive to make that a reality.”