Planning for parish-wide chamber begins

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 16, 2010

VIDALIA — Now that the new year is here, it’s time for the work to create the Concordia Parish Chamber of Commerce to begin in earnest.

The Ferriday and Vidalia chambers announced in late 2009 plans to merge, forming a parish-wide chamber of commerce that will encompass not only the two major towns but Clayton, Ridgecrest and the Monterey area as well. The projected start date for the new chamber is January 2011.

“Right now we are basically doing research regarding regionalism with the chambers, economic development and any kind of regional work so we can get the best plan so we can lay out the best chamber,” Vidalia Chamber Director Jamie Burley said.

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Both chambers recently had board elections for what is to be — if plans go as expected — their last year.

“Both of the chamber boards are new, so we are forming a committee to start working on the joint venture,” Burley said. “The next step will be to have a joint board meeting.”

In the near future, the group will have three meetings, one in Natchez, one in Vidalia and one in Ferriday, to have a panel discussion about the merge with the Miss-Lou steering committee and the general public, said former Ferriday Chamber President Liz Brooking, who was president when the decision was made.

The Miss-Lou steering committee is a group of elected officials, business and civic leaders dedicated to developing a more regional approach to the local economy.

“We will ask them about what they think is going on in the community, the transitions that are being made and what they think needs to be done,” Brooking said.

“We definitely need different people’s ideas so we will get it right.”

Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District Director Heather Malone said the boards will have to get together and discuss a general timeline for what needs to be done.

“Even though we have a goal of 2011, that’s a fast pace,” she said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has resources available for how to create a new chamber or improve an existing one, and Malone said she thought the U.S. chamber’s guide could be put to good use.

“We need to look at just recreating the chamber into something to where it’s not Ferriday or Vidalia, not leaning one way or the other,” she said.