Downtown revitalization effort needed

Published 12:39 am Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I have been mulling one question around for some time and think it warrants at least some consideration by citizens, businesses and city government.

How do we make the downtown Natchez area more attractive to businesses?

The easy answer is spend more money, the where and how pose the biggest obstacles. Who should spend the money, how should it be spent, where is the money going to come from, etc.

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The city cannot carry the financial burden itself and neither can individuals. There has to be a sharing of expenses between everybody involved. That is where a tax credit/incentive program would bridge the gap between municipal and private investment.

Establishing a downtown revitalization program or tax incentive/credit program, would allow the City of Natchez to issue tax credits to private property owners in return for capital improvements. New construction, renovations, restorations, painting, installing underground electrical and phone lines and building upgrades could all be encouraged through tax incentives and credits.

The program would be voluntary, property owners could participate if they wanted, anybody willing to invest money in the downtown area would have the additional benefit of knowing that new taxes will not be required for a specific period, five years, 10 years?

Additional tax incentives and credits could be issued to businesses that create new jobs with stipulations for number of new jobs created, average pay rate, average salaried positions. Everyone agrees that higher paying jobs are what would help Natchez right? Can the city not encourage and entice businesses to either locate or re-locate in the downtown area this way?

The plan would take a lot of work, studying what has worked in other areas and what hasn’t, visiting places where plans like this have succeeded but also where they have failed. Experts would be needed to establish the structure, definitions and parameters of any tax incentive/development  program. Having goals outlined in the program would help as well.

What would downtown Natchez look like if we could garner 20 million dollars worth of private investments from property owners?

I think a downtown development plan would help economic development in more ways than could be measured. It would allow Natchez to be more competitive, it would allow Natchez to move up on the list of places to open a business, and lastly, it would encourage investment in our property, people and future.

Finally, it would allow the City of Natchez to proactively encourage growth within particular areas alternative energy, existing local business, desired local businesses, continuing educational courses, new jobs, existing jobs and ultimately any specific area the City of Natchez wanted to grow could be kick-started by adding it to a tax incentive/credit plan.

It wouldn’t be easy, but anything worth doing never is.

David Gammill

Owner, Fat Mama’s Tamales