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MDA director says Adams County economic team is in place

NATCHEZ — A year and a half ago, the Mississippi Development Authority spent most of its time looking away from the economic development debacle that had become Adams County.

Other parts of the state presented better options, a more inviting business environment and a sense of teamwork, MDA Executive Director Gray Swoope told a room full of business people in Natchez Tuesday.

But in a short amount of time that has all changed, he said.

“I want to congratulate this community,” Swoope said at the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon.

“Welcome back to the table for economic development. I’m very proud of the work you guys have done.”

The turnaround Swoope praised involved the near abandonment of an organized economic development, a rush to save it by the business community and the ensuing rapid development of Natchez Inc., a public-private partnership that has handled area economic development since June.

Swoope also praised the hire of Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ, who was previously working for Swoope.

“The truth was, from a state level, I would have been better off focusing on the 81 other counties,” Swoope said. “But in a year’s time you’ve come together.”

And the timing is just about perfect, Swoope said.

With a national economic recession coming to an end, Adams County needs to be ready to play now.

“Now is the time to accelerate what you are doing,” Swoope said. “Your team is in place; I want you to get out there and do it.”

Swoope outlined several points that must be remembered if the area hopes to snag a new business or industry soon, including teamwork, innovation, partnering with the region and attitude.

Swoope pointed to a partnership Mississippi and Alabama originally created to attract aerospace industries. Now, Louisiana and Florida are also involved.

“Make yourself appear a lot larger than you are,” he said. “If Mississippi is doing it alone, you don’t make the same impression.”

In Adams County, Swoope said the community must sell both sides of the river, which requires absolute trust from both sides.

Ultimately, the easiest thing for Mississippians to control can have the biggest impact on the state’s future, he said — attitude.

“We in Mississippi are our own worst enemy half the time,” he said. “We don’t believe we can do it. You have to have the right attitude to move on.”

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