County did it for IP, must be ready to do it again

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 17, 2011

Legislation to allow Adams County to form a railroad authority sailed through the Mississippi Legislature this past week and was awaiting the signature of Gov. Haley Barbour before becoming law.

The move is preemptive in nature. It’s aimed at allowing the county to be in position to quickly purchase the area’s lone railroad line if its current owner chooses to abandon the line.

Having the county form an authority and purchase a railroad may seem like a crazy thing to do, but it may wind up being the best option for economic development in our area.

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Investing in such a way may seem drastic, but the recent news that our area’s population has dropped by at least 4,000 residents in 10 years requires equally drastic measures to stem the exodus.

Although the concept of investing in our own future may seem foreign to most of us, it’s not new to Natchez.

On Jan. 11, 1949, an overwhelming number of Natchez voters — 97 percent — voted to support a $300,000 bond issue to purchase land for a new company. In today’s dollars, that would require at least another zero to be added onto that figure.

That company, International Paper, announced three days later that it was overwhelmed with the willingness of Natchez to offer such support and welcome. As a result, it decided to purchase its own land, thus costing the taxpayers nothing.

But the massive outcry by citizens to step up to the plate and invest in our future is admirable and a great lesson for all of us as we look for ways to first survive, then to thrive in the years to come.

Our community’s survival depends on our citizens’ willingness to invest in business.