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Let’s focus on the big picture, hard work

Let’s make no bones about it: Natchez, Adams County and the rest of the Miss-Lou are facing serious challenges in the years ahead.

Census numbers are down and that will affect both our local business climate and the mood of people from the outside who might think about relocating a business here, particularly a retail business.

Obviously, retailers aim to put their businesses in growing markets, not shrinking ones.

At the moment our area is, in fact, shrinking — at least on paper. But it’s not just us.

Many, many small, relatively rural communities around the state are getting smaller by the day.

Each of the counties adjacent to Adams County reported losing population between the 2000 Census and the 2010 one.

That trend was nothing new, either. Comparing historic Census data from the start of the 20th century (1900 Census) to the end (2000 Census) Wilkinson, Franklin and Jefferson counties lost massive population.

Franklin County’s 2000 population was 62 percent of what it was in 1900. Wilkinson and Jefferson came in at 48 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

While neighboring counties virtually halved their population in the century, Adams County’s figures grew by 14 percent.

The point of all that isn’t to dazzle with numbers, but to illustrate that our community’s population is only one indication of our community’s health. It’s an important one, but it’s not something that’s out of our control.

Where our community goes in the next 10, 20 or even 100 years isn’t set in stone. It’s not inevitable that our population will continue to decline.

Despite what a few fools may tell you, Natchez — and the surrounding areas — will be here for a long, long time.

What shape it’s in, how it looks and how prosperous it is, well, that’s up to us.

Those of us who are living in Natchez are responsible for its well being. We are the community’s caretakers.

That we’ve allowed the community to feel as if it’s slipped into some community abyss is quite simply our fault.

But it’s also our responsibility and our opportunity to fix it for the generations to come.

Even in Natchez’s so-called heyday, few good things just fell from the sky. People worked to make business succeed here.

From the early days — which regretfully depended on a slave labor economy — to the early days of our tourism industry to the oil boom and the industrialization boom, lots of smart Natchez people were working hard to make things succeed.

That’s still the case today.

From the hundreds of tourism leaders, workers and volunteers who make the annual Spring Pilgrimage such a success to the dozens of business people who put up their hard-earned money to support Natchez Inc. and Natchez Now, that hard work is still happening today.

Working together — black, white, rich, poor, young, old — our community can and will succeed.

During the last couple of decades we’ve seen what working apart can do for us. Few of us like the results of where it’s left us.

But our community is still very much alive and still very much capable of succeeding.

Ultimately, our community will be what we make of it. It’s been that way since Natchez’s early days and it will continue long into the future.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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