Blow out the candles, Natchez Inc.

Published 12:04 am Sunday, May 29, 2011

With each passing year time seems to accelerate; years begin to fly past.

This week, our community will pass a milestone of sorts, one that almost seems difficult to believe.

Our community’s restructured economic development authority — Natchez Inc. — will celebrate one year of existence on Wednesday.

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The destruction of the community’s former EDA began just over two years ago when the county began jacking around with the funding for the former entity.

Great fear and loathing ensued among community business leaders.

The mere thought that our community might operate without any true economic development effort scared the heck out of most business owners. They realized that while luck may help with success, most real success comes from hard work.

Simply retiring our EDA wasn’t going to cut it. We needed a new one.

Eventually, through the leadership of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce — the voice of business in the community — private business leaders sat down with city and county leaders.

Eventually, one consultant group and a whole bunch of talking together later, a rather simple, yet complicated plan was created.

The plan, essentially, was to wipe the slate clean. The community would put a bullet into the old EDA and create a new one from scratch.

Naysayers abounded.

“We’ve been down that road before,” the critics cried.

The critics were correct. Our community had morphed its EDA efforts a few times in the past. In recent years, the EDA had become ineffective, not because it was broken, per se, but because some of the people who were funding it — namely the county supervisors — lost faith in it.

So what would be different this time? Nothing is going to work differently this time, critics said.

But those critics missed a key point in the plan: This would not just be another government or quasi-government group; the private sector was in the game.

The plan called for an organization that would be a bit novel — at least to our community — a public-private partnership.

Such a creation — mixing public and private funds together — requires special legislation.

The plan was unveiled in December 2009, just a few weeks before the Mississippi Legislature was to convene.

Time was of the essence.

Before the end of January, private business leaders put their money where their mouths were and pledged nearly $500,000 across the next three years.

With the business community stepping up to the plate, city and county leaders quickly saw just how important this was to the future of our area.

Business owners didn’t write checks because they had too much money already.

They ponied up money because they believe in Natchez-Adams County. They also know that it was critical for our community to have a professional economic development effort and to change the old adage that our area of the state cannot work together.

In the months that have followed, a board was formed, bylaws created and an executive director hired.

The entire organization has been built from the ground up and, just like most 1-year-olds, seems to keep putting smiles on the faces of its parents.

Happy Birthday, Natchez Inc. The community wishes you many more milestones to come.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or