Mayor wants NDDA under Natchez Inc.

Published 12:10 am Friday, February 10, 2012

NATCHEZ — Mayor Jake Middleton said he would like to see Natchez Inc. become involved in the Natchez Downtown Development Association to help keep the association a member of a statewide economic development program.

In order to keep its membership in the Mississippi Main Street Association, the Natchez Downtown Development Association must meet a number of requirements, one of which is to have a director.

The association is currently without a director, and Middleton said he would like the association to operate under the umbrella of Natchez Inc. as the Natchez Main Street Association. He said he believes that downtown development is essential to industrial and economic development.

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“Downtown is one of the things industrial developers look at,” he said. “If you don’t have a viable downtown and if you have a bunch of empty storefronts, that’s not going to bring anyone to Natchez.”

Middleton said hiring a Natchez Inc. employee to serve as a full-time or part-time director would allow seamless integration of the association into Natchez Inc.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said the concept of creating Natchez Main Street Association as a part of Natchez Inc. would need further discussion and investigation to determine if it would be a fit for Natchez Inc.

Russ said, however, he believes people will soon see Natchez Inc. grow in the area of small business development. He said Natchez Inc. will hold an entrepreneurship academy in the next couple of months that will take 15 entrepreneurs through extensive training on small business ownership.

The city is currently getting the budget for the Natchez Downtown Development Association to present to Natchez Inc., Middleton said, so the idea of Natchez Inc.’s involvement in the association can be discussed further.

Russ said Natchez Inc. is currently very busy pursuing 14 active clients with a total capital investment of approximately $2 billion and more than 1,000 jobs.

“That fact, coupled with other projects, has our resources and personnel stretched to its current limit,” Russ said.

Middleton said he understands a lot of Natchez Inc.’s money and effort is being put into several projects, such as improving the railroad.

“I am 100 percent for the railroad,” he said. “It’s very, very important. But I’m just saying don’t forget about the retailers downtown, it’s just as important to have a viable downtown area.”