Parish needs plans economic development engine

Published 12:02 am Tuesday, July 16, 2013

From arm’s length, Concordia Parish must be the envy of many national economic developers.

The parish has miles and miles of flat, developable land — and a good bit of it has access to the Mississippi River.

The parish has good four-lane road access, has a relatively low cost of living and the area has good public schools, to boot.

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But look a little closer and you’ll see the parish’s economic development engine — despite top-notch leadership — is nearly broke.

The Concordia Parish Economic and Industrial Development District will be broke in just a few years. That’s right, the agency has good resources to sell and a good person at the top, but no real fundamental support.

At the moment, the district is funded through a parish hotel occupancy tax. Unfortunately tax collections have been low, and thus, the agency is burning through its reserve funds. The result will be that if nothing changes, the agency may have to close in three years.

Parish leaders should work on a plan to remedy this before it’s too late.

Rather than just throwing up their hands and saying, “We don’t have any money,” police jurors and private business owners need to put their heads together and find a way to more fully fund the agency.

The public-private partnership created a few years ago in Natchez has seemingly worked well, landing a pile of commitments, commitments that are slowly turning into jobs.

Perhaps a similar plan for Concordia Parish or some creative thinking of how to merge resources and efforts with the Natchez-Adams economic development engine, Natchez Inc., is in order.

If quick action isn’t taken, three years will be here before we know it and, unfortunately, if professional economic development is allowed to dry up, so will the parish’s future.