Time is now to plan for future economy

Published 12:02 am Thursday, December 18, 2014

For several decades — at least — Natchez sat comfortably on its economic laurels.

International Paper, Johns Manville, Armstrong Tire and other local heavy industry titans boomed and everyone was happy.

Unfortunately for too long community leaders were simply comfortable with the status quo and didn’t bother to worry about the future.

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As the future crept forward, we stayed focused on 20th century industries instead of focusing on the next generation.

A few years ago after every heavy industry smokestack in the area became dormant, reality set in and people started moving into action, ultimately forming a new public-private partnership called Natchez Inc.

The organization has been lobbying to bring businesses to the area since its formation and — critics may not believe it — but it’s beginning to work. The Natchez-Adams County Port industrial area is seeing more activity than it has in decades.

Developable riverfront property is fast becoming a hot commodity. Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ told a group of leaders this week that the community needs to be looking out a year or two down the road when we may be effectively “sold out” of the most attractive thing we can offer many prospective businesses.

Even as Natchez Inc. works to market the remaining riverfront property available, our community leaders must begin a dialog about where the next riverside industrial park will be.

If we don’t, as Russ said this week, the lack of our greatest asset may soon become our greatest stumbling block.