Natchez Railway seeks stronger ties with county, port officials

Published 11:55 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2017

 

NATCHEZ — Natchez Railway representatives met with county and port officials Wednesday in executive session to discuss working together more closely.

Natchez Rail Vice President of Railroads Doug Davis said he hopes to foster stronger ties between the railroad, the Natchez-Adams County Port and Natchez Inc., the county’s economic development authority.

“Basically the bottom line is we hope there is more communication from all three stakeholders in terms of marketing industry,” Davis said. “The main thing is we are looking to establish a presence at the Natchez Inc. meetings with both port and railway involvement, and see where it goes.”

Former county rail commission chair Dan Bland had suggested the rail consider hiring someone specifically to help market the port and railroad, but Davis said he would leave marketing to Natchez, Inc.

Bland said all he wants is to see Natchez Inc. bring in more business and industry.

“Natchez is not on an interstate and industries are not going to want to send trucks down (U.S.) 61,” Bland said. “We do have the rail and the river, and we need to sell both.”

Rail consultant Ed Landreth said Natchez’s rail line once had a well-established route, and he wanted to look into what happened. Landreth also said the rail and port could help Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ.

“What I see are some assets at the port and the railroad,” Landreth said. “If presented in the front end of Chandler’s negotiations, he may have better success.”

Landreth was referencing Natchez Inc’s executive director Chandler Russ.

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Mike Lazarus said Natchez could not afford to lose the railroad.

“You have to have rail — it is so much cheaper than transportation by truck or other means,” Lazarus said. “A lot of communities don’t have port and rail access, so that sets us apart.”

Lazarus said the port, railroad and Natchez Inc. have ways they could help each other if an effective system of sharing was in place. He said all three entities need to put aside egos and work together.

“I don’t think that has always been done,” Lazarus said. “There is too much (meeting in separate locations) instead of having one meeting where all the stakeholders are in the same room.

“We have to do whatever we can to make sure the rail is prosperous, and they have to make money to stay open. We have to make every effort to help them.”

Russ said the port and the railroad are two of the most important economic development assets in Natchez.

“We can put in some additional communication plans in place to help foster those relationships,” Russ said. “Whatever else we can do to help foster those relationships and continue to work to improve the port activity as well as the rail activity, we want to do whatever is necessary.”

Port director Anthony Hauer could not be reached for comment.