Leaders: Unity necessary for community to thrive

Published 2:01 am Sunday, February 25, 2018

MISS-LOU — Though a river runs through it, the Miss-Lou community is one, and local leaders say its people can thrive only when they are unified.

In this edition of The Natchez Democrat, readers will find Profile 2018, a yearly special publication that delves deep into the lives and livelihoods of the Miss-Lou community.

That community is 51,168 people strong and filled with a diverse array of strength, struggles and stories.

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This year’s Profile focuses on unity — among local leaders, between community members and across the metaphorical and literal bridges that divide us.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said unity must start somewhere, and he hopes that beginning is with local leaders.

“What happens in the city affects the county, what happens in the county affects the city and everything that happens in Vidalia affects us, too,” Grennell said. “It just makes good sense to work together. And when we work as a team, that trickles down to the community.”

Currently, Grennell said he believes leaders in the Miss-Lou are working well together, but he wants to see even more collaboration in 2018.

“It’s just good for everyone,” he said. “It just benefits everyone.”

For Industry

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft, too, said this unity already exists in the area but can — and should — be developed and increased for the betterment of the community.

“I believe we have collaboration now,” he said. “We are supportive of each other. But it is important we continue that collaboration.”

Working together, Craft said will present a united front to investors and possible new business ventures in the area, which could provide much-needed jobs.

“When investors see an area that works together, they will want to work here,” he said. “Anybody who works here will have to cross the river, and it works better when both sides get along.”

Drawing this industrial attention, Craft said, will be integral to improving the area.

“We won’t see improvement until we get industrial jobs and sustained growth,” Craft said. “We have to be very serious about that.”

Supporting industry will affect every other facet of Miss-Lou life, Craft said.

“The importance of (drawing in new industries) is that it will affect retail, which will affect business, which will affect the whole wheel of our community,” Craft said. “People with jobs have means, and people with means can be customers.”

For the future

Adams County Board of Supervisors President Calvin Butler said the onus is on local leaders to initiate a sense of unity in the community not just for the present generation, but for the future.

“The supervisors, the aldermen, the mayor — we are all in this,” Butler said. “When we are not working together, we sow divisiveness.”

Butler said specifically, he would like to see more opportunities for Natchez and Vidalia students — regardless of what school he or she attends.

“All schools — private, public, everything — should work together,” he said. “We should be pairing with Alcorn and Co-Lin to make specialized programs for all kids.”

Making school programs available to all Miss-Lou youth, Butler said, would ensure that the most qualified students would get the training they need to become successful citizens.

“If we can work together, we can have an educated workforce,” Butler said. “That’s what I’d like to see in 2018.”

Grennell agreed, saying students needed more opportunities for specialized training in the Miss-Lou.

“Somewhere all students can access specialized programs — culinary schools and tourism training — that would benefit so many,” he said.

For us all

Ultimately, Concordia Parish Economic Development Director Heather Malone said, teamwork is a necessity for the Miss-Lou.

“We are too small and have too few resources to do it alone,” Malone said. “We’ve got to pool our resources to succeed.”

Perhaps what local leaders stressed the most is success for one is success is for all.

“We learned a long time ago that what happens on one side of the river affects the other,” Malone said. “When industries left Vidalia or Natchez, the other (city) felt the loss.”

More than anything, Malone said, leaders and residents in the Miss-Lou must learn to see one another as members of one community, all with the common goal of bettering the area.

“There is no situation in which we are competing,” Malone said. “There is no point in the old rivalries, and I think we’ve really moved past that. We all want what’s best for our community.”