Natchez, Inc. plans for next decade

Published 12:18 am Thursday, September 5, 2019


NATCHEZ — Natchez, Inc. is working with a consulting firm out of Tallahassee, Florida, to develop a plan of action to help the organization drive the local economy forward.

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ announced Wednesday that Natchez, Inc., the economic development authority for Natchez, Vidalia and Adams County, selected VisionFirst Advisors to help in developing strategies that promote economic development.

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To kick-off this process, President and CEO of VisionFirst Advisors Gray Swoope and VisionFirst principal Melissa Medley met with Adams County officials, including the Adams County Board of Supervisors, Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten and community stakeholders Wednesday at Natchez, Inc. headquarters on South Pearl Street, where they discussed the progress Natchez, Inc. has made over the past decade and things they would like to see happen over the next few years.

Russ said VisionFirst would help implement a plan of action, first by interviewing local stakeholders and launching an online survey to gather input from the community and by working with community leaders to develop a comprehensive approach to direct their efforts.

VisionFirst would also utilize demographic research to benchmark the region against the state and the nation while outlining best practices in economic development activities, Russ said.

“Natchez, Vidalia and Adams County are at a point of great opportunity to recognize and leverage our key assets to better define where we to go in the future,” Russ said. “Globally, the competition for jobs and private capital has become increasingly more demanding and complicated. This is why we selected VisionFirst Advisors to help us plan new strategies to increase our competitiveness.”

During Wednesday’s meeting, Adams County officials said they have witnessed growth over the past 10 years in terms of bettering the potential for businesses and consequentially tax revenues, creating recreational activities and improving infrastructure.

They also agreed on areas that still need work — including job creation, educating and training a local workforce and improving communication streams between their economic development partners such as the Adams County Port Commission and the Natchez Railway authority.

“I believe if the leaders in this community could get on the same page and focus on three things, they could change the outlook of Natchez over the next 10 years,” Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said during Wednesday’s meeting. “The first is education, then healthcare and finally technology. The nearest Apple store is in Baton Rouge and you don’t see a lot of technology courses taught in schools. … If our leaders could get on board with those three things, I think everything else would fall into place.”

Medley said local officials should identify the responsibilities that Natchez Inc. should play in reaching community goals while pointing out that certain responsibilities such as providing education and job training are beyond their purview.

“If Natchez Inc. is driving the plan, we have to decide which strategies they own and are going to be graded on and which strategies they don’t own but are critical — like education,” Medley said. “Natchez Inc. cannot control education … but without education and without workforce training they have no product … and if they didn’t advocate for it and get the people to the table that can make it happen, then they would fail.”

Swoope said a key part in driving an economic development plan is connecting the right people to implement each part of it.

“If you’re looking to Natchez Inc. in how to move forward to success, then you have got to figure out who else should be at the table,” Swoope said. “… Who are the entities that should be collaborated with and be a part of a shared vision and how do you as collective leaders align yourselves with those steps?”