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Now is good time to recreate ourselves as town

As we all collectively watch the immeasurable and nearly incomprehensible impacts of the novel coronavirus on the globe, my thoughts return to the drum that I’ve been beating since I moved here two years ago as I began comprehending the economic situation and history of our town.  

That is that this is our opportunity to recreate ourselves as a town. Well, I suggest that we’ve been handed our profound renewed opportunity.

Our world is forever changed. I think we’re witnessing one of the most profound societal and business changes our world has ever seen.

Yes, we’ve (humanity) undergone pivotal changes over longer periods of time over history — The Renaissance, The Industrial Age, etc. But by comparison this is a relatively instantaneous change thrust upon us. Even the historically nearest major similar event of the 1918-19 World Pandemic didn’t precipitate these sorts of changes.

I think everything is being rethought.  It’s a very uncertain time but in a way it’s an exciting time.  I’m trying to be optimistic. It’s too easy to be pessimistic.

During my first month in Natchez in May 2018 I began attending the Wednesday Morning Downtown Merchants meeting, and since my first meeting with that group I’ve been repeating the mantra that we need to work to market ourselves to young professionals across all industries in an increasingly virtual society.  

Twitter has told its entire company that no one needs to return to a desk in an office building. Dell in Austin has told 160,000 employees that they may work from home going forward. Many, many companies across the nation are joining this movement. We are becoming a virtual society and a virtual economy. 

Simultaneously, hordes of individuals are seeking to leave large cities in the face of our current and future pandemic threats.

Here in Natchez our Achilles’ heel has recently been our struggling school system.

For a long time Natchez had an exemplary and highly regarded public school system supplemented by similarly highly regarded private schools.

However, now and for the recent past, our public school system has been one of our greatest deterrents to drawing new residents to our town. 

Well guess what! All of our education process in America is being completely rethought and recreated! Now is our moment! We need to grab this by the tail and drive it to our advantage with every fiber of energy and creativity we can muster.  

The future of this beautiful town is in our hands. And I believe we have a great responsibility and opportunity. This town will either dry up and its magnificent architecture and history will collapse under its own weight, or it will be instilled with new life and energy to carry it forward.

William Thames is a resident of Natchez and chairman of Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell’s COVID-19 Task Force.