Working together, 2021 will be a great year

Published 10:00 am Saturday, January 2, 2021

2020 was quite the year. Most people I know are glad to see it in the rear view mirror.

Our hearts go out to those who have suffered so much from the Coronavirus, and we continue to pray for our community. But let’s not lose sight of the positives, and Natchez — we’ve made a start!

Business Recovery and Tourism: We have kept our economy open. Real estate is up. Sales taxes are up. More than 20 new businesses have opened. More than $6 million in new construction is under way.

Our Shift South campaign is already luring remote workers to Natchez. And great plans for 2021 include: re-lighting the bridges, raising Silver Street, developing docking facilities, an entertainment district on Broadway to include the Historic Depot, 200 new jobs coming to Franklin Street, and more job announcements coming in early 2021!

Last but not least, Federal Funds are on the way to bring Forks of the Road into the Natchez National Historic Park!

Workforce Development: We have formed a partnership with Adams County, Natchez/Adams School District and Co-Lin to renovate the Steckler Building adjacent to the high school. It will become an exceptional job training center for our community. (We had to find another location —  a good thing — the Old Tire Plant is under consideration by an industrial prospect, and we are awaiting word on a Brownfield grant to begin the cleanup).

Medical Economic Development: A new health clinic, Bella Rouge, has opened on North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. An employer-based clinic is being opened in 2021 by Vigilant Health, and a Medical Market Analysis is about to be under way that will lead to more MED Natchez projects in 2021.

Task forces on MED Natchez, Health & Wellness, and Mental Health will be meeting in early 2021 to help spur more progress in this important area.

Youth and Recreational Programs: The city’s Recreational Renewal Task Force has begun meeting and is conducting an assessment of all city-owned parks in order to identify ways to improve play equipment and overall facilities. Restoration of the Duncan Park Golf Clubhouse is planned, and a committee is beginning work on plans for a Sports & Wellness Complex.

A Safe City: Our Safe City Task Force has been meeting, comprised of law enforcement, city and county officials, and private citizens to recommend ways to fight crime. A new Police Chief has been hired, as well as a new Fire Chief, and great things are underway. Security has been increased on The Bluff and is being increased in other areas of the city as well.

Unity: The City and the County are working more closely together than ever before. Natchez has been celebrated as a city of peace and hope — a major reason Netflix chose us for a Christmas makeover, one of only six cities in America. Our Tree-Lighting and Christmas Parade both stressed unity, and Kwanzaa and Hanukkah displays were added on the Bluff.

Financial Renewal: We balanced the budgets for FY19/20 and FY20/21. We completed the audit for FY17/18 and are working to complete the audits for FY18/19 and FY19/20. We saved more than $500k in insurance renewals and also secured $369,000 in reimbursements from MEMA for covid expenses.

Yes, Natchez – we have made a start. But there is much to follow-through on, and much more to be done. We look forward to a productive 2021.

Working together, we will make it our best year ever. May God bless Natchez!

Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.