Highlights from the mayor’s third State of the City address

Published 1:48 pm Sunday, July 30, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Monday evening, it was my pleasure to present my third State of the City address as your mayor, on the third anniversary of our inaugural gathering on that highest bluff of the mightiest river. At that event, I compared our time to the currents of that river, flowing quickly by. Now in the last year of this four-year term, we are poised to finish our race and finish strong – Natchez Strong!

Strong Economic Development. Monday night, we celebrated 1000 new jobs in three years, a testament to our many new and growing employers! Sales tax is up $400,00 from two years ago. And 700 building permits totaling $70 million in projects, and a record over 1000 real estate sales, have triggered more ad valorem collections, up $300,000 from three years ago. Overall city revenue is up over $8 million, and this is all without raising taxes. Looking forward, Natchez, “America’s Most Affordable City” according to National Public Radio, is poised for even more growth. Downtown development is up, and new employers are slated for the IP, Johns Manville, and Titan Tire sites. Velocys, a $2.5 Billion bio-fuels industry, is slated to happen in 2025! Now is the time for MED Natchez. Medical Economic Development is critical to our future. An ambitious media campaign will launch soon, geared to make sure our newly created medical district takes off. I am excited about what’s happening at Trace Town, the Old Community Hospital, and Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, which has now invested over $1 million in their facility.

Strong Education. Our Natchez Adams School District is now B rated, well ahead of the F rating from a few years ago. The ribbon will soon be cut at our brand-new Natchez High School! I am also proud of Natchez Early College, Cathedral, Adams Country Christian, and the new charter school opening on Hwy. 61 South, Instant Impact Global Prep. Monday night we recognized our teachers and students. They deserve our support! We also recognized efforts in Workforce Development. In just 18 months, our partnership with the county and schools has brought in over $1.1 million in grants. More programs are underway at the Fallon Center, Co-Lin, Alcorn and the WIN Jobs Center. And CDL is back: Coastal has graduated over 55 students since last April. Now is the time to go to the next level. Indeed.com shows over 800 available jobs in our area. We have a low unemployment rate, 4.1%. But our job participation rate is low, only 47% of work eligible citizens are working. It is time for vocational training at the Steckler Building!

Email newsletter signup

Strong Public Safety. I am proud of Police Chief Cal Green and our officers. Morale is up, recruitment is up, and Crime Stoppers is back. We are also experiencing the best working relationship between our Police and Sheriff’s Departments in years. Thank you, Chief Green and Sheriff Travis Patten! Crime statistics are down. And a return to old-fashioned policing is working. We will soon upgrade to LED street lighting in many areas of Natchez, and we are planning for 50 new cameras by next year. Monday night, we also saluted our Fire Chief, Robert Arrington and his firefighters. They oversee the state’s oldest department and largest footprint, 462 sq. miles. They are doing a tremendous job! We also applauded Public Works, Code Enforcement, and Natchez Water Works, not to mention our medical first responders and 911 operators.

Strong Tourism. Visit Natchez has “elevated tourism” (their new brand) to a whole new level. We continue to host more events than ever before. Thousands of cruise visitors are visiting almost every week! Conferences are up, and just two weeks ago, WIONEWS.Com rated Natchez as # 2 on their list of best southern cities to visit in America, second only to Charleston. We also are “telling our whole story”: Natchez is now on the US Civil Rights Trail and American Freedom Trail, with the inclusion of the Dr. John Banks House. We also recently unveiled 27 Historic Markers, now posted all over town, the NAPAC Self-Guided African American History Tour. We continue to work with the Natchez National Historic Park on plans for development of Forks of the Road, and the parks service is about to invest over $1 million renovating the interior of the Visitors Center. Tourism means Big Bucks for our economy! 1500 jobs, $100 million spent last year, and $1.6 million in tax revenue. We look forward to the renovation of the Historic Depot as a downtown visitors center, design and permitting of the bridge-lighting project, continued development of the US Colored Troops Monument and Hiram Revels Plaza, Commerce Street Arts District, commercial air service, the raising of Silver Street, and the redevelopment of The Eola Hotel!

Strong Infrastructure. We are now enjoying restored playgrounds and bathrooms at our city parks. New tennis courts are under construction, ballfields are being renovated, and we will soon renovate the golf clubhouse. Next week, we will cut the ribbon on a newly-renovated North Natchez Youth Center! In addition, we will begin re-surfacing over 45 city streets in August, and the long-awaited Morgantown Project is not far behind. Renovations are also soon to be underway at the Convention Center, Civic Center and City Auditorium, along with other city buildings and more facilities for Animal Control.

Our Natchez Renewal is truly happening, surpassing our expectations. And the best part of it all are the successes we are enjoying by working together. Over the past three years, the City of Natchez has been working as never before with the Adams County Board of Supervisors, and all our other community partners. This has resulted in a combined net gain in grants and state and federal appropriations to our community totaling almost $40 million, a true testament to teamwork and our Team Natchez Strong!

Thank you to all for that “we can” spirit that has put positivity in motion! God has truly blessed our shining city on the highest hill, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings. Because Natchez Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.