Stats don’t always show potential for growth

Published 11:00 am Saturday, April 20, 2024

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We in the newspaper business have a love/hate relationship with Google.

When used properly, it can be useful for researching topics. But it can also be dangerous without context and understanding.

An enlightening presentation we attended Wednesday hosted by the Downtown Natchez Alliance gives one example of just how dangerous it can be.

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A quick Google search for statistics about Natchez and Adams County will lead readers to the U.S. Census Data, which provides a comprehensive look at the demographics and population of counties, states and towns with more than 5,000 residents.

Google “population of Natchez” and you’ll see a graph that shows just over 13,800 residents and a steady decline from around 20,000 residents in 1990. This is based on United States Census Bureau data.

What the Census data doesn’t tell you is that every single day, people from Vidalia, Monterey and Ferriday, Louisiana, drive across the bridge into Natchez to go to work.

Viking ships that carry up to 386 guests and American Cruise Line boats that carry 180 guests dock regularly at Natchez with tour groups from England, Germany, France and all over.

The drive-in market brings in more visitors from all across the southern Delta region and beyond.

It also doesn’t mention that the 2020 Census, done in the midst of a global pandemic, likely had a lower response rate than most censuses and doesn’t account for the people from Florida, New York, California and other places who’ve moved to Natchez to get away from big cities since the pandemic and take part in remote work incentives and lower costs of living.

Joe Borgstrom, a consultant hired by DNA to take a closer look at the numbers, showed us figures that would most likely surprise most people.

It certainly surprised us to learn that Natchez receives over 2 million visits to the downtown area each year, defined as a minimum of seven minutes spent in the downtown Natchez Main Street district and includes both residents and visitors. It surprised us to learn that the largest group visiting downtown are 18 to 29 years old. The peak time for visitors is in the fall, not during the Spring Pilgrimage.

What that tells us is that Natchez perhaps is not the shrinking retirement community that we’re so often told about, that all the nay-sayers talk about.

More importantly, it gives us facts about the kind of market that property developers should cater too that would maximize profits and results and make for a happier place to be whether you’re just visiting or living in Natchez.

Borgstrom’s numbers by themselves are a bit staggering, but more importantly they are encouraging. And they point to the potential of growth and economic development available if we can find a way to capitalize on our downtown area and create an area that appeals to both residents and visitors.

Yes, you can ask Google for a number or a statistic.

But you can’t get Google to tell you about the potential for growth or about the future development of Natchez.

And that is where the true magic lies.