Russ: Some here need economics lesson

Published 2:11 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series about economic development efforts in Natchez and Adams County.

NATCHEZ — Understanding the role of Natchez Inc. is critical when discussing economic development efforts in Adams County.

So says Chandler Russ, executive director of Natchez Inc..

Chandler Russ, executive director Natchez Inc.

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Russ spoke to the Rotary Club of Natchez recently about Natchez Inc., its funding arm, Natchez Now, some of the porgrams’ successes, as well as challenges the city and county must face in order to grow economically.

An economics lesson

Natchez Inc. was formed in 2010 by the City of Natchez, Adams County and Natchez Now, which is a private entity whose main purpose is private fundraising for Natchez Inc.

“It is made up of between 60 to 80 businesses from across the region that support economic development,” Russ said. “I will say this: It is the main difference in what was the previous economic development efforts prior to Natchez Inc. The Natchez Now board is made up of all business people who are involved in this community.”

Russ said the economy is made up of two types of businesses.

“There are literally only two types of businesses in the world and they are what we call primary businesses and consumptive businesses. There is no in between.”

Primary businesses are those like Enerfab, which located in Adams County in 2011.

“Enerfab comes in and imports raw materials, which is raw steel. They produce a product and they ship it out. They import dollars back into the economy that pay their local vendors as well as their employees. Those employees then go and borrow some money from Jaki (Yarbrough, vice president and senior commercial relationship manager at Home Bank) and buy a car from Mark (Robinette, general manager of Natchez Chevrolet). Mark’s operation is typically a consumptive business, taking dollars that are in the economy and consuming those dollars. Businesses like dress shops, lawyers’ officers, doctors’ offices — all of those are consumptive in nature.

“And so, in a local economy and its consumptive businesses will grow or decline in direct proportion to the amount of money that is imported into the area by the primary businesses,” Russ said.

Creating primary businesses

It is the job of Natchez Inc. to create more primary businesses in order for more dollars to flow through the local economy. “That’s it in a nutshell,” he said.

Natchez Inc. does that by working with existing primary businesses like Enerfab to grow their business, “which we’ve done probably four times since they hit the ground. We spend about 60 percent of our time blocking and tackling for existing businesses on a daily basis.”

He said about 30 percent of Natchez Inc. time is spent on attracting and recruiting new primary  business. The other 10 percent is spent in creating start-up businesses, using tools like the former Entrepreneur Academy.

“For a long time, we did an Entrepreneur Academy and it was highly successful. There are probably 60 businesses operating here now from that program over the last 10 years. However we saw it start to have some fall off and so right before COVID, we decided we were going to take a break from our Entrepreneur Academy,” Russ said.

However, he said Natchez Inc. plans to restart the academy this year, but with a different approach.

“We will be focusing on entrepreneurs who want to begin primary businesses, those who have a customer base outside of Natchez.”