Port board: ‘Turf battle’ not reason for leaving Alliance|[10/18/06]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A desire to affirm itself as the lead economic development entity in Warren County was the reason behind the Port Commission’s decision to halt its participation in the Vicksburg Warren Community Alliance, commission chairman Johnny Moss said Tuesday.

&#8220They’re trying to do economic development,” Moss said. &#8220We’re the ones mandated by state law to do that.”

The five-member commission that manages the Port of Vicksburg and Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex emerged from executive session Monday and voted to end its role as industry committee for the self-formed private group. Commissioners Moss, Mike Cappaert and John Ferguson voted for the break, while Rusty Hawkins and Oren Bailess abstained.

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While careful to reiterate that a &#8220turf battle” was not brewing between the publicly appointed Port Commission and the private Alliance, Moss explained the vote as a break from a group that &#8220is not functioning the right way.”

&#8220(The Alliance) is a good idea, but it’s not working like it’s supposed to,” Moss said.

The Vicksburg Warren Community Alliance was formed in 2001 as a liaison between government entities to assist in tourism, government, industry and local retail business. In 2005, the group, headed by trustees, formed specific councils in those areas, with Port Commission Executive Director Jim Pilgrim as head of the industrial council.

But, Moss said, confusion arose among other entities, particularly the Mississippi Development Authority, over who was the point of contact for bringing new businesses, large and small, to Warren County.

&#8220We are a public organization,” Moss said. &#8220We can’t mix monies.”

Alliance Executive Director Scott Martinez did not immediately comment on the Port Commission’s action when reached late Tuesday.

Two of the commission’s voting members, Moss and Bailess, are appointed by the Board of Supervisors, while Ferguson and Hawkins are appointed by the city. Cappaert fills the spot that is appointed by the governor.

Three weeks ago, industrial council representative Jim Pilgrim of the Economic Development Foundation touted the creation of 1,500 jobs in Warren County this past year due to new industry, as well as increased capital at established ndustrial sites.